He Said/She Said: Gendered Genre in Arrow and The Flash

The trope requires our heroes to be angsty. Source: CW.

It’s supposed to be the golden era of geek television with The Flash and Arrow leading the mass audience to superheroes.

But we have our issues with these shows. They’re decent but they could be so much better.

WARNING: Spoilers up to the mid-winter finales of The Flash and Arrow.

Once upon a time, I loved Arrow. The first season ended so well and yet ever since about midway through the second season, it floundered, and has never quite recovered. I worried The Flash (from the same creative team) would have some of the same flaws. I was unfortunately, not surprised when that came to pass.

I can sum up one of my issues in my reaction to Ray Palmer’s explanation of why he was so driven: “Is there anybody on these shows who isn’t driven to do what they do by the memory of a dead woman?”

Or: “Is there any woman left on this show that is allowed to make decisions for herself or do they all have to be ‘protected’ from the bad stuff in their lives, even if they, say, have a right to know that their biological dad hypnotized them into committing murder?”

Arrow -- "The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak" -- Image AR305b_0260b -- Pictured (L-R): Willa Holland as Thea Queen and John Barrowman as Malcolm Merlyn -- Photo: Cate Cameron/The CW -- �© 2014 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
“So hey dad….can we talk about that brainwashing to murder thing?” Source: CW

And let me point out, this plot isn’t even about Thea. It’s all about Ollie’s *angst* on Thea’s behalf.

But you could boil these problems down to an overall issue: Arrow and The Flash rely on overused comic book tropes that make their plots far too predictable. And no plot is more overused or more predictable than “girlfriend in peril” or “keep secrets from the women to protect them” or “I can’t be in a relationship because it puts you in danger.” Even though all the women on both shows are already in danger all the time, sexy times or not.

Absolutely. We really saw the first sign of this with Helena back in season one of Arrow. Think about it: The Huntress has a fairly similar origin to Oliver’s. She finds out her dad is a criminal and does something about it. Except in her case, she first tries to do it within the confines of the law and only turns to violence when her boyfriend is killed (fridged, even). Then at-the-time-murdering-people Ollie goes ape on her for being too violent. It’s okay when *he* does it, but not her. Sorry? That’s some messed up logic coming from a guy shooting arrows through random security guards.

Additionally, that entire date episode with Ray had me yelling “Call HR! Haven’t you ever seen a ‘What Harassment Looks Like’ video?” That was some textbook icky behavior. Yet… I still like Ray more than Ollie.

Read the rest of Mordechai and Corrina’s discussion at GeekDad.

Writer, Mom, Geek and Superhero. though usually not all four on the same day. Author of the award-winning Phoenix Institute Superhero series and the steampunk novel, The Curse of the Brimstone Contract.