I’ve said many times that the superhero genre is actually in steep decline. Perhaps the decline is caused by the move from appealing to actually youngsters to those who are young at heart in a manner that seems pathetic in hindsight. The Flash, like any other superhero, used to appear in stories aimed at kids.
Superhero comics used to target childrens unapologetically and that was the case for several decades. Then the 1970s came with various fans turned professional, coinciding at the time when the underground comics movement was forming, the Comics Code Authority was declining and the coming of the direct market.
There came a bizarre obsession with continuity, which most younger readers and casual readers don’t mind much, collecting as many useless items as possible and having to reference things most people don’t care about. Then the stories themselves became so repetitive and self-referential that only veteran fans would care about.
The Flash seems to be successful at this point though with the Flash appearing twice in different channels at least here in the Philippines, one might get the impression that reruns of the Flash on either channel are going to tire ordinary audiences, leaving diehards to enjoy it for what it’s worth. From my experience enjoying cartoons, I liked to catch reruns of cartoons every now and then.
Now I’m older and I don’t have much time and interest to catch reruns. I still like cartoons but I’ve moved onto other things like pop stars and stray dogs. The Flash’s appeal is like that but usually with serious fans as you don’t see much Flash merchandise aimed at actual kids. Marvel’s better especially with its Spider-Man products being aimed at kids and there’s the more accessible Spider-Man comic strips running in newspapers.
The Flash at this point doesn’t have that entry point to appeal to younger people. From the looks of it, the Flash might be less serious than its 1990s incarnation but still more serious than the likes of Spider-Man and Uncle Grandpa. Or better yet, Clarence and Uncle Grandpa. Kids can relate to what Clarence and his friends go through. Heck they can connect to a character who experienced some loss.
But when it comes to the Flash, I wonder how many kids would want to connect to a man who gets jealous of his stepsister’s boyfriend because he covertly wants to date her, pathologically obsessed with undoing his dead relative’s ordeal and boring pseudo-science crap. I think not too many judging from observing my own younger relatives and people who’ve experienced a certain sense of loss will move on, even if they still cling onto it.
The same could be said of the Flash but not in a manner that feels believable and understandable. Literally turning back the clock even with the unwanted consequences feels like the Flash cannot move on, he never really matured. What’s worse is that it feels like a weird replay of the Flash comics’ shortcomings and bad storylines. The Flash avenging the death of his loved one at the hands of a villain is nothing new. That plot began in the 1980s with Iris West being the victim.
Likewise two of the Flash’s closest allies becoming villains is nothing new either. Wally West’s onetime girlfriend became a villainess, Barry Allen’s mandatory PC friend became a villainous plot device just so Barry can be motivated to fight him. Similar things are happening to Caitlin and Cisco, wondering whether or not they’re even decent supporting characters when they’re inevitably set up as traitors.
If the Flash is not appealing to actual children, it might not be appealing to actual adults either. The protagonist is a jealous asshole, especially when it comes to his sister’s boyfriend. He’s not only jealous but stupid when it comes to dealing with villains. Kids do want a flawed character but one who’s undoubtedly a good guy who actually makes an effort to save himself/herself.
Actual adults would be more invested in seeing the Flash get over things and learn from his mistakes. In fact, a good number of them would want him to settle him and develop a longterm relationship with another person since nobody wants to deal with breakups, jealousy, unwanted pregnancies, cheating and STDs.
So a lot of superhero programmes, including the Flash, are practically adolescent. No longer for children but not really for adults in a manner that feels pathetic given their historical appeal to children. That would be like watching an adult programme featuring the Minions, where they swear a lot and act maliciously towards one another. It wouldn’t surprise anyone that the idea of making Green Arrow and Flash adult is to have them act like assholes and have questionable relationships.
One has a crazed tantrum-throwing, rude girlfriend who drugged him. The other secretly wants to bang his sister, despite her having a boyfriend and he having his own lover. No doubt that the Flash had dated other women before but regardless if she’s Fiona, Iris or Patty he was this devoted to her.
I don’t know how long will the Flash go on but I do have a feeling that people will get tired of superheroes anytime soon, leaving the programme to cater to a shrinking viewership just like what happened to the comics before. If the Flash continues to pander to a narrow fanbase especially with their obsessions with ship teasing, esoteric references and the like, it will stop appealing to everybody else anytime soon.