Arrow: Why Are Film and TV Obsessed With Archery?

Photo: CW, Pixar, Marvel, NBC, Lionsgate

Arrow, which premiered last night on the CW, tells the story of a billionaire hot shot who gets stranded on a deserted island for five years, only to return to his home city with the self-appointed mission to clean up all the crime. (It’s like Batman but … umm … not Batman.) Throughout the episode, it’s clear that Mr. Arrow exclusively spent his time on the island doing sit-ups, learning parkour, and practicing his bow-and-arrow technique. The answer to why this character and why now is a simple one: The CW, owned by Warner Bros., which also owns DC, wanted a superhero show, and the Green Arrow was available, so why not do it? But isn’t there a bigger question? Why is 2012 the year of the pop-culture archer? Vulture looked back at all this year’s bowing and arrowing and determined the five justifications for giving a hero a bow instead of any of the other weapons that have been invented over the past several thousand years.

The Story Is Set in the Past
Why do William from Snow White and the Huntsman or Princess Merida from the movie Brave or Bronn in Game of Thrones use a bow and arrow? Simple: It’s just a weapon people used at the time the movie was set. When they shot arrows throughout the film, no one was like, “What is that strange and magical device?” they were all like, “Okay, sure.” 

The Story Is Set in the Future (and the Hero is Poor)
A zillion years or so after the days of Snow White, there is the future and, wouldn’t you know, it’s dystopian. Our heroes are not the future-dwelling sort with light sabers, laser guns, or furry alien best friends — they’re destitute. The good thing about bows and arrows is that you only need one arrow and one bow, and you can practice endlessly, where you’d need tons of bullets to practice shooting a gun and at least two swords to practice swords. Katniss probably shot the same blunt, rusty arrow at the same tree for a decade before her Hunger Game. Same goes for the hunky Revolution kids.

There Is a Robin Hood Allusion to Be Made
If you wanted to help the poor, regardless of whether you’re poor or not yourself, a bow is the way to go. (“A bow is the way to go,” is also the ad slogan for every archery store.) There is a very large precedent, so you might as well tap into that. If it wasn’t obvious enough from Arrow’s mission to take from the rich and give to the poor, a character in the premiere episode actually says the line: “We’ll put an APB be out for … Robin Hood.”

The Fighting Disadvantage Is a Dramatic Advantage
Bow and arrows are cool, but they are not guns or swords or god hammers. No matter how fast one is at it, the archer is very vulnerable. Each of this year’s archery-heavy movies and TV shows with archery play up that moment where the hero is standing, bow cocked, completely defenseless to any attack. There is a vulnerability in that pregnant pause that draws the audience in.

It Looks and Sounds Cool
Everyone has a gun or a sword these days, so archers stand out. Also, tsu tsu tsu sounds better than any sort of gun bang. (Hold your hands up like you’re shooting a bow and arrow and make the sound tsu tsu tsu. See?)

Arrow: Why Are Film/TV Obsessed With Archery?