CW’s The Flash: I Am Beyond Bored of the Generic White Male Lead

barry

The CW is undeniably good at pumping out a formulaic show with a lot of fake personality that’s embarrassingly easy to binge-watch. I’m not proud of this, but I can admit that I watched both seasons of Arrow in the space of about two weeks. The sort of low-stakes yet constant peril makes it hard to keep from going, “Well, maybe just one more…”

In any event, it seemed only right that I give Arrow‘s new spin-off, The Flash, a try. I already knew going in that it was going to star the Disney-faced Grant Gustin who’d made a brief appearance as Barry Allen in a short arc last season. Whether or not Gustin could carry a whole show wasn’t of huge concern, given that Stephen Amell is a black hole of energy and they somehow managed to build a show around his dead-eyed portrayal of the world’s most boring survivalist, Oliver Queen.

Barry, at least, has a discernible personality and a bit of quirk, but where Arrow is a show built around a boring lead with a lot of goofy side-kicks, The Flash is effectively the opposite. And ultimately it’s a lot easier to love the show with the greater proportion of fun and funny characters. Nobody in the cast is anywhere near as bizarrely cheesy as the late Tommy Merlyn (I’ll never get over it), or a whirlwind of crazy like John Barrowman’s Malcolm Merlyn. The Flash just seems more sanitized and more tightly-wound than its source material.

I know, I know — it’s just the pilot. Give it a chance, right? But all of this surface criticism disguises my larger frustration: these shows would be so much more interesting if they were from some other perspective than the one we’re given ad nauseam: the tortured (but attractive) white dude with parental issues who’s just nerdy enough that he can’t get the girl he wants (for now), but not so nerdy that it’s impossible she won’t see his inner worth by the end of the season.

I’m so bored with it. So, so bored. If they wanted to do an Arrow spin-off, I’d happily watch a Sara Lance flashback show, but this is the same thing except with a guy who moves fast instead of a guy who’s good at shooting things with one of the most time-consuming and impractical weapons imaginable.

It’s a hard pass. Give me something new.

18 thoughts on “CW’s The Flash: I Am Beyond Bored of the Generic White Male Lead

  1. Yeah let’s go and tell Japanese writers to stop writing about Japanese characters and include black and Arab characters in their dramas/movies. Or how about we force Koreans to put in more mixed/non Asian people in their KPop groups and dramas/movies.

    LMAO.

    It’s still a white majority country you dumb bitch. Deal with it.

    • Around 98.5% of the people in Japan are ethnic Japanese. Around 1. 5% – or about 2 million people aren’t (most of that 1.5% are Korean or Chinese). So if every 1000th person you see onscreen in Japan isn’t Asian, that’s a fairly accurate representation of Japanese society.

      Around 63.7% of Americans are white. So if every third person you see onscreen in America is non-white, that’s a fairly accurate representation of American society.

  2. Reverse flash here…i just came back to oct 2014 to let you know that we completely owned most of the other hero shows!
    PS Fellow time traveler and general anus Rick Sanchez would also like to add “Riggity riggity wrecked son!

  3. I’m so sick of watching known, established characters changed for the benefit of a self serving propaganda known as SJWs. You want something fresh, something new, then please stop whining and CREATE it. It’s not like there is a ban on creating new heros, new comics, new franchises. I think your attitude is detrimental to diversity and makes your community look bad, like spoiled rotten children who won’t stop throwing a fit because mommy won’t give them chocolate before going to bed. If a character was created one way than leave it be. It’s like asking someone to change entirely just because the way they were born offends you. It’s ridiculous, it’s selfish and more than anything it’s utterly racist.

    • Umm, did we read the same article?

      Where did she say anything about wanting to change known, established characters? She said she’d like to have more diverse shows available to choose from. And she makes a good point: The Flash was fun but it *did* trot out a lot of the same tired old tropes.

      I’m sure you know the issue isn’t with creators’ willingness to create a diverse array of characters but rather with publishers being unwilling to take a risk producing something different.

