Why Iris West of “The Flash” is such an important female character
The television landscape has become marginally more diverse in recent years, but there’s still a long way to go when it comes to representation in the genres of fantasy, sci-fi, and superhero fiction. As we discuss the importance of black women on contemporary television — characters like Olivia Pope, and Annalise Keating, and Abbie Mills — it’s key to also talk about Iris West, on The Flash, her character only becoming more important when viewed within the uber-white sci-fi niche.
The Flash, a CW superhero series spun off from Arrow, centers around Central City’s crime scene investigator Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) who is struck by lightning and gains super-human speed. Barry uses his incredible abilities to fight criminals and metahumans who also have otherworldly powers. Among the characters Barry leans on for support is Iris, Barry’s friend and love interest. When the series showrunners chose to cast a black Iris West staunch comic book nerds took offense. The reality is, though, that her character is an important component of today’s television landscape, particularly in a genre notorious for being so white. In celebration of Iris, the badass women of color on TV, and the return of The Flash (a new episode airs tonight) here are just a few of the reasons why Iris West rocks:
She’s got serious smarts.
Iris is a smart, independent, and caring young woman. She was introduced as a psychology graduate, but after her blog — which detailed the heroics of The Flash — gained traction, she became an investigative journalist. When we think of Iris, there is no gendered or racial stereotype at play. She’s just a representation of a strong, multifaceted woman who is doing her damnedest to debunk damaging archetypes.
She’s a total badass.
Sure The Flash has stepped in a few times to save the day, but Iris knows how to defend herself too. From knocking out the iron metahuman Girder with her right hook, to taking down a villainous version of Linda Park, to integrating with the team at S.T.A.R. Labs and helping to rescue her father from the large gorilla Grodd, Iris knows what’s what. There’s also an iconic Iris line that fills our hearts with Iris-pride: “A girl’s gotta be her own hero, every now and again.” Preach!
She and Barry give us all the slow and steady #relationshipgoals.
Iris and Barry’s relationship is the total heart of the show. The CW takes their sweet, sweet time to establish the bond between the two, but the chemistry is always there. In the episode “Welcome to Earth 2,” Barry travels to the parallel world of Earth 2 and bumps into his doppelgänger. Barry finds out that in this world he’s married to Iris, which makes him confront his romantic feelings for Iris on Earth 1. No matter what planet they’re on, these two will find one another.
Candice Patton, who plays Iris, is a role model for young girls.
Candice Patton is able to make us feel real feelings for Iris and her storyline — even with limited screen time and slow character development. She also is a total inspiration for young girls of color who might not have seen their likeness on TV before — for example, the above tweet. Oh, and by the way, Candice made that little girl’s day by showering her in The Flash merchandise. Diversity and lady power, really can make a difference.