In Defense of Iris West

Sometimes there are characters the audience simply doesn’t like. Shows try to fix them, but as well as some characters have a huge following, others have a huge portion of the audience that doesn’t and decides to be very vocal about it. Recently, it happened with Laurel in ‘Arrow’, it happened with Katrina on ‘Sleepy Hollow’, and lately (although admittedly, it seems not that widespread) the latest victim has been Iris West, from ‘The Flash’. I have spoken about Katrina before, and while I was never the biggest fan of Laurel, it seems ‘Arrow’ is taking a step forward in her development that I am welcoming with open arms.

However, I am 100% sure Iris West is the woman the audience should be rooting for and I am completely dumbfounded that for many people, this is not the case.

Here you will find the reasons why part of the audience doesn’t like Iris, as well as an argument against them and an acknowledgment of the current problems regarding Iris’ characterization.

Note, there are spoilers for episode 1×14 of ‘The Flash’, ‘Fallout’

Iris doesn’t want Barry, but tries to sabotage him

When Barry confessed his feelings to Iris in the midseason finale, it was obvious she didn’t expect it. She had always seen Barry as a brotherly(ish) figure, which is easy to understand, considering they grew up together, under the same roof. These are not two people who just met each other and are friendly. These two people shared a house, her dad treated him like a son, and it is not far-fetched to think Iris would see him as family, because that’s just how it was.

However, part of the audience seems to think she was supposed to immediately leave the relationship she had with Eddie the moment Barry confessed he was in love with her and jumped into his arms.

No.

Iris never owed Barry anything. She simply didn’t know that he saw her like that. Was she oblivious? Yes. Does that make her a bad person? No. What would make her a bad person is to leave Eddie just as they are about to move together because of the confession of someone who, the moment he confessed, she hadn’t thought of as more than a friend.

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The thing is, she might not even see Barry as just a friend or a brother figure anymore. Because they have now had enough time apart not to behave like family. Feelings change with separation and his support and his friendship mean the world to her. Maybe now that she knows how he feels she can be able to see him as more than that. It’s obvious, seeing her reaction as he kisses Linda, that she is starting to (or maybe she has all along, but never really understood.)

But of course, the show hasn’t been doing her any favors by having Barry saying things like “it feels like you don’t want to be with me but you don’t want anyone else to be with me me either” after she told Linda– who had asked her quite directly what was up with Barry– she should give him some time.

Let’s all remember here, Iris doesn’t know Barry is The Flash, thus why she associated his inability to commit to Linda to his unrequited feelings toward her. She was not being malicious. She was being sincere. She wanted Linda to give Barry time grow into the relationship.

To the audience, she was being petty and jealous, because the show is giving us nothing but Barry’s POV, and Barry is behaving like a fedora-wearing overemotional child.

She is too nosy

When Iris started writing her own blog about ‘The Streak’, she did so to prove to Barry that what he thought happened to his mother was real. That he was not crazy, that impossible things were possible, and that he could eventually get closure about his mother’s murder. Barry actively lied to her about who he was and told her he had moved on, but here is the thing with knowing someone for your entire life: you know when they are lying to you. Iris knew Barry was not being sincere and she continued investigating into The Flash, regardless of the danger she could be in because she wanted to help Barry. 

Now she’s taken blogging a step further and is a reporter for Central City Picture News. Whose job is to investigate.

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But to some people, she’s nosy.

With Iris’s choice to finally delve into what Wells is hiding (under Mason’s supervision), so comes having to betray her friends. But is it really betrayal when no one is telling her the truth?

Everyone is choosing to leave Iris out of what is going on with the metahumans, out of supposed concern for her well-being, but she is a reporter and she will eventually have to get involved with things concerning them, so why not just tell he, so she can protect herself and what’s being told to the public? Iris isn’t weak. What makes her unable to take care of her own life? 

Why is her choice to find out why the people around her are lying nosiness? Why is she considered nosy when Joe himself is conducting an investigation on Wells? Isn’t he doing his job? Isn’t Iris doing hers? 

She is black

This the most unfortunate of all, and it is also the most difficult to prove, because people are really good at hiding it. Many people simply hate Iris West because she is not white.  It is not hard to find people saying they just “irrationally dislike her” or that “she and Barry just don’t look right together”. This ranges from fans from the original comics who apparently cannot fathom racial diversity and fans of another character or ships different to Iris and Barry that would rather see the screentime given to the white characters in the show.

