My girlfriends and I love the CW show Arrow.
There are a lot of reasons why my coterie might be predisposed to like this show. We have a fondness for superheroes. We all appreciate Stephen Amell’s abs. But every time I talk to my female friends about this show, there is one thing that comes up time and time again: how much we love Felicity Smoak.
Felicity was introduced on the show as an employee at Queen Consolidated, working in IT. Oliver came to her with odd tasks accompanied with ridiculous cover stories. (Seriously, Oliver Queen is even worse than Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins when it comes to thinking of cover stories for why he needs things.) Felicity was characterized by her competence and adorkableness—a stark contrast to Ollie’s awful cover as a bumbling playboy. Felicity’s competence also brought her the attention and confidence of her employer, Walter Steele.
In a genre where the people surrounding superheroes are usually ridiculously ignorant of the superhero’s true identity and purpose, Felicity is a breath of fresh air. When Walter is abducted, she suspects it’s because of the information he had her dig up. She then goes to Ollie—since she’s not an idiot and realized he was the bow-and-arrow vigilante who had been plaguing their city. Now Felicity is a regular member of Team Arrow. She may not be able to fight her way out of a situation, but her technical skills and different outlook on the world bring a much needed balance to a team that’s mostly dominated by fighters.
Basically she’s an awesome character, so it’s no surprise that people would like her. However, the fervency of my friends’ love for her goes beyond mere like. The more I talk to my friends, the more I realize it’s because we all identify with her on a deep level.
The majority of my female friends are engineers and scientists. We work hard at what we do. We’re not flashy, particularly socially competent, or popular. We all know what it’s like to be hardcore friend-zoned by guys like Ollie. But we don’t let that bother us. We don’t wallow in angst or cause ridiculous drama filled love triangles (looking at you, Lance sisters). We do our jobs, we pursue our careers, because we love what we do.
Just like Felicity Smoak.
Felicity is us. We are her. And it’s rare that in a genre dominated by fighters and femme fatales we see a character that represents the techy portion of the female population.
I can’t hypothesize whether we’d watch the show or not if Felicity wasn’t a character in it—the show would be vastly different without her—but I do believe my friends would not be nearly as fervent in their love for the show without her.
We see ourselves in her, and we need to see ourselves reflected in the stories we consume. We need to be able to imagine that we could be Oliver Queen’s Girl Friday. Or that we could fight crime and be superheroes. Girls and minorities need to be able to believe that they can do anything.
And yes we can identify with characters that are not like us. I am after all an engineer because I was inspired by Geordi LaForge—and the only traits we share are our species and a love of space. Loki and I don’t even share a species, and it’s scary how well I identify with him. But there is something particularly special and inspiring about seeing a character and thinking, “She is me.”
This is why representation is so important in fiction.
That doesn’t mean you need to stop writing straight white males, or that there are no interesting stories that can happen to them. But it does mean that as creators we need to think before we solidify our characters in our head. Think about who might identify with this character, who you might inspire.
Because Felix Smoak would have been a fun character, but the tech guy is a character that exists often in fiction, whereas the competent tech girl is much rarer. So thank you, Arrow, for giving us Felicity.
Thank you for showing us that we can be heroes too.