vanessa on daredevil

vanessa from daredevil

Vanessa on Daredevil went on a date with the devil himself. When Wilson Fisk, the evil mastermind rebuilding Hell’s Kitchen in his vision, takes her to a dinner that gets interrupted by a haggard-looking criminal yelling at Fisk, Vanessa realizes this might not be your average businessman. So on their next date, Vanessa brings a gun. Later that night, they watch the city burn, together.

Vanessa on Daredevil is the baddest B on TV right now.

Vanessa is choosing to get into bed with evil–she doesn’t have to be tricked into it or lied to about it or caught by a trap. She really sees Fisk, and she can tell he isn’t on the level. She chooses to be with him not in spite of this, but because of it. This is a huge contrast with other superhero shows where men hide their misdeeds with tiny bandanas over their eyes, or where everyone is making decisions on women’s behalf while they have no say in the matter.

Another superhero show, Arrow, spent a verrrrrry long time with whip smart Thea not realizing her brother was missing all the same nights the Arrow was crime fighting. And that they kind of looked alike under that hood. And that a vigilante’s team was operating *in the basement of a business she owned*.

Oliver claimed he was hiding his identity as the Arrow to protect Thea, but Thea has faced plenty of tragedy and has fought back, learning how to fight and be a warrior herself. She is self-sufficient, and she runs her own business and she’s good at it. She is the opposite of an incapable person who can’t be in charge of her own life.

What Oliver is really protecting is himself, so he won’t have to have an awkward conversation where he shows his real self to someone he loves. It’s true that it’s hard to be vulnerable, but it’s also true that watching a man lie to a woman so he can stay comfortable doing whatever he wants is a snooze and a half.

The Flash is another show that has been tons of fun, except when a certain woman is involved. It seems like everyone in Central City–and Starling City!–knows that Barry Allen is the Flash, but Iris, who has grown up with Barry and is a professional reporter covering the Flash, can’t figure it out? I mean, the Flash is the exact size and shape of the guy you are secretly in love with and you never once daydreamed that ~maybe~ they were the same person?

It doesn’t make sense! And worse than that, every man in Iris’ life has an opinion on what Iris should know and when, and none of them have included Iris in the conversation. Keeping women out of the loop comes from a misguided, sexist sense of protection (from what, exactly?), but all it does is keep women on the fringe of the story, outside and powerless. And on the Flash, it’s keeping Iris stuck in one place while everyone else speeds ahead and leaves her behind.

But Iris won’t be in the dark forever, just like Oliver couldn’t keep lying to Thea. And hopefully these weak plots to maintain the status quo and hold off the inevitable will give way to richer stories for all of the characters.

Vanessa is exciting because she makes her own choices, and she creates her own power. Sure, Fisk runs Hell’s Kitchen, but Vanessa runs Fisk. When Fisk wants to protect Vanessa and send her out of the country, she says no thank you. She has power and agency in their relationship, and it comes from being on the inside, seeing Fisk when he’s vulnerable, and then using that information to make her own decisions.

vanessa and fisk

It’s so much more interesting to watch a woman choose to stay when things get hard, and know she’s getting involved with a man who does bad things, rather than yet again see a woman who happens to fall into a situation based on everyone else’s choices but her own.

And if it’s all the good guys who are lying? I’d rather be a bad bitch, too.

felicity, the hero we deserve

  

Arrow does a great job of featuring whole, flawed, wonderful women. Nyssa, Thea, Sara, Laurel, Felicity, Moira, and Mama Smoak are SEVEN women off the top of my head from this world, and I could name three facts about each of them. That is a deep bench of interesting women characters. It’s a whole quidditch team (one I’d really like to see play btw–they’d probably win every game). 

The Arrow women are many things, but none of them are one-note, they don’t blindly follow without questioning, and they aren’t helpless waifs who need protection. This alone makes them different from many other women on TV, but Felicity in particular bucks superhero stereotypes and kicks ass while doing it.

She doesn’t literally kick ass–she leaves that to just about everyone else in a city with a glut of masked fighters. No, Felicity has different skills. IT skills. With a master’s from MIT and experience working for Queen Consolidated, she has real-life credentials to be the IT department of Team Arrow. Oliver is smart to want her for his team. Felicity and Oliver know how good she is, and so does the rest of Starling City. That’s why Ray looks for her and hires her to help run his company. And that’s why Felicity is able to get other jobs on her own, and not rely on Oliver for her employment. She doesn’t need *him*, he needs *her*. Rather than being the secret source her career depends on, for example, he is her friend and partner. 

And the way he gets her on his team is by showing her what they do, and asking her to be a part of it. So many superhero shows depend on the people close to the hero being huge dummies who don’t recognize the voice and body of someone they grew up with or that their SO is MIA at all the times the hero is out and about. Felicity is smart enough to see through Oliver’s excuses and put two and two together, so when he confirms that he’s the Arrow, she isn’t surprised. When he needs her help and wants her to join his team, Oliver lays it all out for her and lets Felicity decide what to do. (This is my fave part of their relationship tbh. I am SO TIRED of the boring reasons men keep lying to women on TV for their own “safety.”) 

And because Felicity isn’t lied to or tricked into getting involved, and because she chooses to participate and knows she could leave at any time (and sometimes does!), her role in Team Arrow is a bright, wonderful beacon of feminism. Felicity doesn’t need protection, and she doesn’t need a cover story–just the facts, plz, and she can decide what she wants to do for herself.