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From the moment Candice Patton was announced as Iris West, she was told not to get on social media to read the comments, expecting the backlash from fans. And ever since, though more sneakily disguised, hundreds of comments with really racist connotations (and some of them pretty much straightforward) are sent toward her and other members of the cast both in Twitter and Facebook, where the show has the most following.

It is rather sad that things like this are still happening, and I am hoping we do not have to face another Sleepy Hollow situation. Because if I have to trend #IrisWestDeservesBetter a million times, I will.

Now, I am not going to say there are no problems regarding Iris’ characterization. One of the things about growing to love a character is that you want them to become better, and ‘The Flash’ has been having trouble establishing Iris outside of being Barry’s love interest while still making her someone likable enough we root for her to end up with him. It should be noted that I say “root for her” and not “someone worthy of ending up with Barry” because I think Iris is way out of Barry’s league and he would be, in fact, kind of a downgrade from Eddie, unless Eddie becomes a maniacal villain.

She is Joe’s daughter, but we barely see them having heartwarming moments. Barry has his father and Joe and two friends in Caitlin and Cisco, but Iris only has Joe and he seems to forget she even exists ever since she moved in with Eddie. Apparently leaving home was such a betrayal for Joe he even forgets she comes home to make dinner for him and asks her what is she doing there when she shows up. Joe is now getting more screentime with Cisco than with his own daughter (not to mention with Eddie) The show needs to fix this, because– now knowing Iris had the smallest room– it kind of feels like Joe  favors Barry over her. 

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We also need to know what she is feeling regarding Barry’s confession. Painting her as jealous over Linda and then having Barry say she’s doing it out of selfishness (when we’ve seen her trying to hook him up with Felicity before) makes the audience immediately side with him, because Barry is the hero and he should be right, no? Well, no.

How does Iris feel? Are things with Eddie going well? Is Eddie suspicious? Why is she still wearing the ring Barry gave her? All of these things should have been answered in order for the audience to know that Iris feels the same way Barry feels about her. The fact that we are in episode 15 and this hasn’t happened yet is mindblowing.

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Last but not least, she needs to be reinstated in her leading lady status. I am not against Caitlin Snow getting screentime. I like her, I think she is fun, she is smart and her story with Ronnie is interesting, but she is a supporting player in Barry’s life. Iris West is supposed to be the Lois Lane to Barry’s Superman, and to this date, all she is is background. Now that Iris is finally finding out what Wells might be hiding, it’s time for her to take agency over what she finds out and hold it from Mason until she comes to Barry asking for an explanation. And it’s time for Barry to confess and finally let her in to the story. She is not just the love of his life, she’s his equal, and should be treated as such. 

So, readers, do you love Iris West? Do you dislike her? (If you dare saying you hate her, please leave.) What would you like to see from her? Let me know in the comments below.

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5 thoughts on “In Defense of Iris West”

  1. I agree with everything you’ve said and I too would like to see someone explain why they dislike Iris in something other than illogical and reductive terms. The amount of hatred she receives is astounding when you consider that almost everything she’s done onscreen so far has been motivated by her love and concern for other people.

    But then again, what do we expect when the show casts a black woman as a leading lady in the face of a (largely) subconciously racist public… And then proceeds to keep her feelings ambiguous and make sure the other characters deem her unworhy of being part of the inner circle? When other characters leave a female out, it makes the audience (the parts of it already inclined to disdain women and POC that is) want to leave her out too.

    I will never get over the fact that even our resident anti-hero/villain, Harrison Wells, gets to monologue about his motivations to Gideon. Yet Iris only has Barry, and he’s the very person she can’t speak to due to his lies and her confusion.

  2. Barry is a downgrade from Eddie? I don’t think so. He risks his life every week, and never takes a lick of credit for it. Unlike Iris monkeying with Barry’s love-life (whatever her motivations), Barry pretends in front of Eddie that he’s fine with everything, though it breaks his heart to do it. Barry rarely puts himself first – and there are no other characters in the show that exhibit that level of selflessness except perhaps Cisco and Joe.
    Eddie’s a good guy – but he’s no superhero. In any sense of the word.

