Monday, June 06, 2022

The Fastest Man-Child Alive 1: Let It Snow

I want to talk about the Flash television show this week, which I have discussed infrequently here, but often with my friends.

Recently I watched a video that made the case for Barry "The Flash" Allen and his S.T.A.R. Labs colleague Caitlin "Killer Frost" Snow as a truly appropriate couple (there are a LOT of such videos, apparently), rather than the 'forced' couple of Barry&Iris. 

How my mind always sees them.

Before clicking, I rolled my eyes at the fan 'shipping', which often defies logics and limits.  But by the time I was done watching the video--long before I was done, actually--my mind had been changed. I saw that not only would Barry & Caitlin be a better couple than Barry & Iris they basically already were.

Naturally, the video selected only excerpts that made its point; but they were there to be selected. A great many of them.  The chemistry between the characters was palpable in a way it never has been between Barry & Iris (despite their actors' best efforts).  

The scales fell from my eyes.  I realized that to a large degree what had kept me from seeing their connection was, well, That is Barry Allen and That is Caitlin Snow and That is Iris West and I have known full well for fifty years which of those two people are supposed to go together.  That's an enormous weight of expectation that's nearly impossible to Dare to Defy, even on the CW, where they had Ollie Queen wind up with the comic book character who was Firestorm's stepmom rather than the one who's been his canonical girlfriend for fifty years.  

I am going to pretend--and it IS pretending--that the writers intend that.  That it's part of the MESSAGE of the show.  That they wanted to make it obvious that Barry really belongs with Caitlin (or with someone more like her, like Patty, or Felicity). 

All of whom are SMOKING HOT. I mean, I dig Grant Gustin, sign me up, for sure, but...
JEEZ, are all his love interests on a higher level or what?!

Barry simply fails to make his relationships with those other women happen (and Linda Park, but who remembers her?).  He doesn't really choose Iris because she is better or his relationship with her is better. He simply fails to get a better one, even though BRILLIANT FUNNY HOT WOMEN keep throwing themselves at him, despite his poor fashion sense and that one weird eyebrow he never fixes. 

Barry Allen after Sebastian Smythe crucified his sense of style in public.

Barry can't let go of his childhood crush on the girl next door. Or the girl in the bedroom next door, she we should never EVER forget he grew up in the same house with her, raised by her father, for all intents and purposes as her brother.  And once Barry's father was exonerated, released from prison, and then nearly immediately killed (since his narrative purpose was filled and the actor was better used to play Jay Garrick), the show doubled-down on the sense that Joe Was Barry's Functional Father. Meaning Barry and Iris's relationship has gotten MORE, not less creepy, with time.  

One of most frequent critiques of the show is that "Barry never learns".  I think a more generalized version of that is, "Barry doesn't move forward", which is ironic for someone who motto is "Run, Barry, run."  

This makes the Cosmic Treadmill the perfect metaphor for the show;
lots of running, potential for re-sets, but no forward motion.

Over the years, most of the spotlight on Barry's inability to let go of the past and move forward has been on his mother's death.  But the elephant in the room has been his baseless infatuation with Iris.  

Barry thought balloon: "I..I... can't go on without her."
Iris thought balloon: "Bread; milk; I think I still have yogurt..."

It's an elephant we have have been fed, bite by bite, week by week, year by year. Two good actors (both very nice people) sold it to us because it was their job. But the writers and we the canon-fixated readers are to blame. As much as I make fun of her, there's nothing "wrong with Iris" as a character on the show (except perhaps her willingness to put up with Barry's bushwa).  Candice Patton has done an amazing job in an impossible position in portraying her.  Iris, in fact, did pretty much everything she could to escape Barry, but the narrative pull, and her lifelong habit of being supportive of his endless neediness, was simply too strong.

You had your chance, Iris, during those nine blissfully quiet months when Barry was in a coma, but you dragged your feet and didn't elope with Eddie and then he shot himself and saved the world from Reverse-Flash when Barry couldn't, so you've only yourself to blame.

Sure, the mom-thing did inspire Barry to change the timeline and non-hilarity ensued; but that's just because he HAPPENS to have godlike superpowers.  However the Iris-fixation is a real-person problem, a realistic symptom of Barry's unwillingness to just GROW UP and everyone's willingness to indulge that.

More on that tomorrow.


Steve Mitchell said...

For that matter, I never thought Barry and Iris worked in the comics. When I was re-reading the stories in the Flash Archives, I reached the conclusion that Iris was a total shrew.

Scipio said...

Oh, she is; she's famously the Meanest Women Alive. I just assume the Barry, being a superhero. loves a challenge, and she is certainly that. Any normal man can love a good person; it takes a Barry Allen to love iris West.

Greg said...

No one can convince me otherwise that when Arrow started, the intent of the writers/producers was to work toward recreating the comics couple of Green Arrow and Black Canary. However, there was such obvious chemistry (to wife and me, at least) between Oliver and Felicity (by which I mean the actors playing those characters) that it could not be denied. Comic-book coupling be damned, Laurel hets moved aside and Felicity is the primary love interest.

For whatever reason (although I do have a theory as to why), even though the only thing this Barry and Iris have in common is that they grew up under the same roof, the producers/writers just wouldn't admit it, not unlike J.K. Rawling's refusal to let go of her outline and recognize that Harry and Hermione should have ended up together.

Since The Flash is a CW show, Barry and Iris ending up in bed for whatever CW-based reason would not have been out of the question. Sometimes, that is enough for both participants to admit that there is no real attraction, which allows botj parties to move on.

If it had been in my power, Barry and Kara Zor-El would have gotten together. Honestly, in my opinion, there was no cuter couple. I think back to their first meeting and Kara's excitement when Barry went to get everyone ice cream, returning almost immediately. Had Barry not been burdened with his Iris obsession, he should have seen in Kara what she saw in him: another person with powers unequivocally on the good side, which at that time, was a novelty for both (other than Superman, but even on the CW, Mort Weisinger-approved stories in which Superman implies that if Supergirl wasn't his cousin, he would be attracted to her, wouldn't fly.)

Scipio said...

That's interesting, Greg. I didn't start watching Arrow until Season 3, when Ollicity was clearly the goal. But I never assumed "Black Canary" was ever a goal, even after watching Seasons 1 and 2, because she was wasn't "Dinah"; she was "Laurel". Dinah was her mother. I can't think of a clearer signal that they were NOT going to be together than that.

Anonymous said...

There is so much I want to say on this topic, but very little of it wouldn't be a candidate for deletion. So I will say that, of all the creepy things I've seen on "The Flash", my favorite has to be the wedding speech where Joe is praising his (for all practical purposes) son for marrying his daughter.

Scipio said...

"for marrying his daughter."