We Need to Talk About #ElseworldsSoWhite

Conclusion

Those of you who have read my writing before know that I usually end with some prescriptive measure, something to improve the situation. But to be honest, and at the risk of sounding uncharacteristically cynical, that’s because I assume that the producers of The Flash and the Arrowverse at large will endeavour to do better if they see a problem. Except, this has been a problem since the very first season, and they haven’t done anything about it. Once is an accident, twice is coincidence, three times is a habit – and clearly, it’s one that they don’t intend to break.

To be quite honest, I wasn’t really writing this to change anything. I was just irritated that people were misunderstanding what fans were trying to do, both in terms of Iris and representation in general. The fact that this is six weeks behind the crossover itself (life happens, unfortunately) tells you I don’t have much hope of many people reading this, but I was too angry to let it go. The next crossover is entitled Crisis on Infinite Earths, and even though most fans will know that the storyline involves Barry Allen sacrificing himself and his loved ones trying to move on, I have every confidence that it will somehow involve Oliver Queen talking about how much Barry meant to him, a funeral where none of Barry’s family members are present, and Iris being informed of her husband’s death offscreen in a scene that will be cut for time so that Killer Frost can be rebooted for the fourth (fifth? Who really knows at this point, honestly) time. You laugh, but we are talking about a universe that made Barry and Iris’ wedding about two completely different people.

I expect fans will be campaigning like this in the future. Not just because the Arrowverse has such an awful track record when it comes to Iris, but for all of the comic book websites who say that they “love” diversity and “support women” et cetera et cetera, none of them have pointed this out. And these will often be the same sites that will churn out the same inane listicles that change depending on what the wind is doing, or another bland hot take that boils down to “this is changing and I don’t wike it”. Nobody else is pointing it out, and certainly not anyone with the clout to do anything. Who, then, are we supposed to rely on but ourselves?

Look, I love The Flash. Of all the shows I started in 2015, it’s the only one I haven’t dropped (God, Empire, what the hell happened?). It’s my comfort show – I have all the Blu-rays, I haven’t missed a single episode, and I could probably recite the names of each episode while only being a little embarrassed. As a lifelong fan of Barry Allen, I adore Grant Gustin’s portrayal of him, Candice Patton’s Iris West means the world to me, and I love the stories the show tells. And even though I don’t watch any of the other shows, I can’t help but feel heartened when I come across fans who say they feel inspired and seen by the storylines and the characters in the Arrowverse.

But there is a small, gnarled part of me that will never quite love the Arrowverse itself, because – for right now, at least – it’s legacy when it comes to the crossovers that are “open to all” are nothing but a sobering reminder that Black women are still getting left at the back of the bus.

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