EDITORIAL: Is Iris West Really THAT Annoying?
I've seen a lot of complaints on the internet concerning the depiction of Iris West in The Flash. These are some of my thoughts on Iris, the CW, and female lead characters in general.
So I’ve seen a lot of complaints on the internet concerning the depiction of Iris West in The Flash. Most of these complaints range from, “Iris is so annoying!” to, “She’s such a bitch!” to, “IRIS MUST DIE!!”
Despite everything I'm about to write, I don't hate the character -- mainly because of Candice Patton. Still, the general consensus among fans seems to be that Iris is vain, shallow, and does nothing but hamper every episode she’s featured in.
Here I am to talk about some of my thoughts on the matter.
1.) Terrible Female Leads on the CW
Yeah, I’m going to be frank here -- the CW is has this horrible, horrible tendency to write their female leads as narcissistic, vindictive, incredibly self-righteous, and sometimes passive-aggressive. Does anyone remember Lana from Smallville? Holy crap, was she the worst.
Laurel was a bit like that, and now Iris is slowly becoming like that on The Flash.
Let me use the latest episode as an example.
Iris finds out that Barry is the Flash, and that she’s been in the dark this entire time. She’s understandably upset about this, and despite their attempts to justify their actions, Barry and Joe obviously feel pretty bad about lying to her.
Caitlin Snow even tells Iris at one point:
“For what it’s worth, Barry feels really bad about lying to you.”
To which Iris replies:
W-wait, really? She’s not even going to TRY and see things from Barry’s point of view? She’s just going to act all self-righteous about it? Keep in mind this is the same woman who made out with Barry in an alternate timeline, in spite of having a boyfriend in Eddie. Iris doesn’t really have much moral high ground to stand on.
Laurel was a lot like this in the first two seasons of Arrow. It was totally understandable why she would hate Oliver Queen, but rather than avoid him like the plague (you know, like a NORMAL PERSON would do if they disliked someone) she spent her every waking moment trying to make Oliver feel shitty about himself. It was even worse when she went through her drug-addict phase, because at that point she was being a total hypocrite. At least she got called out for it (I think), but still.
Why do you do this, CW? You’re perfectly capable of writing likable female characters! Caitlin Snow has been mostly endearing so far, and Felicity was adorable in Arrow season one. Why do you insist on making your female leads so damn self-centered?
2.) What is Iris’s Purpose?
Look, not every character necessarily needs some kind of major goal. Members of the supporting cast like Cisco and Caitlin can get away with the flimsy, “I just wanna help the Flash!” goal because … well, they’re only supporting characters.
But like I’ve said before, Iris is this show’s female lead — and what is Iris’s main goal? What’s she working towards? What hurdles are placed in front of her to keep her from accomplishing this goal?
Um … she wants to be with Eddie Thawne? Okay, well … she’s been with Eddie since episode one. No real obstacles there.
She wants to be a journalist? Well, she kind of just had a journalist’s job handed to her. Not like she had to work her ass off to get hired or anything.
I’ll tell you what Iris’s real purpose is in this show — she’s a goal for Barry Allen to attain. She’s not a character. She’s an object that’s been placed on a pedestal, high out of Barry’s reach.
Forgive me for making this comparison, but let’s take a look at Marvel’s Daredevil. More specifically, let’s looks at Karen Page. I like Karen Page. I like her a lot. Not just because Deborah Ann Woll is freaking gorgeous, but because she is a genuinely likable character. She has her own character arc. She has her own goals. She contributes to the plot in her own way, and she isn’t wholly dependent on any of Daredevil’s male leads.
Most of all, though, she isn’t perfect. She’s fallible. She makes mistakes. SPOILER ALERT — she freaking killed a guy!
What mistakes has Iris West made?
Nothing. I can’t think of a single instance in which Iris has been forced to grow as a character. What’s worse, she basically gets everything handed to her instead of having to work for them.
For example, how did she discover Barry’s secret identity? Was it a hunch that she doggedly pursued, like Lois Lane in Superman II? Was it something she always suspected, but could never prove? Did she have to actually use her wits to uncover Barry’s secret?
No. How did it happen? Um, Flash shocked her with static electricity. And Barry once shocked her with static electricity! Oh my gosh, Barry MUST BE THE FLASH!
…What? What kind of plot induced stupidity is that?! Come on, writers, you can do better.
3.) I Still Love This Show
So after two and a half pages of complaining about The Flash, I want to reiterate that I actually love this show. I think it’s a lot of fun. However, I’m not going to just stick my head in the sand and ignore its flaws. I really believe that if they aren’t addressed soon, they might end up crippling this show in the future.
I also don’t hate Iris West. In fact, I think Candice Patton is very, very good in the role. She is sweet and cute and all that — but damn, the writers are really letting her down. Give Iris an actual conflict to work out. Don’t make her the cause of the conflict. That’s the kind of stuff that makes people dislike her.
Laurel Lance has actually become a likable character in Arrow season 3. In fact, some people might say she’s one of the best parts of the season. Whether this is a testament to how disappointing Arrow has been lately, or a testament to how much Laurel has grown, I’m not sure.
I’d like to think it’s the latter, because Laurel actually has a goal of her own now: she wants to make her sister proud, right? She’s become a vigilante herself. Now she actually has EARNED that moral high ground she used to pretend she had.
Please, to all the writers, producers, and directors of The Flash — let Iris do the same.
So there you have it — my three-page rant on Iris West, Laurel Lance, CW writing, and female characters in general. What do you think? Do you agree with me? Disagree? Whatever your thoughts, comment below and let me know.
'Til next time.