    1. Would you not consider someone working for the police a hero? Eddie was doing his job way before Barry was saving lives. Just because Barry has superpowers and a mask he isn’t more a hero than a policeman or a firefighter. Emotionally, yes, Barry is a downgrade from Eddie, because he is being immature, all the whining about being a friend to Iris hoping she once looks at him in a different way– that’s some Nice Guy talk, and it doesn’t make him look any good. Eddie however has been nothing but supportive of Iris, has respected her friendship and in fact has tried to befriend Barry too.

      Iris is not “monkeying” with Barry’s love life. She has always been supportive of him meeting someone, and she was not meddling when it came to Linda, Linda came up to ask her.

  3. I completely agree with everything written. To be honest, I Love The Flash, but they have NO flipping clue how to write for women like Iris. They are simply bad a writing for her and they need to fix it if they care anything about her future as a character. We have No POV for Iris, hence most of the audience simply have a hard time empathizing with her in the way they have been given the opportunity to with Barry,imo . Of course I understand that he is the Lead and everyone is supposed to love him and feel sorry for him all the time but damn, would it seriously kill them to explain Iris’s actions by giving us 5 secs of her pov. I was so excited about the casting for Iris until I realized they are giving her the laurel treatment. Do we even know if Iris is still in school. Is she having a hard time balancing writing her dissertation, like seriously, it seems as if she is only window dressing for the show. If they were going to simply keep Iris in that love interest box they should not have brought her character in so soon because they have no idea what in the world they are doing. They (show runners) claimed Iris’story would begin when she started at PN but I see nothing to show for it. Literally 10 mins overall, it feels like and most of it had Barry verbally assault her at work because he couldn’t balance dating and doing his hero work. This is really crap and I applaud fans who fight for her because if they don’t, it might of only get worse. They shouldn’t have brought her on if they weren’t going to at least try to give her a strong story line. Why is she even called the leading lady. Imo there were many ways they could have gone about writing for Iris That wouldn’t result in more than half of the negative criticism she is receiving. Thanks for this article, I Loved Iris in the comics and I was hopeful for her TV character but I can’t say I am happy with what they have done to Iris. The least they could have done was given her a friend who wasn’t involved with Barry romantically , someone she could talk to about her life. You don’t even see her do that with Eddie. This is the biggest weakness of the show and If they don’t see it, then I fear for Iris West. It amazes me how completely and obviously sexist the show has been with regards to Iris. It’s flipping 2015, and they still write characters like this. Another thing that bothers me is the little we know of Iris and she is supposed to be the female lead. What does Iris like, dislike, does she have hobbies. And what makes Barry and Iris have such a great connection as friends, outside of the fact that they grew up together. I feel their friendship is also portrayed poorly and oftentimes one sided. Outside of watching a movie and drinking coffee, what makes them bffs. I’m really having a hard time buying their friendship. Anyways, That’s just me. Sorry for the rant.

  4. I don’t have problem with Candice, she’s pretty. I don’t think that Iris is ruin Barry and Linda relationship. What’s bother me is Iris attitude when Joe’s taken by Grodd. She angry and -I’m sure- a little blame Caitlin and Cisco that they have remarkable stuff at STAR labs but couldn’t safe her father. I know that Joe is in danger bc of Barry/The Flash thing so Iris can be mad to Barry which is her best friend (you know we all can blame and be mad that easy to our best friend). What bothers me is her attitude towards Caitlin and Cisco. She can’t just mad at them like that, like hello, who are you? Ya, I have problem with that, that scene makes me don’t like her character. I just can’t take Iris yelling at Caitlin and Cisco. She doesn’t know what they have been through to save Barry, Joe, and the city. She can’t do that.
    About Barry-Iris romance, this is my opinion, they don’t have chemistry. Idk, maybe the problems are with Grant and Candice or something. I just don’t find any girl who suit Barry in the show yet, even Caitlin. Personally I like Candice, she’s pretty I think. She did a good job on the show. I like her job as a journalist, bc I’m also a journalist. So I understand why she’s so interest about The Flash and, we journalist always curious, always skeptic, always asking like you don’t know anything and asking again like you know everything. Like or not, I like her job and her life but not her character, that one single scene makes me a little don’t like her, maybe bc I like Caitlin,Cisco,Barry as a saver life team and she just yelling at them, so rude.
    That’s all. This is just my honest opinion about Candice or Iris.

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