Not Just an OTP: How Do You Solve a Problem Like Snowbarrisco?

A dear friend of mine has a theory – she calls it The Highlander Theory – when it comes to women in media and how fans react to them. It boils down to a popular phrase from the series: “There can be only one.” That is, there can only be one special girl. Fans pick which girl they like – say, Blair, the underdog, or Serena, It-Girl – and make the other girls the enemy. It’s a little like the Queen Takes Pawn thing, except it’s proximity to men, especially on male-dominated shows, that makes one more valuable than the other. It’s why people like Mary Jane or Gwen Stacy, but rarely both. It explains the vitriol between all the fans of the women on Gossip Girl, and yes, it’s behind a lot of the ship wars on Arrowverse shows. Yes, The Flash can’t have more than two women on the show at one time, and Arrow kills them off or puts them in comas way too often, but fans exacerbate that mentality because women have been conditioned to believe only one girl can be on top.

It’s why some fans of Sansa hate Daenerys for slowly becoming the most important woman in Jon’s life, because heaven forfend Jon have love for his sister and his girlfriend-aunt. And why Felicity fans were happy that Iris didn’t seem to mind having her wedding hijacked despite the backlash – because it proved that even the creators acknowledged Felicity as the better girl – but were upset when it turned out Iris did mind and started calling her and the writers bad feminists. Because a friendship between two women is only valuable to fans if it benefits the favoured woman, so Smoakwest was worthless if Iris’ feelings didn’t validate Felicity’s actions. I won’t say anything about those fans thinking a Black woman can only be a feminist if she’s subservient and receptive to mistreatment from a white woman. At least, nothing much.

That’s exactly what’s going on with Snowbarrisco – fans want Caitlin to be the “only girl.” The only girl in on Barry’s secret. The only girl on the team. The only girl allowed to counsel Barry. She lost all those things when Iris learned the secret, when she joined the team, and as it became clear that Iris is the one whose voice Barry listens to the most – the other being Joe. This dynamic exists even without race – like OTA, for example, which we’ve already said is a transparent way of keeping out Laurel, Green Arrow characters, and any woman that threatens Felicity’s status – but the addition of it makes it even worse. Remember Vanessa on Gossip Girl? Yeah, she was part Black, and viewers knew it too – because they kept complaining about her hair, which gives away the fact that she isn’t fully white. Despite the fact that she never did anything objectively worse than other characters, she always got the most hate – not because she was part Black, but because her Blackness made her less relatable than the cadre of white women on the show, so they dismissed her.

Despite the fact that they’ve convinced themselves that Iris is the mean Alpha Bitch who’s too good for Barry, their behaviour around Iris reveals a disgustingly juvenile Mean Girls attitude where they want to exclude Iris from everything, paint her as jealous, and desire Caitlin to get Barry so that the popular girl loses. It’s also one of the reasons that they don’t want Caitlin and Iris to be close friends – if they are, and everyone welcomes a new dynamic where Iris is friends with everyone, there’s no need for “Snowbarrisco” anymore on the writers’ part, and they can’t continue to pretend that Caitlin is suffering from being around Iris. Caitlin must be the only girl and Iris must be the outsider left out of the nerdy jokes and superheroics. #Feminism.

OTF/Snowbarrisco isn’t a demand to get Iris off the show. It’s a demand for the writers to indicate just how much more special Caitlin is than Iris. To emphasise that even though Barry says he wouldn’t be able to do this without Iris now, Caitlin is the girl who was there when the Flash was created. If Iris were gone, who would they lord Caitlin’s “special girl” status over? What would be the point of being the most important girl on the team if there weren’t some other, less important girl to show off to? What’s the point of being the underdog who won if the popular girl isn’t there to see your victory? It’s one of the reasons that for as many fans want Iris killed off so that Barry can fall in love with Caitlin, there are fans that want her there to witness Barry dumping her and going for Caitlin instead. I mentioned earlier that a lot of these fans sound like they’re still in high school, and it never becomes truer than when they’re talking about OTF.

And yeah, okay, maybe it’s just the Highlander, “there can be only one” thing. Sure, it looks bad that they don’t want Caitlin and Cisco to debase themselves in the act of being friends with Iris, the Black girl, but the white people are just dandy. Fine, yeah, it’s not amazing that people advocating for Original Team Flash/Snowbarrisco don’t want any of the Black people near Barry for too long or in the building for longer than they’re allowed. And yes, perhaps it’s not the best look in the whole world that on top of all of this, they already hold the Black people on the show to a higher standard. For some reason. But that doesn’t make it racist, does it?

Well, yes. Of course it does.

Not just because they want to diminish all the Black people (they still have their uses for Barry, as we’ll see), but because of where they want to send those Black people, how they talk about them and, surprisingly, how they treat Cisco Ramon.

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