The question beckons, what’s with Hollywood’s fascination or recent promotion of protagonists that can aim a bow and arrow?  First and foremost, the intrigue or the appreciation stems from the audience and more specifically the connoisseurs that revel in the skill and artistry of archery.  Second, the homage to present a character that uses a bow and arrow over other weapons lies with personal preference of the writer.  What Hollywood does best is research what is trending in book sales or popular culture and then tries to sell audiences their version of the popular narrative or motif.

So why the sudden promotion of archery in film or television narratives?  Why now, at this point in entertainment history?  Well truth be told is that any Neanderthal can learn to pull the trigger of a gun and with little skill or aim hit a target at random, even blind folded.  Guns are the weapon of choice to make the statement that a character is the ultimate ‘Billy Bad Ass’ and everyone loves a good ole ‘shoot ’em up’.  Yet, this approach has become passé as well as cliché.  Then, there is the recently renewed use of swords in film.  Sword combat has rediscovered popularity thanks to films such as Kill Bill and the Pirates of the Caribbean series.  However, again, such weapons have become cliché.  Thus, the choice to have the protagonist use a bow and arrow as a weapon is a strategic choice to add variety to the heroic tale by changing the form of combat.

Archery is fascinating because it brings man or woman back to the basics of his or her own skill and physical strength—before guns or mechanical weaponry.  The seduction resides within the skill or in cinematic storytelling the implied skill of the archer.  There are a few films and television shows that have employed the bow and arrow as a form of combat or self-defense.  For example, the crossbow is used in the television series The Vampire Diaries.  In this show, the crossbow is the logic choice because we are presented with supernatural creatures that can move at the speed of light or in a blind of an eye.  A traditional bow and arrow takes too much time to draw the bowstring and arrow, aim, focus, and then shot.   Yet, there is only one show that I enjoy that does not tell me through dialogue that the protagonist or a character is a master of the bow and arrow.

If we reflect on the characters of Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games and Oliver Queen the Green Arrow in the new television series Arrow.  The common traits shared between Katniss and Oliver is the hard-ass kill or be killed attitude; the ‘I’ve seen some horrifying shit, ‘I’ve lived through some in-humane experiences’, ‘I’ve lost many that I loved, ‘It’s a doggy-dog world and I can’t afford to be naïve anymore.  The typical Hollywood approach is to end a story perfectly wrapped up with a bow on top, a happy ending where the hero or heroine wins and saves the day, or the boy and the girl fall in love the future and the world is there oyster or blank canvass.  This is the case with cinematic representation of author Suzanne Collins’ novel The Hunger Games.

Ultimately, the character of Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) represents a mythological tribute to Greek goddess, Artemis—the first archer, the first hunter, the lady of the forest and its beasts.  Thus, all archers become Artemis’ protégée or devotee.  This is the role and temperament of Katniss Everdeen.  When we first encounter Katniss, she exhibits her nurturing, protective, and motherly nature by consoling her younger sister Primrose Everdeen (Willow Shields) after a nightmare dream about being selected as tribute in a lottery to fight to the death.  In the next scene, we watch Katniss hunting a deer with her bow and arrow in a forest.  Distracted by the intrusion of her friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth), Katniss quickly aims, shoots, but misses the escaping deer but is able to hit a bird as it takes flight from a tree.

When Primrose is chosen as District’s 12 next victim/tribute in the Hunger Games, Katniss volunteers in Primrose’s place.  At this point we are told by Gale, Primrose, and Katniss herself how much Katniss is an expert and superb huntress with the bow and arrow.  When Katniss speaks to others, her tone and demeanor is confident, authoritative, and fearless—even when she instructs her own mother to stay strong and be around for Primrose, even as she tells Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) that she is has difficulty making friends but is not afraid of walking within flames.  The next time we witness Katniss using the bow and arrow, she misses her target.  Now at this point I can relate to Katniss as a character but on the other hand I am not convinced that she is this bad-ass archer.  In fact, the entire scene of her in front of the aristocratic sponsors of the Capitol, where she is to show off her skill as an archer, I predicted how the scene would play out before it was completely revealed—the missed shot based on nerves, the next shot she makes but no one is paying attention, and the next shot she shoots an arrow towards the sponsors to get their attention, and then the return of her confidence, somewhat arrogantly.

It is these moments of insecurity from Katniss that contradicts the nature of her character.  We understand and know that she has a problem in social skills and being sociable but her archery and hunting skills should be outstanding.  The only situations in which Katniss should be missing shots are those of temporary blindness, hand to hand combat, or her arm or fingers are broken.   For the most part we, the audience, are told of how Katniss is a supreme markswoman of the bow and arrow yet we are shown her archery skills only 7 times throughout the film—and out of those 7 times she misses 4 shots.  Again, the story of Katniss seemed more like an homage to the Greek goddess Artemis than an illustration of a keen markswoman and huntress with the bow and arrow.  It is no surprise that Katniss manages to defeat her opponents, win the game, and save her partner from the 12th district.

However, in the real world our lives are not perfected wrapped packages, not everyone’s journey ends with a happy ending, and there are always loop-holes, loose-ends, and unfinished business.  Oliver Queen/Green Arrow (Stephen Amell) in the television show Arrow is only character on television that illustrates he is a sniper, a surgeon with the bow and arrow.  We were first reintroduced to the character of Oliver Queen/Green Arrow (Justin Hartley) in the television series Smallville as a side-kick to Clark Kent/Superman which mostly emphasized the billionaire playboy life of Oliver Queen.  Yet, the writers of Arrow know how to sell an archer as a bad-ass mofo.  Every time Oliver Queen steps out as the Green Arrow he has his bow and arrow and he only misses a shot intentionally to suggest he’s giving a warning.

From the start of Arrow’s pilot show, we learn that Oliver is an accurate archer as he drops tennis balls at random and shots them dead center into against a wall before the stop bouncing.  We observe Oliver factoring in other elements that are beyond his control such as windage, point or place of attack, and the distance to the target before making a shot.  Through flashbacks, we learn how the billionaire playboy learned to become a marksman with the bow and arrow but has transformed into a hunter.  The most convincing display of the Green Arrow’s mastery is his repertoire of bows and arrows—where we observe his collection of traditional bows, crossbows, long arrows, short arrows, flat arrowheads, three dimensional and four-dimensional arrowheads, 8 pointed arrowheads, needle sharp arrows, and beveled-edged arrows.  Oliver Queen as the Green Arrow has come to learn from his lost time on the uncharted Island of the blurred line between living and dying and the fine line between victim and killer.  Moreover, what is implied by Oliver’s time spent on the uncharted island and ultimately his transformation is that a switch flipped within his humanity and morality has—civility had dissolved and savage and calculating qualities were heightened.  He became an animal, a hunter.

Archery in life as well as film is about the hunter and the hunted—about operating on primal animal instincts.  In the end, we are all primal animals to some degree of animal.  As Gale told Katniss, there is no difference between hunting an animal and hunting a human.