I’ll be the first one to say it: I do in fact ship fictional characters (and occasionally, real life people, but that’s a conversation for another day). It is usually a fun and harmless practice and can make for some great shade-throwing and smack talk when it comes to members of other ships.
That being said, I am not going to mince words here:
Shipping has ruined Arrow and that pisses me off.
Now, it’s more complicated than saying “OMG. WHY ARE HEROES IN LOVE AND SH*T. THEY SHOULD BE BLOWING UP SH*T. NOT MAKING KISSY FACES AT EACH OTHER. SH*T. MY MACHONESS IS OFFENDED BY THIS.”
Oh please. If this is you, you are welcome to take a stadium of seats as I am not here for that dumbass argument.
However, if you are here to have an honest conversation about what shipping had done to female characters on both Arrow and The Flash, then I am here for you because love is a natural part of life and I would get absolutely bored with my heroes if they didn’t get catch feelings for someone every now and then. That being said, said love should not destroy all logic, character development, plot, and reason on a show. That’s where I draw the line.
So, let’s start with this season of Arrow. This season of Arrow started out fairly well and after that mid-season cliffhanger with the “Death of Oliver Queen”, I was hype and ready for the second-half of the season. However, things quickly took a turn for the worst and I have found myself hate-watching Arrow for more than four weeks.
And now that we are literally thisclose to the season finale, I gotta ask:
What the hell happened?
Well, folks, shipping happened and shipping wrecked Arrow hard. I am talking about none other than Olicity. As a former Olicity shipper myself, I am honestly floored by how badly this ship has screwed up previously phenomenally written characters. Case in point: the lovely Felicity Smoak. During the first and second season—though the former started out hella rough—Felicity was an absolute gem. She was CRAZY brilliant. She was witty. She was painfully awkward. She was kind and she didn’t apologize for any of it. I loved her.
And now, I can’t f*cking stand her.
Of course, this is no fault of her own. This is due to an overpowering ship taking over and, you know, terrible, terrible writing. The Felicity of this season is damn near unrecognizable when compared to the Felicity of the past two seasons. This Felicity is rash. This Felicity throws herself into field situations that she’s not even trained for (granted, Laurel is doing this too, but Laurel is TRYING to be a VIGILANTE. A vigilante Felicity is NOT). This Felicity dictates to the notorious leader of a secret order/secret society/cult/secret boy band (yeah, don’t get me started on the treatment of Ra’s Al Ghul, Nyssa Al Ghul and the whole damn League of Assassins aka the motherf*cking putty patrol from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Because that TOO is a conversation for another day). And finally, This Felicity cries too damn much, to the point that I can’t keep up with what she’s crying about. And the latter is not a jab at emotions or being emotional in general. Emotions are cool. Emotions are a part of the human condition. To discount them or to call them weak is not only ignorant but it is erroneous at best.
No, this is not about emotions. This is about how shipping almost always turns the female counterpart in a ship into a dipsh*t or an asshole.
There is no in between.
There is NEVER an in between with the people who write these things.
In only ONE season, the act of shipping Felicity and Oliver together has not only nullified any character development Felicity has undergone, but it has strangely enough left Oliver unscathed (although, I’m still over him over him due to the terrible writing of this season and his blatant, out-of-nowhere character regression). I mean, the shipping got so bad and so overt that Ra’s HIMSELF shipped Felicity and Oliver.
What the ever loving f*ck.
Why the f*ck is Ra’s out here playing matchmaker?
Doesn’t he have people to, I don’t know, ASSASSINATE?
The only upside to this? Well, it appears that Laurel is not insufferable anymore and has often times functioned as the voice of reason this season.
That’s right, folks. Dinah Laurel Lance, the woman who most of us could not f*cking stomach for all of season 1 and 2 due to dismal writing back then too, has seemingly recovered. But, you know, let’s revisit her role as the “woman to hate” during those two seasons. Even though it has apparently been rumored to not be so anymore, Laurel and Oliver were supposed to be endgame. They were the end ship. They were what the canon ordered. So naturally, the writers thought that that meant that they had to make Laurel the sh*ttiest, most annoying, most irrational, most inflammatory, and most offensive person around.
Seriously. Every episode during season 1 and 2, I grimaced at my TV and hoped that she would get hit by a CTA bus and an MTA bus at the same damn time. I know, I know. That’s terrible, but she was that awful. My disgust for Laurel was very high and at one point, I was sure that it could not climb any higher. In return, the universe—and the Arrow writers—proved me wrong and had Laurel seriously compare her loneliness in Starling City to Sara’s painfully scarring experience on the island.
I legitimately started hating her after that episode. I truly did. And even though I knew it was due to sh*t writing, I still hated her. And that, folks, is a problem. The writers write these haphazard, barely 2D female characters and then hide behind them when the fanbase takes a legitimate issue with their portrayal/rendering. It’s not fair. And it’s not right.
And, of course, this problem is so not endemic to Arrow. It has also found its way into the Scarlet Speedster’s show, The Flash. On this front, Iris West—the venerable Candice Patton—has suffered the most and frankly, it pisses me off. Unlike Laurel of season 1 and 2 of Arrow, Iris West continues to show that she is intuitive, clever as f*ck, resourceful, and conscientious when. she. is. not. being. written. poorly.
