I am – as one might have already guessed – a hopeless fangirl of superhero media. This is a week to remember all that makes us thankful – the significant and the mundane. On a less serious note, as I sit down and reflect on all that I’m thankful for, my favorite television shows (and fandoms) come to mind. By this time next week, Iris West and Barry Allen will be married on The Flash. Westallen is one of my favorite ships on one of my favorite shows. I’m obviously excited for the upcoming wedding. There are many reasons why I’m thankful for Westallen this Thanksgiving. Here are four.
Love Is a Wonderful Thing (Or Can Be)
I’ve written before about the fundamental importance of love stories. They exist in every genre, in every medium. They have driven some of the greatest stories of all time. But they are not created equal.
All too often, television sends a poor message when it comes to what love should be. Or even when it conveys what women (or women in relationships) should be. Television shows us dramatic relationships where the couple in question hurts each other time and time again, and they tell us to root for it to work out. They tell us that it’s the woman’s job to “fix” the man and the relationship. They tell us that true love is screaming at each other in the rain, and if you haven’t done that…you haven’t been in love.
It is all too rare for a television show to depict an actually supportive, mutually loving, genuinely healthy relationship. It is even rarer for that to be the central relationship of the show, the ship the audience should root for. Typically, shows go for drama and angst, and healthy relationships are seen as “boring” without it.
But it is important to see healthy relationships on television. It is important for young girls and boys (and even older women and men) to see healthy relationships. To see what they can be. What they should be. The kinds of relationships we deserve.
If I’m being perfectly honest, there have been moments in The Flash when I’ve wished the show had been better. When I’ve watched an episode and really wished I could be in the writers’ room to ask them what they were thinking – or even to demand an accounting for what they’ve done. (The entire treatment of Dibney is a good example. Or the treatment of Iris West in the first half of the second season.)
But for the most part, the show has treated Westallen well. While it has not always given it the focus I as a fan would have liked, they have largely done well with the relationship when it has had focus. Westallen has been a truly wonderful relationship between two people who genuinely love and support each other.
There are so many angsty, dramatic relationships on television. I am thankful Westallen is a couple that is allowed to just be in love. They are allowed to be happy. And they show young girls and boys (and older ones, as well) that true love doesn’t require angst-ridden arguments. It doesn’t require a dozen breakups and makeups. It doesn’t require cutting words and misunderstandings to prove it’s real.
True love can be – and, frankly, should be – two people who genuinely love and respect each other. Who want what’s best for the other person. Whose days are made happier because of the person beside them, no matter the obstacles they face.
We could use more relationships like that on television, frankly.
Epic Moments to Remember
I love it when shows write moments that take my breath away. I love it even more when they write moments that are so perfect, they are better than anything I ever have (or think I ever could) write. Westallen has given me many of those moments.
From Barry’s first confession of his feelings to their first kiss before he discovered how to time travel. From “what other girls” to “I loved you before I even knew what the word ‘love’ meant.” From their first proposal to their second proposal. From Barry giving Iris closure to Iris pulling Barry out of the speed force.
Barry and Iris have had too many epic moments to count. They have given me moments to treasure. They have given me quotes that I don’t think I could have written on my best day. Every time I think “This is the most beautiful think they ever could have written for these two adorable dorks,” they come up with something even better. I can only imagine how they’ll try to top themselves with the upcoming wedding – not to mention the wedding vows!
Westallen really has a beautiful love story that manages to be both surprising and emotionally moving all the time. And I’m thankful for it.
That Chemistry Though
‘Nuff said. I’m very thankful that Grant Gustin and Candice Patton play two of my favorite characters on television.
Representation matters. I’ll be honest. Candice Patton doesn’t represent me. I’ve seen “myself” represented in hundreds of television shows over the course of my life. I never used to think about the subject of representation. To be honest, I didn’t really have to. I certainly never thought about it as much as I should have. Because it didn’t impact me.
From the day I joined the Westallen fandom, I came to realize the importance of representation. It was not the fandom’s job to teach me, but they did. I’ve met and spoken with many people whose lives have been impacted by The Flash. I’ve spoken to women who never saw themselves as the woman the hero would fall for and fight for until now. A friend told me once that when she would picture her favorite love stories growing up, she pictured someone like me in the role – not someone like her. But now, for her daughter, that has changed.
Candice Patton doesn’t represent me, and that’s a wonderful thing. Countless fans’ lives have been genuinely changed by seeing her on screen every week. I won’t even begin to pretend that I could – or should – tell their stories. But if you genuinely listen to what they have to say, you will realize one thing. Candice Patton as Iris West is important.
There are, of course, detractors who don’t see (or perhaps care about) her importance. To them I say: This isn’t about you. But just because it isn’t about you – or me – doesn’t mean that representation isn’t important. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter.
The impact Candice Patton has had on numerous little boys and girls isn’t a story I can or should tell, but it is a beautiful thing to see. It makes me so very grateful to have Candice Patton and Westallen on my screen every week.
The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on the CW.