Not Just an OTP: For Colored Girls Who Fail Chemistry Tests / Because White Fandom Has Had Enuf

…And Other Stories

Why women of colour suffer, and why everything is better when a white woman is doing it.

In the penultimate part of this series, we’ll be looking at things a little differently. In the original article, I avoided talking about subjective things, like whether the women were well- or badly-written, the chemistry between the actors, acting prowess etc. because those things are subjective. However, since we’re talking about race, I figured why not, right? And what we’re going to find is, more often than not, fandom tends to like something way better if a white woman is doing it

Today, we’re looking at accusations that Iris is just a love interest, is badly-written, has no chemistry with Grant Gustin etc. We’ll be starting with chemistry – though I still think it’s subjective, I’ve found that melanin tends to wreak havoc on people’s subjectivity – and going from there. The only topic we won’t be covering is acting, because people on opposite sides of fandom always tend to think that the other woman can’t act. By an industry standard Patton is talented as she’s won an award for her acting on the show, as has Gustin. But that doesn’t mean nobody else can act; it just means that in whichever year they won the industry decided to recognise their talent.

In any case, chemistry is much easier to talk about. Much has been made by fans about the fact that Barry and Iris don’t have chemistry – in fact, after fans have declared in capital letters and lots of exclamation points that they are NOT RACIST!, that’s the main argument touted for not shipping them. In fact, if you go to the first petition that Snowbarry fans started to convince the writers to make it endgame, chemistry is the number-one reason everyone uses to justify it, and the same can be said for the second. They claim Caitlin and Barry have more chemistry – chemistry so explosive, in fact, that they started shipping them together after a two-second interaction during the release of the first trailer when she demanded his pee.  Since we’ve already discussed why that’s bullshit, we’re going to look what people mean when they say chemistry.

This is a pretty hard topic to dissect because Barry is played by Grant Gustin, who has chemistry with everyone – including himself – but for some people that isn’t always just the case. It’s also difficult to ignore the articles praising his and Patton’s chemistry, the fact that both Gustin and Patton have talked about how their chemistry got her the role, and how the producers themselves are always talking about it. Nevertheless, people tend to define chemistry in different ways.

For example, lots of people tend to think Barry has chemistry with people who do “cool” things with him – like Cisco telling jokes, Harry being an ass to him, and Oliver having their yearly Deep and Meaningful Hero Talk. Now I don’t think that these people don’t have chemistry with Barry – I think most of them do – but I definitely think that the male audience especially is skewed in what they think chemistry is; they’re more generous when they like the character and especially if they’re a man. Iris didn’t get to make a lot of jokes with him, she wasn’t “cool” and their relationship was complicated because since she didn’t know about his love for her, she was “hurting his feelings” with her obliviousness. Their chemistry didn’t have as much screen time because she was also cut out of a lot of the main story. Now, none of this applies to me personally because I’ve always thought their chemistry was wonderful, but I suppose I can see where people disagree. Which brings me to my next point.

People tend to see see chemistry where they want to because they relate to the characters, and so they make the effort to see where the actors are putting work in for it. If you don’t like them, you might actually begin to hate their scenes together so much you’re probably going to ignore it and say that, because you don’t like it, it doesn’t exist.

Snowbarry fans tend to say that Barry only has chemistry with these women. I cannot imagine why.

Which brings me to my next point. Kindly look at the picture on your right. Now, if this looks like the shortlist of girls auditioning to go on tour as part of Taylor Swift’s #squad, it’s because these are the women who Snowbarry shippers say are the only women who possess anything resembling chemistry with Barry. Iris, as you’ll hear them say, does not. What do you notice about them? You guessed it, Snowbarry shippers tend to think that Barry only has chemistry with white women. And white men. And white women who are minors, judging by all the people who started shipping Barry with Jesse as soon as she showed up. I’d call it subjective, but when shippers are literally pointing at every white woman and saying that Iris is the only person with whom Barry has no chemistry, yes, I’m suspicious.

Because “no chemistry” is one of fandom’s favourite excuses for whenever they see a relationship that they don’t like but are forced to watch onscreen – it sounds like they’re being subjective, which is why it’s so common, but it’s also bullshit. Because what they really want is a white woman in that position so they can easily relate to her. It doesn’t matter whether Gustin and Patton have chemistry or not – they don’t want to see it, so they’ve convinced themselves that whatever they see on the screen isn’t chemistry. What they mean is that it makes them feel awkward and uncomfortable and that they don’t want to see it happening.

