Say what you want about The Flash TV series, it isn’t as dark as Arrow or have the same feel of Smallville (thank god it doesn’t. I’m sorry Smallville did not get it right in my eyes. It ain’t the bible for comic series) but The Flash as a TV series has come into its own. Grant Gustin’s Barry Allen encompasses the silver age of comics that The Flash dominated. While we get that old boy scout approach for our main hero rooted in that era of tradition, we are also given changes for today. The move to make Flash’s love interest Iris West a black woman (Candace Patton) was different and so needed. I’ll admit I thought they would just be playing the role trope/ trend of the white male lead and black female lead that has been noticeable on a lot of shows.
There is a big difference in how this was handled. Yes, we know Barry ends up with Iris down the line (comic-book wise and possible future timeline wise at least) but the extra mile brought into the show where Barry’s father is framed for murder and he is raised by Iris’ father Joe West… this small detail makes everything so much more genuine as the show progresses.
There are a million stories where we’ve seen the white savior narrative in plenty of films from Dangerous Minds, to The Blind Side (Sandra Bullock you were so bae till that movie) now the inverse of this could have happened on The Flash but they didn’t beat us over the head with Joe West coercing Barry out of believing what he saw the night his mother was murdered. He let the kid cope (as he was believing) how he had to. Instead, Joe West basically raises Barry as one of his own as we’ve seen repeatedly through flash backs. When Joe discovers Barry is The Flash he joins him, he sees him display new tricks with his powers (the auto-tune voice trick), Joe is the full on Dad figure in Barry’s life from jump which the show has executed flawlessly with Barry’s own appreciation of that.
We’re seeing a black male as a father figure to the white male lead adoptive son, and the black female lead. I’m not sure I can name a movie that jumps to mind there this dynamic is rendered as seamlessly as this show has done.
Jesse L. Martin’s Joe West has been a phenomenal point on the show as the father figure. However, Candace Patton’s Iris West is a very strong female lead. Iris upbringing as the daughter of a cop does not leave her as the helpless female lead in distress. We saw that Joe taught Iris how to box when she was younger (he told Barry early to get use to running) we’e also seen so far two instances when Iris was instrumental in helping Flash out with a villain not once…
We saw (heard actually) Iris West fire a hot round into Clock King and get his ass taken into custody. Then tell the Flash,
“A girl’s gotta be her own hero every now and then. I can handle myself”
Um, what? If you don’t think that was shots fired at the glass ceiling then we are not watching the same show. Lemme just repeat that Iris West is not here to be the helpless female lead. It’s 2014 and we got Iris West taken villains out with them experience points she earned in Mike Tyson’s Super Punch Out and first person shooters in real time.
I know I am very vocal on wanting to see more people of color in the media and again am skeptical when it is being put in place. I am glad to say that I love that The Flash has done that in a very tasteful way. Again, I know some may complain about the writing of the show or compare it to other TV comic adaptions but keep in mind this is still season one. Also, the steps they’ve taken with the addition of people of color in prominent roles and as a representation of the times? No matter how many seasons The Flash gets, other TV adaptions of comics are going to have to be held to this show’s practice of representation from now on.