      DC’s “big three” characters are Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. They will have produced six Superman movies (around half of which tanked), seven Batman movies (which did a bit better on average) *and* a Superman vs Batman movie before making a Wonder Woman movie. That’s not because people don’t want to write or star in a Wonder Woman movie. It’s because producers are reluctant to put money behind a film with a female lead.

      Meanwhile, over in Marvel-land, of the original Avengers, Hulk has had two movies (both poor), Iron Man has had three (mostly good), Thor has had two (mostly competent) films, and Captain America has had two (both well-received). Meanwhile freaking *Ant-Man* gets a film before Black Widow and, outside the Avengers proper, Agent Coulson gets his own TV series while Nick Fury gets relegated to “presumed dead”.

      People *have* been creating interesting superhero characters from diverse backgrounds: Static, Ms Marvel, Midnighter, Batwoman, Blue Beetle, Green Lantern John Stewart, Icon and Rocket, Mr Terrific, Vixen (my examples lean to the DC side ‘cos that’s what I’m most familiar with). You could make an epic movie or TV series based on most of those.

      There’s some light on the horizon with the upcoming Supergirl series, the renewal of Agent Carter and the upcoming Wonder Woman, Black Panther and Captain Marvel movies. We’ll see.

      • It’s extra cute to me that — despite the fact that white men have dominated these franchise movies for more than 50 years — the second you suggest that a white woman, a man of color, or a woman of color might be able to occupy space within that world, they absolutely lose it.

        So if it bothers you SO much that Peter Parker is black now, because you feel that a childhood icon has been perverted or taken away from you, how do you think literally everyone else feels when they’re never represented?

        And yeah — I’m not necessarily in favor of changing established characters, partly because there are SO many established characters who are white women or POC who they aren’t choosing to make movies or shows about. Tell me some new stories.

  4. I’ve phased out most television and I’m phasing out movies now too. I just don’t see why I should spend my money on media that doesn’t represent me. I’m a half asian / half white guy and I feel like this propaganda only makes me look bad so I have to constantly prove myself to new people. They don’t realize I am normal. So this white propaganda is actually my enemy.

  5. Hi Tea Leaves and Dog Ears,

    I have no idea how I ended up on you post, and I haven’t looked at any of your other articles, but since I’ll probably never be able to find the email address of the people in charge of The Flash, I have decided to express my rant in the form of a reply to your post instead of sending them a letter. Feel free to ignore this post.

    I totally agree. The pilot got me super hooked, (just what is Dr. Wells up to, anyway?!) I have binge-watched all of the available episodes of the flash in a week, but have grown increasingly dismayed and, recently, angry at the complete lack of any attempt to make the television adaptation of this comic book series up-to-date with the aspirations of Americans for gender, class, sexuality, and race equality. For god’s sake, this series isn’t even reflective of America’s current times, flawed as we are. It’s like the series is stuck in the decade the comic books were first written…

