Heroes aren’t measured by their wardrobe or their nicknames. They’re measured by their actions, morals, and the hope they inspire amongst others. A hero is someone who has put others ahead of themselves for no other reason than because it’s the right thing to do. They believe that they can make a difference for those in the world that might need some extra help. Helping the helpless, making sacrifices and inspiring hope are all components in creating the persona of a hero.
But in a world that seems more obsessed with the visual appeal of a superhero than the moral appeal, some of the real heroes – who aren’t costumed – go underappreciated. Case in point, Arrow’s John Diggle (David Ramsey) and Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards), who proved long ago that they could stand toe-to-toe alongside Oliver Queen in the hero department despite their lack of threads.
There are so many costumes on Arrow now that I swear if I had a drink for every new costume I’d be stumbling through this post. But if there was ever anyone on Arrow who deserved a costume it was John Diggle. So let me just say, it’s about damn time that he got one.
Taking a look at the costumes on shows like Arrow and The Flash, they’re more representative of the comic canon they stand for than of the wearer’s hero status, minus Oliver and Barry, of course. But for Diggle, getting a costume makes sense in that he’s been in this hero game for three-going-on-four-years now. He’s made just as many enemies as Oliver, and he’s constantly out in the field unmasked and open to attack. It’s time that Diggle start protecting himself and his family, especially with the devilish Damien Darhk coming this season.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m super thrilled for Diggle to finally get some identity concealment (because someone’s bound to start recognizing him, especially with those massive arms), but the truth is he never really needed one to be considered a hero. Everything that Diggle has done, everything that he’s stood for, all of the sacrifices he’s made in the past three seasons speaks louder than any costume ever could.
But there’s no denying what a costume represents on The CW. If you look at last season’s promotions, they were centered on heroes yet only included heroes – or heroes in training – with costumes. Heroes like Diggle, Felicity Smoak, Lyla Michaels, Caitlin Snow and Cisco Ramon among others remained sidelined in this hero promotion. And this caused outrage among fans, rightfully so, who lobbied for an explanation as to why their favorite non-costumed heroes were getting the shaft. At least now we’ll finally start getting more Diggle promotion (which is long overdue).
I get it, costumes are badass and they make you feel like a badass. I’ve cosplayed before as Sara Lance’s Canary and there’s nothing like putting on a costume and a mask and just feeling like you could kick the crap out of anyone who walked past you. But I’ve also cosplayed as Felicity Smoak before and, truth be told, I got the exact same feeling. I felt empowered both costumed and non-costumed because being a hero – or portraying a hero – isn’t just about looking like an empowered badass; it’s about feeling like one. And both Sara and Felicity were heroes in their own right, costume or not.
There’s always been this underlying need by some fans to want to have Felicity Smoak integrated into comic canon in some way. Last summer during Comic-Con, it seemed as if there was a plan to make Felicity Oracle, as that was the original title of last season’s fifth episode. But the producers aborted that, which I think was the best thing they could’ve done.
Look, Felicity Smoak is a character that exists in a small role in DC Comics, but she’s a character that has come alive on Arrow. She isn’t held down by comic expectations, which makes her even more exciting because the writers could go anywhere with her story. It’s refreshing in a world where there are so many characters that have these expectations from fans because of their comic past.
But it’s important to remember that Arrow never has and never will be bound by comic canon expectations. It’s a modern interpretation of a world that has been around since the 1940s. If we already knew what happened, why bother watching?
So while it makes sense for Diggle to get a costume – as he’s out in the field constantly – it doesn’t make sense for Felicity, as she usually operates from the Arrow Cave. And just like Diggle, she doesn’t need a mask to prove to anybody that she’s a hero. Heroism isn’t measured in physical strength; it’s measured in mental strength. And looking at Felicity’s past, she’s one of the most mentally tough characters in this universe.
When you think of the heroes in your life, how many of them actually wear costumes? Who are the people who come to mind when you think of “heroes?” Your parents? Teachers? Military? Police officers? Firefighters?
Take a look at that group. Yes, some of them have costumes (uniforms) that are representative of who they are, but the others don’t. And guess what, everyone in those five categories (and countless others) are all heroes. They each have their own role in society in helping people. Some are on the frontlines, while others operate from within a confined space, but they’re all changing lives and writing the standard by which it means to be considered a hero. Costumes don’t matter in real life when recognizing heroes, so why shouldn’t the same be true for the world of Arrow?
Arrow season 4 premieres Wednesday, Oct. 7 at 8/7c on The CW.