I had no interest in The Flash.
While The Flash was certainly one of my favorite DC superheroes, I wasn’t sold on the CW show. I thought, “Another show with a majority white cast, nothing to see here.” Then, I found out that Iris West, love interest and future wife to The freaking Flash, would be played by Candice Patton, a Black woman. I got excited. MAJORLY excited. Sure, we had John Diggle, an important character to Oliver Queen in Arrow but he certainly was no love interest. All of a sudden, I was intrigued by this character who would be portrayed by someone who looked like me.
SOURCE: E! Online & The CW
When the show aired its pilot episode, I was a 19 year old college sophomore with identity issues. I wasn’t sure how Black I was or should be. I felt myself grappling with an essential part of who I was and how I could exist as a Black woman in a world that had already decided I wasn’t pretty enough (or maybe I was, for a Black girl).
I was at the height of my struggle with depression and anxiety. I wasn’t eating. I slept way too much. But somehow, on Tuesdays at 7pm, my mood lifted just enough for me to get up and turn the TV on. While I’m at it, I should make some food while the show is on commercial. Maybe I could do my twistout while I watch the show and be done when it goes off.
Seeing Candice Patton as Iris West was a blessing. She gave a layer of strength, love, and vulnerability to this character. Never was Iris a “damsel in distress”. If there was no way out or forward, the CW’s version of Iris West made one. Iris West was brave, curious, sure-footed. All of this never took a backseat to her being Barry Allen’s love interest.
SOURCE: Collider & The CW
I began to see pieces of me in Candice Patton’s Iris West. If she was beautiful, then I could be too. If she could go head first into dangerous or intimidating situations with immeasurable bravery then why couldn’t I? If she could be a part of a team and be just as important, if not most important, then maybe I could too.
It wasn’t a cure, but it helped. I had something to look forward to in this world where Black women getting killed by police officers got little to no coverage and justice, in this world where we are told we are not as beautiful or smart, in this world where we have to work twice as hard for half of what others already have.
Thank you, Candice Patton, for Iris West.
Thank you for showing a Black girl in a leading role on a TV show about people with super powers where her own super power was simply existing.
Thank you for courageously bearing the racism and misogyny of those who cannot stand the sight of you in the position you are in and slaying every single episode anyway.
Thank you for having amazing style and giving that characteristic to Iris. (Seriously, girl, those outfits are always so on point.)
We could all stand to be a bit more like you.