    Iris
    Really?? — Iris didn’t even manage to submit her application to the police academy because overly-paternalistic dad clearly holds her to a different (sexist) standard than he holds his surrogate son Barry?! That is not realistic. Clarification: of course there are tons of dads in America that don’t believe their daughters can or should be able to participate in fighting crime, violence, science, sports etc. because that’s what “men are for”, and there are tons of daughters who happily agree and follow their dad’s lead. However, the portrayal of a 20-something-year-old African American female with a college degree as being miffed but mostly cool with giving in to such parental pressure is inexcusable. (What would have been more plausible? Iris applying and being accepted to the police academy, followed by a huge blow out with dad and them not talking to each other for days. Now that sounds realistic!)
    Is Iris really so weak and in need of protection that she can’t be a police officer or know about Barry’s identity as the Flash? I get it, Barry is dedicated to his surrogate dad (Joe), it totally makes sense that he would struggle with wanting to do what Joe tells him to do, and wanting to follow his own opinions. But it doesn’t make sense for him to agree with Iris’ dad’s logic that Iris is too weak to handle knowing about his powers! Does Barry think so little of Iris’s capabilities and her relationship to him as his best friend and the girl he has always been in love with? This is so boring and stupid. This plot has been already been beaten to a pulp by superman in the TV series Smallville, it’s about time the men in these super hero shows start treating their regular human female friends *cough* love interests the way they treat their regular human male friends. Heads up — both male and female non-super-humans are useless in the face of a battle between meta-humans. Last time I checked, men and women were equally capable of using a firearm, which is kind of the only contribution either gender can make whenever a meta-human causes problems. Plus, Iris has already demonstrated she doesn’t need protecting — she snuck a weapon during a high-pressure bank heist, then shot the bank-robber, thus saving her boyfriend’s life by preventing him from bleeding out, and oh yeah, she clocked a meta-human in the face! So kudos to the show for hinting that Iris isn’t as pathetic as her dad and surrogate brother think she is. It couldn’t hurt to show Iris taking some initiative, instead of only showing her as physically tough (or tough in general) when she is reacting to a situation. Woohoo! Go Iris! I love her spunky attitude, confidence, emotional honesty, and determination, but mostly I just love watching her getting kidnapped and dating that guy and worrying about Barry and obsessing over the flash. If I could be any of the two straight women in this show (sorry, non-heterosexual viewers, science proves you can’t be meta-human or even know a meta-human and be gay or *gasp* queer at the same time) I would definitely be Iris. Or maybe I would be Caitlin…

    Caitlin
    Oh Caitlin. Gosh, what girl or woman wouldn’t watch this show and think to themselves, “gee, I too wish I could be in a relationship so toxic that I would be willing to give up my ‘life and career’ (yes, Caitlin actually says this. Out loud. S1E9) to spend one minute with my fiancé, the only thing that gave my life meaning!” Here Caitlin is, in a position of serious power, with a PhD (and some other degrees, it seems?) and a job with what was once a prestigious science organization, and we are supposed to believe that she doesn’t exercise that power to challenge societal norms for how women should behave and dress? She is a smart, determined woman, who worked and fought very, very hard to get where she is, as evidenced by the characteristics that truly make her stand apart from her peers: constant fretting, worrying, crying, a timid demeanor, an unhealthy emotional dependency on her boyfriend, and a “natural”, womanly affinity for wearing ridiculously impractical heels on a daily basis, despite her co-worker and boss wearing casual jeans and tennis shoes on a daily basis. To clarify: is it problematic that Caitlin dresses very femininely as a scientist? No. What’s problematic is dressing her this way while allowing her male peers to dress casually and relaxed. (A reflection of how men feel in science compared to women?)
    And does Caitlin ever get excited about coming up with new creative science ideas, or is that something mostly her co-worker is into, him being in the field of science and all? Oh wait. Caitlin is also a scientist…huh. I guess it must be cuz he’s a guy then, him being all naturally curious and ready for exploration of reckless and fun ideas. It’s that sort of natural masculine thinking that leads to scientific discovery! Wait, there seems to be some circular reasoning in there somewhere…Clarification: yes, this could just be due to a choice to portray different personalities, but why, I ask, in all of the world of television, so few women are portrayed as scientists or excited explorers ready for danger? I sense a trend here…

    Good job, you have a Latino male (and an engineering genius to boot!), an African American man (in an athletic profession, not an intellectual profession like most of his White male peers), an African American college-educated female (why is she still in college if she is the same age as Barry, who has already graduated and has a career?), and a White female PhD scientist in your show. Oh yeah and that other smart White female computer genius, Felicity. The main purpose of the women in this show is to serve as potential love-interests for the protagonist. How exciting. zzzzzzz

    • You forgot Plastique – she was very disappointing too – little more than a malleable victim.

      I totally agree that Joe is neurotic and overprotective. I don’t know if it’s a sexism thing though – he acted exactly the same towards Barry when he first found out about his superpowers.

