Not Just an OTP: Skyler Whites, Girl Fridays, and Taylor’s Problematic Lyrics

Are You Gonna Be My Girl (Friday)?

Welcome back! As mentioned, this article is going to explore shipping patterns that I’ve noticed in the Arrowverse, where I’ve noticed those patterns before, and what they say about society. This section will be exploring why people started shipping Olicity and Snowbarry because of their personalities and positions in the narrative. (Note: this analysis is mostly about the women in earlier seasons, i.e. Felicity in the 2017 crossover will not be discussed. Yet).

Here, readers, I introduce you to two friends of mine: Skyler White and Donna Paulsen.

For those of you who have not seen Breaking Bad, Skyler White is the wife of Walter White, the chemistry teacher-turned-meth dealer and (anti)hero of the story, who turns to selling drugs when he learns he has cancer to finance his treatments and look after his family. If you were watching with the internet, read comments, or visited Reddit while the show was on, you will likely come away with the conclusion that Skyler is the Actual Worst™. She nagged Walter incessantly. She wanted him to stop selling drugs. She didn’t get that he had to in order to support her and their unborn child. She was ungrateful. She doesn’t understand all the secrets, calls him on every piece of shit he shills at her, and pretty much doesn’t get off his ass once he starts acting shifty with her. And everyone hated her for it.

Skyler White, the wife of Walter White, and possibly the most hated character on the show for many viewers

Facebook pages dedicated to hating her sprung up like weeds. Memes about how bitchy, useless, and whiny she was abounded. Not content with threatening physical and sexual violence on a fictional character, people began sending Anna Gunn, the actress who portrayed her, death threats that were amazing in their scope and creativity. (When she is not called Skyler White, she also goes by her aliases of Carmela Soprano or Betty Draper. I myself prefer to call her Human Woman With Emotions, but as you’ll probably agree, that’s too many syllables).

Now for Donna Paulsen of Suits. Donna is the legal secretary of Harvey Specter, Pearson Specter’s best closer. Donna knows all. She sees all. And she’s an absolute knockout in whatever she’s wearing. Harvey would be lost without her; she knows him so well that she can predict what he’s going to do. She solves his problems before he knows they’re problems. She runs his professional life and wields an inordinate amount of influence over his personal one; when she stopped working for him, both fell apart. Not only is she the most important woman in his life, she’s the most consistent and the one that he trusts above all others – including his love interests. Donna is the Girl Friday.

Donna, Harvey’s Girl Friday, probably right in the middle of saving his skin

The Girl Friday knows you. She has a solution for every problem, can handle any issue, and does it all with a smile and a witty one-liner. She trusts you as if her life depends on it (and on superhero shows, it usually does), and counsels you without nagging you, which is important (unless you are about to Cross A Line that could compromise your integrity, at which point she will put her foot down and you’ll listen).

It’s easy to see the appeal of the Girl Friday. For guys, she’s an attractive woman who knows you better than you know yourself (so there’s no emotional labour involved in getting her to understand you), she takes care of all your needs, and she keeps you from going over the deep end. For girls, she’s the ultimate example of how a man cannot live without a woman. She occupies the most coveted position in his life: his work-wife, because men with Girl Fridays either don’t have a personal life, or they’re so devoted to their work that their personal life (usually a gorgeous, glamorous thing with endless legs and hair that’s Worth It™) is jealous of how much the male protagonist needs her. She also doesn’t have to worry about putting on a different personality to appeal to the male protagonist – he loves how no-nonsense she is, he gets exasperated with her jokes but he never asks her to stop telling them, and she can be brutally honest with him because they know that’s what he needs. Inevitably someone will threaten her safety or integrity or someone else will be interested in her, at which point he will lose it and will do whatever it takes to save her or win her back.

Laurel and Iris, especially while they didn’t know the secret, suffered from the Skyler White Effect (I am not the first person to notice this). They ended up being despised in part due to their position in the narrative. Laurel and Iris were repeatedly lied to by everyone with a pulse. They were met with roadblocks when they tried to do their jobs or find out more. Finally – and this is crucial, readers – they argued with Oliver and Barry when they realised that they were being lied to or they were let down or offended by something they did, and Iris especially was furious once she found out what was going on.

Felicity and Caitlin, by contrast, were either written or received as the Girl Friday. Felicity trusts Oliver almost immediately, despite later admitting that she was dubious of his actions. Caitlin patches Barry up whenever he gets injured. Because he couldn’t speak to Iris, she was also the only woman on the show who knew his secret. Even though she had no romantic feelings for Barry, many fans received her as the Girl Friday because her character revolved almost completely around looking after Barry. Sure, there was Ronnie, but his appearances were sporadic, and Caitlin prioritised her devotion to Team Flash (which shippers took to mean her devotion to Barry specifically).

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