What’s in a Name?

My son and I have started a “new” series on Netflix. We’ve caught up on all the seasons of our shows that are available for free, so we decided to start another series—Arrow, which is based on the DC comic-book series.

Click to see and purchase!We’re enjoying the show so far, especially the names. Oliver Queen is the main character. His best friend, Tommy Merlyn, his ex girlfriend, Laurel Lance, his bodyguard, Dig, co-worker, Felicity Smoak, mother, Moira, and his sister, Thea, all round out the cast. Where else but a comics-based show can you have a billionaire Queen family sporting names representing motherhood, deity, and poor little orphan boy?

We’ve barely delved into the plot of the first season, but we have taken cues from the names that Merlyn is going to work a little magic, lawyer Laurel Lance (along with her police detective dad) is going to skewer a few people, Dig is going to – well, dig, and Felicity Smoak is going to bring a little joy into Oliver’s life.

That’s what names do. They reveal who a person is. In stories, certainly in television and movies, they carry part of the burden of exposition, so that there doesn’t have to be whole episodes devoted to explaining how we arrived at scene one.

I love stories that use the characters’ names to tell a small portion of their tale, whether it’s through actual definition, tradition, or popular culture. It elevates the audience. Those who already know the meaning (or message) of a name connect almost instantly to the character. Those who discover that layer later enjoy the depth and find new appreciation as they grow with the characters.

Maybe the names just sound cool. Maybe they have no real “message” at all. Hmmm. Perhaps, but it wasn’t lost on me that when Oliver Queen is ship-wrecked on an island, he had to kill a bird and eat it to survive. When he is rescued, he returns home to Starling City, (A starling is a bird.) where he immediately decides to put right the wrongs of the evil individuals that run the city. His alter-ego super-hero is a green-hooded archer who steals from the corrupt rich to give back to the down-trodden poor.

Yeah, I can’t wait to see what’s next.

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading.

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