      I actually wonder if Joe’s differing attitudes towards Barry and Iris’s chosen careers had less to do with their gender and more to the nature of those jobs. Barry works in a lab and shows up at crime scenes once all the action is over. Iris wanted to work on the front line and get shot at.

      Who is the African American man in an athletic profession? I can only think of Joe but he’s a detective which is an intellectual investigative profession not an athletic one (though fitness is obviously required). I haven’t seen episode 9 yet, so maybe the character you’re thinking of shows up in that?

  6. I understand the want for a different main, but turning the west family into a black family is a huge step in the right direction. It is hard to take a character that is always a white male and change his race without some major backlash from the comic community. CW found a way to add minorities to a show that should not have them. I understand that it is the old tropes, but CW is trying.

  7. DISCLAIMER: Haven’t seen The Flash yet.

    I totally agree with the general point – I’d love to see a *lot* more variety in protagonists.

    And a spinoff covering Sara Lance now she’s out of Ollie’s orbit would be great, even though she still ticks the “generic” and “white” boxes.

    They implied Dinah might be taking up the Canary moniker in future too (which would finally bring it online with the comics), so Sara is freed to forge a new identity. That could be very interesting.

    Unfortunately, you may have picked a poor example. The Flash is a pre-existing character who has an interesting enough premise to make a TV show about. And he happens to be nerdy, tortured (as of the New 52. Ugh.) white and male.

    There are numerous shows out there that would work just as well or better with female and/or coloured protagonists. With ~70 years of history as a white guy behind him, The Flash isn’t one of them.

    IMO, the problem probably isn’t that The Flash is white, male and generic but that it’s surrounded by other shows that *also* are. Especially in the superhero space.

    Personally I think a great TV series could be made around Icon and Rocket, althoughough budget might be prohibitive, depending. (Seriously, google them. If you watched Young Justice, you met Rocket just before the time skip. I was disappointed they didn’t do more with her).

    Icon and Rocket are initially from the same comic company (Milestone) as Static (who’s *another* character I’d love to see on the big screen). DC owns the Milestone characters now and they have the clout to make a series happen if they want to.

    • The trouble that I have isn’t that they made Barry Allen white. I don’t need him to be Barry Lopez in order to satisfy my requirements. Or Bonnie Allen or whatever else.

      it’s just with the fact that they chose a generic white franchise again.

      • Hi. I’m not trying to be difficult, I genuinely don’t understand the distinction you’re drawing there.

        What should have been done differently?

        Should they have put The Flash on the backburner until they (or someone else?) had bought out some more diverse TV series first?

      • I guess I’m frustrated with the fact that there is no other show I can compare it to and say, “Well, I didn’t like The Flash but I’m still hopeful for that new Black Panther show. Or Ms. Marvel. Or even Wonder Woman.”

      • Or Icon (and Rocket)! 😀

        Yeah, we’re on the same page. A lot more variety in general would be wonderful.

        A Ms Marvel series has the potential to be great. Probably a hard sell in the current climate, but all the more reason it’s worth it.

        It’s a shame Birds of Prey wasn’t a better show. That would’ve set a great precedent.

        It might even be cool if, the next time they feel the need to reboot Spiderman, they kill him off instead and go the Miles Morales route (again, hard sell but more than worth it if they pull it off).

        There are, unfortunately, a fairly limited number of non-straightwhitemale characters to choose from in existing comics. In the Big 2, anyway – there may be some great options amongst the indie titles.

        In Marvel and DC you largely have to go past the heroes with big name recognition anyway to find non-straightwhitemales, so why *not* go with an indie or unknown character?

        They could even come up with new superhero characters. There’s no reason “The Cape” couldn’t have had a female or non-white in the lead, for example. And Heroes did just fine. (It was a fairly diverse cast too, even if they did feel the need to make both the main hero and villain SWMs).

        My guess is that more diverse superhero TV/movies won’t come from the Big two at first. They’ll come out of left field like Heroes did.

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