However, since Iris too has found herself in a lovely ship (West-Allen), the following things have happened:
1. No explanation for why Barry is so madly in love with her has been provided.
2. She is simultaneously obsessed with Barry’s alter ego, The Flash.
3. She is made to be insufferable at multiple parts of the series for no particular reason. My favorite moment? When she sums up human advancement thus far in the pilot with one word: twerking.
4. Her development takes a backseat to the ship and her shipmate, Barry.
5. She is constantly kept in the dark and infantilized at every turn, removing any trace of agency for her character. The result? She ends up stumble-f*cking into various situations that COULD get her killed, all because every male character on this show can’t tell the goddamn truth.
Number one and two aren’t all that surprising as they are right up The CW’s alley. They are both a part of the standard superhero love interest treatment that women in these ships usually get. You remember Smallville? Well, if you remember Smallville, then you probably remember the Lois Lane of that series and how you much you rolled your eyes her and Clark’s relationship. Not only was she (and Chloe for that matter) a huge Mary Sue, but there was also no reason provided for why Clark should be in love with her.
Since that time, Smallville has spawned many examples of what not to do with heroes, plots, and their love interests. But yet, it seems that the writers of both Arrow and the Flash have not learned from that era and are continuing to repeat the same mistakes. And I just want to know why.
Number two is pretty explanatory and hearkens back to some of the Laurel stuff I mentioned. As for three and four?
When I tell you that am sick of Iris getting the short end of the stick…
Every single man in her life has lied to her. Let me repeat that: EVERY SINGLE MAN IN HER LIFE HAS LIED TO HER.
Her dad, Joe.
Her best friend, Barry.
Her bae, Eddie.
And they didn’t just lie about some little sh*t either. I’m talking life-changing, life-altering secrets.
And all in the name of what, protecting her? Keeping her safe? Nope.
You know why I have a huge problem with this excuse? It’s because lying does not keep her safe. In fact, lying increases the amount of danger she is in because not only is she IGNORANT of said danger, but it also increases the likelihood that she will walk right into said danger and DIE. Iris is a reporter. That means that it is part of her goddamn job to track down different leads. Nine times out of ten, these leads are dangerous. How in the hell is she supposed to know what to look out for if the people she’s supposed to trust in her life can’t say a single word without lying?
And furthermore, I take issue with this “protecting her” nonsense because if we take Barry out of the equation, how the hell are Joe and Eddie supposed to protect her? They clearly can’t. Metahumans keep whooping their asses up and down Central City. How are they supposed to protect her when they can’t even protect themselves?
What’s more is that this stupid plot point prevented Iris from contributing to the main plot for so long and I just think that is so absurd. Do you know how much faster Barry and company might have exposed Dr. Wells if Iris had been in on everything from the beginning? No? Well, I don’t either and we’ll never know because they didn’t even give her that chance. Nope. Instead, they put this heifer in the corner and she got justifiably angry, and the exceedingly gross, misogynoiristic sector of the The Flash fandom got angry. At her.
It’s infuriating. And disappointing, really. I long for the days where shipping and bad writing did not gut great characterization and prevent a genuine, burgeoning relationship from happening.
What’s funny is that I only have two examples of this:
Sara Lance and Moira Queen of Arrow.
And how ironic is it that these two extremely intricate characters are dead?
Moving on, Sara and Oliver were in fact shipped, even after their time on the island. But you want to know why most of us didn’t protest this? Because it made sense, that’s why. Both of them went through a traumatic time—together AND apart—on the island. Both of them went through a traumatic time off the island (Sara in Nanda Parbat and Oliver in Hong Kong, Russia, and wherever else he went). Both of them were extremely scarred individuals with repressed emotions, serious trust issues, and a tendency to lie. A lot. So it made sense that they would find extreme comfort in one another.
But, wait! There’s more!
Another reason that this ship was successful (prior to Sara’s return to Nanda Parbat and her untimely demise) was because Sara wasn’t instantly nerfed and didn’t instantly turn into a dumbass when she and Oliver rekindled their romance. In fact, she was still very much more ruthless and no-nonsense than Oliver that he had to call her out on it at one point.
Imagine. A female character can be in love and STILL be a badass. Who would’ve thought!
In addition to that that example, Moira is yet another instance of characterization done right and independent of some dude. And yet, I am willing to bet my life on the fact that had Moira not been Oliver’s mother, they might have found a poor way to damn near ship her with him too. Thankfully, that was not the case and thus we experienced some of season 1 and season 2’s BEST moments because of her. Moira was definitely shifty and was thisclose to having me declare her a pathological liar. But Moira was also smart, cunning, passionate, and FIERCELY protective of her family and you know what that makes her?
That’s what I want. That’s what I’m here for. I’m not here for the bullshi*t notion that falling in love means turning into a hapless fool if and especially if you are a woman. I mean, if we are going to do that, it should apply to ALL of the genders. Barry, Oliver, and whoever else shouldn’t be walking around untouched. Let them turn into dumbasses. Let them turn into dipsh*ts. Let them throw TWO WHOLE SEASONS of character development out the window.
But, of course, this will never happen because that would actually point out the sexist, nonsensical drivel that these characters (and actresses) have to work with and we can’t have that, now can we?
Images From: Tumblr, Twitter, Memegenerator.com, Tinypic.com, Ohnotheydidn’t.livejournal.com, Becou.com, Giphy.com, Sporcle.com, Teenagethunder.com