When Oliver is presumed dead–I think the third time, but who can keep count–Felicity and the rest of the team need to decide to keep working in his stead or give up without their leader. Diggle, Ray, and Felicity come to their own conclusion and re-commit to their cause. They each have had plenty of options to quit or leave before and have chosen to stay, but when the Arrow disappeared, possibly forever, Diggle, Ray, and Felicity independently decide to continue and contribute what they can to saving Starling City. This means a lot to all the members of Team Arrow, but it’s especially notable for Felicity. She is in love with Oliver, sure, and she believes in him, sure, but she stays for *herself*, even when Oliver isn’t there. 

Felicity isn’t defined by her relationship to Oliver. She is her own person who is valuable, and *valued*, for who she is–not because she fits some superhero trope or because she’s a damsel in distress or because she’s a serious hottie (even though she is). She is whole, she makes mistakes, and she is more than one thing.

For example, when Felicity meets Sara, Oliver’s on-and-off lady friend and Laurel’s sister, Felicity LIKES her (sigh, I do too), and she isn’t instantly turned into a jealous woman spurned. When Sara turns out to be good at computers as well as super hot and a kick-ass crime fighter, Felicity feels normal insecurity at being replaced on the team, but she never turns into a calculating bitch who wants to sabotage Sara and Oliver’s relationship. And when Sara dies (rip Sara I MISS YOU), Felicity is devastated to lose a friend, not gleeful that an obstacle to her relationship with Oliver is out of the way. 

She isn’t defined by fashion either–her style isn’t sex kitten or prude. She dresses appropriately for work, and she dresses differently for dates–as opposed to the Super Hot Board President who wears dresses that’s that are too risque for work and too board-room-ish for dates. (Arrow’s not totally exempt from cliches–I do remember Isabel.) And when Felicity is feeling a little sassy, she even shows a little midriff. She does wear glasses, often an indicator of being smart and nerdy, but even this shows realism in her case: There’s a lucky few who could spend all day and all night looking at computers and *not* need glasses.

The best part of Felicity’s more realistic fashion sense is that when she’s working, she wears her hair up in a ponytail–unlike the other Arrow women who seem to be able to run all over the city with their long locks flowing. Felicity is practical, and bless her for it. 

Felicity has long been the best part of Arrow, and she is the biggest reason I love to ship #olicity. The other reason, of course, is that Oliver sees her for all that she is, and he loves and respects her for it. He trusts her decisions, and in a superhero world where lying to your gf is the “romantic” norm, this is a ship I’ll gladly go down with. 

If you haven’t yet, check out the preview for this week’s Arrow and watch with me on Wednesday night!

my favorite pop culture pastime: shipping

I ship Oliver and Felicity, and Elizabeth and Philip. I ship Alicia Florrick with everyone, but especially Finn Polmar. I yell “make out!” at the TV so often, it’s become a constant refrain in my apartment.

In TV land I am ruthless. I want everyone to cheat on everyone, unless you’re a couple I think is in capital L Love, and if anything comes between them I will riot.

Sometimes I am rewarded in my lust for lust, like the amazing moment Nyssa and Sara ran into each other on Arrow, and instead of attacking each other like assassins (which they are), they kissed like lovers (which they also are). It reinforced my shipping dreams, and now I can keep shipping random strangers because I was justified that one glorious time.

You can’t have a good ship without good chemistry, but chemistry can be good in a million different ways. Lovers have chemistry, but so do friends, colleagues, families, and people who really hate each other–and sometimes one relationship can be all those things at once (looking at you, Empire).

Chemistry is like talent: When people have it–I mean really have it–you don’t see them work at it. You never think about the mechanics of it, or how awkward it is to shoot those sex scenes (ahem, 50 Shades of Gray). Sometimes you don’t notice chemistry it until it’s missing and two people are hugging you didn’t even realize were supposed to know each other. I measure chemistry on a scale of Bella and her child in Twilight: Breaking Dawn (zero–they share the least maternal hug I have ever seen) to Alicia and Will on the Good Wife (whose romantic and sexual chemistry caused me physical pain).

Will and Alicia level chemistry is hard to come by. Even other couples on the Good Wife can’t match it, but the Good Wife makes up for this injustice by allowing me to ship multiple ships. Alicia and Finn? Definitely. Alicia and Peter? Yes, but in a twisted power game way. Alicia and Kalinda? Oh, hell yes.

I make up the rules of shipping as I go along, and I change the game whenever I feel like it: This person is allowed to cheat on their spouse, but not with a waste of a ship. That couple should be together forever, except he hasn’t realized it yet so she should get it from somewhere else in the meantime. If that person strays, I will never forgive them.

I have found that I am the best shipper when I am my best self. Shipping is not for yearning for your past or for what your future could be–that’s torture. I come to shipping with my heart full and overflowing with love, and I want to cheer on others to find the same. My shipping is a tribute to my own relationships, and a prayer that others can find that connection and acceptance.

The connection that warms my heart also thrills me. Watching people be attracted is attractive. That click with someone is so rare in real life, and so precious, that when I see it I celebrate it any way I can.

Underneath the sexiness of chemistry is the humanness of it. By responding to another person’s energy with our own, we are recognizing their humanity. And longing for that recognition and connection with someone else is universal.

So I ship. I ship everyone, and I change the rules of the game to allow for more and more shipping because the more diverse and inclusive our shipping is, the more diverse and inclusive our connections IRL can be. I ship so that cheering for all relationships and celebrating the sexy sex of bodies of all shapes and sizes becomes something we do on the regular, because we saw it on TV.