spock: logic is sexy

Ladies on the Flash

Husband and I have been watching The Flash, and for the most part, I think it's adorable even if it's a little cheesy and campy (but I think cheesy and campy is kind of the point, and it's nice to have a break from some of the dark and heavy fandoms I enjoy). Barry's character is very appealing, and I really want to know what happened to his mom. (I'm up through episode 9, so no spoilers, please.)

As a viewer who cares about issues of diversity and representation, I also appreciate that the show seems to strive to create a racially diverse cast. It's awesome to see a narrative in which a kind black man rescues a white orphan instead of the other way around ("The Blind Side," I'm looking at you). There is a lady scientist and a Hispanic scientist and a gay Indian police captain, which is all very good. So how could a show that seems to care so much about diversity gotten poor Iris so wrong?


I barely even know where to start writing about how badly the writers have treated her character. For starters, she doesn't get to have ambitions of her own. Between episode one and nine, she seems to have been downgraded from PhD candidate to barista. In the first episode, she talked about her dissertation. A couple episodes later, she said Barry convinced her to take a journalism class to get some kind of credit, which would imply that she's an undergrad. And now? She blogs about The Flash and no longer appears to be seeking an education. To be clear, there's nothing wrong with working at a coffee shop, if that's where her professional ambitions lie. The problem is that she appears to have no ambitions, other than writing wide-eyed blog posts about The Flash.

Worse, Iris' storylines revolve only around men, and her dad treats her as property. She gets interested in The Flash to help Barry recover his faith in the impossible. She stops liking The Flash because he beats up her boyfriend. Her father appears to have controlled all of her life choices, from the small ones ("I've had her in boxing gloves since she was six!") to the big ones (apparently he stopped speaking to her when she dared to apply to the Police Academy). When he finds out who The Flash is, the first thing he says is "don't tell Iris!" Because she's not adult enough to keep herself safe? At least other superhero narratives usually justify the danger to the hero's loved ones before sidelining the lady. Following her father's instructions causes a huge rift in Barry and Iris' friendship, but at no point is Barry even willing to say, "hey, Joe, I think Iris deserves to know because she's a competent adult who deserves to be treated with respect by her family and friends." And WTF is the thing about not letting her be a police officer? Barry, who is the stereotypical scrawny weakling, is allowed to work for the police with no problem. Iris, who knows how to box and use a gun, could not possibly do such a thing. Because she's property.

Even when Iris saves the day, the show doesn't give her a moment in the spotlight. She's the one who knocked out the man of steel -- and in her own blog post, she rhapsodizes about how The Flash saved her, even though she pretty clearly saved him. Two episodes later, she's the one who shoots the dangerous escaped convict. Naturally, it's not her own idea but a plan concocted by Eddie and her father. The actual shooting happens off-screen, and afterward, no one seems interested in how she saved the city from someone who appeared to be quite dangerous. It's all about her boyfriend, who got shot in a bungled attempted rescue.

To be clear, this is not a hating on Iris post. It's a hating on the writers post. Is this really how we're treating our lady characters in 2015?
Yeah. I loved pretty much everything about last season except for how Iris was handled, which was a huge blight on a show that was otherwise a delight for me. So far, they seem to be doing somewhat better in S2, thankfully, but it's a long slog to get here.
Totally agree. The writing of Iris was consistently the thing that bothered me about the Flash, which otherwise is delightful. It's going to remain bad until it finally (FINALLY) gets better, but season 2 is a bit iffy (they're retreading bad ground they've tread before, but thankfully keeping some of the good elements they finally arrived at at the end of last season). I know you haven't really watched Arrow, but for me Iris is the Laurel of The Flash, where they never really seem to know what do with her and she ends up left to the mercy of stupid plot points and nonsensical secret-keeping. But Arrow eventually figured out what to do with Laurel (she's a highlight for me now) and the Flash seems to be getting there with Iris.
I just finished season 1 and watched the first couple episodes of season 2. On the one hand, Iris seems to be doing well at her job. On the other hand...her dad lied to her about her mother's death? And she forgave him just like that? On a practical level, how does that even work? Do you just have some fake funeral for her and enlist ALL of your friends, relatives, and neighbors to lie too? And on a healthy relationship level...yikes, talk about someone who has ZERO respect for their daughter's decision making skills. I want to like Joe's character, but geez, what an awful dad.
Right? Did we not have enough of the "Joe lies to Iris" storylines in season 1? Ugh, I hate it. I know basically zero about the comics but my understanding is that this is leading to something from the comics, but that does not make it okay! You can't justify terrible plot decisions because the end result is something you want! It does Iris such a disservice, and kind of wrecks the perfect dad thing they want us to believe of Joe. (Who is, otherwise, such a likeable character, but then he does these stupid things and I want to tear my hair out.)

Also, yes, I couldn't stop thinking about the practicality of it the entire episode. Closed casket funeral with no body inside? Was there a fake death certificate? Did he use police connections to make it work? Does her family think she's dead? Did he get her a new identity? I need to know!!
Yeah. Not to rain on my roommates' parade, but this is why I noted out of watching _The FLash_ with them after an episode or two. The way poor Iris was written gave me metaphorical hives.
It got better at the very end of season one, only to immediately get horrible again in season two. The most frustrating thing is that I think people use characters like Iris to justify not liking female characters. They don't make the distinction between a bad character and a badly written character, and Iris definitely falls into the latter category.
They really did not seem to know what to do with Iris for the longest time, and it's such a shame because that's the one thing about the show that frustrated me for almost the entire first season. It does get better, but yeah, the treatment of Iris is the show's weak point.

Though, perhaps ironically, I find I like writing Iris for that very reason. The show couldn't seem to do right by her, so I was going to try.
I finished season one and watched the first couple episodes of season two. I was happy with how season one ended for her, but very upset about the lies in S2. The frustrating thing is that I really want to like Joe as a character, but I also feel like he has zero respect for his daughter.

I can definitely understand enjoying writing about Iris. It's fun to do justice to characters who are shafted by the screenwriters, and also fun to have a blank canvas to play with.
Hmm yeah, I think that's part of why I just couldn't get fannish about The Flash (and well a lot of those type of superhero shows and movies in general), the female characters are generally so underdeveloped
Yeah, it's definitely a problem with the genre! It's tough to get more than one well developed female character per superhero show, and even that is hard to come by.
Glad to see someone actually talk about this sensibly. First off: I don't watch the Flash, I have enough cheesy and campy with the Librarians... :) (and those are so amazingly well-written I can't stop raving about them).

But I have a friend on tumblr who is deeply entrenched in Iris hate-wars and tries to keep arguing against misogyny against black women, but that argument on tumblr is so hopelessly gone round the bend, it's unbearable. No matter what you try to say about Iris, you're attacked from both sides. Sad, really.
The most frustrating thing is that I think people use characters like Iris to justify why they don't like female characters. Unfortunately, a lot of people don't distinguish between a bad character and a badly written character, so they blame the character or actress when they ought to blame the writers for not giving her more to do.