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

 I don’t like telling people what to ship, but the idea that Laurel and Iris were horrible women for being assertive, while Caitlin and Felicity were much better for them for reasons that boiled down to them not getting in the way and being available rankles me. It’s sexist on both sides – it punishes Laurel and Iris for being human, and praises Caitlin and Felicity because they’re seen and heard only when necessary. Laurel and Iris were hated, by some viewers, for taking up too much space in the story; Felicity and Caitlin were praised for neatly slotting into it without protest. The implication, then, is that Felicity and Caitlin were great love interests for Oliver and Barry because they were helpful and didn’t make a lot of noise. I’m a woman, and I don’t like seeing the women I watch on television punished and hated for being human while different women are praised for doing enough to help the men but staying out of their way when they need it.

How do I know this is the case? Well, look at the reaction to Felicity then and Felicity during season 3. At some point, the producers of Arrow decided that the relationship between Oliver and Laurel wasn’t working, and switched to Felicity. I wasn’t too unhappy with this, because I think Laurel deserved better than Oliver and that their relationship was too complicated. I also liked the dynamic between Oliver and Felicity, though now I can see that in my case the wanting was way more fun than the having.

The problem, of course, is that they never planned to have Felicity be Oliver’s love interest. So that unfortunately meant that Felicity’s backstory was lacking, especially when it was compared to Laurel. The writers now had to set up Felicity as a love interest for Oliver and develop a backstory for her at the same time, and handle the season’s plot.

In my opinion, they weren’t very successful.

The producers clearly thought she was a charming character who improved every scene she was in, to the point where I’d be watching The Flash and Felicity would randomly appear, or people would start talking about her when she wasn’t even there. I read reviews that said she was lying to her team members, that she was given as much screen time as Oliver, and their relationship drama took over the show. I don’t know how far this is true because fandom tends to exaggerate, and to be quite honest I have no interest in getting back into Arrow to find out. But when it’s season 2 of The Flash, it’s the crossover episode, and instead of finding out how Iris feels about her mother returning (or, you know, anything at all), I’m instead watching Oliver and Felicity argue about the thousandth secret that he’s kept from her even though I’m sure he only found out that day, I think we can all agree it’s time for a course-correct.

I don’t know whether Felicity has gotten “better” since then, but I do know that I literally cannot go five seconds without seeing a comment that Felicity is the worst part about Arrow. I was watching a YouTube clip from the The Flash’s fourth season premiere, and Cisco mentioned that he had consulted with Felicity and Curtis on how to get Barry out of the Speed Force. I remember vaguely thinking “oh, I guess they survived the explosion,” but every comment that wasn’t condemning Iris for ordering Cisco (a man and a scientist, which we’ll circle back to) around was fury at Felicity’s survival. Some of it was reserved for Curtis; the vast majority were about Felicity.

She wasn’t even in the video.

That’s when it hit me. Felicity had become the Skyler, replacing Laurel as the most important woman in Oliver’s life. What those fans who campaigned for this had forgotten was that the woman in a superhero couple would, you know, argue with him sometimes, because that’s her position in the narrative. Now, I don’t doubt that Felicity got lots of screen-time especially at the expense of actual Green Arrow characters, that she was hypocritical, and there was relationship drama that took over the show. But, to be quite frank, I have no doubt that people were probably unconsciously upset because it was a woman telling Oliver what to do. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that as soon as Felicity became her own person, hate for her skyrocketed.

I stopped liking Felicity when she told Barry that it was fine to keep lying to Iris, though she herself has always been against secrets being kept from her. I liked the Olicity dynamic at first, but I agreed with those that said it didn’t have the development necessary to make them go from ambiguous in the season 2 finale to in love in the season 3 premiere. And as someone who became a fan of the Black Canary because of the show, I was disappointed in Laurel losing her leading lady status because it was clear the show would focus much less on that. But I was extremely unsurprised at the fact that Felicity got the most hate just as she was starting to become a more fleshed out character. Or, as my friend pointed out, “people hated her because she got a backbone and sometimes made Oliver’s penis sad. And you can tell she took the Skyler role from Laurel, because as soon as Laurel started getting less screen-time, especially with Oliver, she got popular. Contrastingly, because Barry has always been in love with Iris and has never entertained the idea of Caitlin, and because Caitlin has never really challenged him in any substantial way, Iris has remained the most influential woman in his life – Caitlin couldn’t be the Skyler.

(There is another reason that Caitlin will never be seen as the Skyler when compared to Iris in the eyes of certain fans. For those of you who’ve guessed it, don’t worry. We’ll get there).

Olicity and Snowbarry have at least this in common – they were both formed, in part, because the woman in the other ship was the Skyler White. She was too abrasive and didn’t support her hero enough. They took up too much space in the story, and then when Felicity started to do the same thing, it happened to her as well (not helped by questionable writing of her character). The women in the “alternative” ships were praised for neatly fitting into the story – until Felicity took over as the Skyler White.

1 2 3 4 5