It’s why they cling to the incest argument so much. Nobody in their right mind genuinely believes that Barry and Iris saw each other as brother and sister – not just because they’ve both denied it, or the scientific reasoning behind it, but because…well, they aren’t. They have different parents. They’ve lived apart longer than they’ve lived together, and I doubt Joe decided once Barry moved in he started demanding that Iris see Barry as her brother. Poor Nora Allen had an entire season based around her death and Henry was a bastion of support for Barry when he was alive, yet their son is usually unceremoniously ripped away from them so fans can call Barry and Iris brother and sister. They don’t actually think they’re related, or have a problem with incest – way too many of them ship Jon and Sansa or Jon and Daenerys for me to even pretend to consider the opposite. (Unless, you know, they failed biology. Given the fact that half of them can’t seem to understand metaphors, I’m not ruling that out).

They say that they feel like incest because, like the Mammy stereotyping, they’re used to Black women being supportive to white people, so the reason Iris feels more like Barry’s sister is because they feel comfortable with a familial bond instead of a romantic one. That’s why you’ll hear nonsense about enjoying their “brother-sister dynamic” even after the show gave Iris a brother so you could tell the difference. The point is to make their relationship something disgusting so they can be justified in their disgust for it, instead of outright admitting that seeing a Black woman getting love from a white man is what disgusts them. Can’t have that in civilised conversation, now can we? So, Snowbarry shippers tend to only think Barry has chemistry with white-

Linda is SOMETIMES allowed to have chemistry with Barry according to certain fans, but she’s not brought up nearly as much as Caitlin or Patty. For some reason.

Wait. Wait. I’m forgetting someone. That’s right, you see that picture on the left? Yeah, that’s Linda Park, Barry’s girlfriend from season 1. She’s one fans sometimes deign to grant chemistry with Barry, but you never see them wanting her to come back and date Barry instead of Iris. You never hear them talk about how good their relationship was. In fact, you only hear them talk about Linda at all when they want to blame Iris for sabotaging their relationship. Because just like Cisco is only good enough to support Caitlin and Barry but they barely think about him outside of “OTF,” Linda is only good as a tool with which to bash Iris. Or when they want to pretend to care about Iris and say she should be friends with Linda – because they want to keep her away from Barry and S.T.A.R. Labs. Using people of colour as tools and accessories isn’t surprising to me, but it is indicative of that hierarchy I was talking about.

And I’d be more inclined to believe that this wasn’t a problem with race if it didn’t happen so damn often, but it does. Almost like clockwork, as soon as a white guy in some position of prominence looks at a Black woman with something resembling desire, fandom collectively shits itself to declare to anyone and everyone that they don’t have chemistry, that they “feel” more like brother and sister, and that they’d be better off as friends. The list of white men and Black women who always seem to lack chemistry where fandom is concerned includes but is not limited to Barry and Iris, Ichabod and Abbie, Damon and Bonnie, Fitz and Olivia, Jake and Olivia, Danny and Lacey, Ten and Martha, Will and Gwen, Joey and Charlie, Ross and Charlie, and Simon and Alisha. Now, either the Screen Actors Guild need to put money towards a study in finding out exactly why all of their Black actresses seem to utterly lack chemistry with white men, or we might have to consider the fact that this “no chemistry” argument is, in fact, a steaming pile of shit.

It happened to Lacey and Abbie. It’s happening to Iris and Michonne. It might be happening to Michael. It’ll happen to Starfire, who’s going to be played by a Black woman and who’s love interest, Robin, is played by a white man – in fact, let’s play a game. Last year, Once Upon a Time decided to age up the character of Henry, and gave him a love interest played by Dania Ramirez, who is Dominican-American. Find me the white woman they’re shipping Henry with instead (worry not, there will be a white woman). Bonus points if they have more chemistry, and they “just look right together”, and they have “more in common”. If someone says “they feel like brother and sister”, you win.

Because what fans mean say when they say “they don’t have chemistry” is this interracial couple makes me uncomfortable because I can’t imagine a white man seeing a Black woman as an object of desire.

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