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Article – Arrow’s Fridge Is Running Out Of Space


Posted April 20, 2016 by

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Arrow’s Fridge Is Running Out Of Space

Another day, another female character killed. The death of Laurel Lance on the CW’s Arrow was foreshadowed but it nonetheless came as a shock to fans. Laurel Lance, once the weakest character on the show, has had the most well-developed arc over four seasons and become a fan-favourite.

There are off-screen reasons for the character being written out – actor Katie Cassidy wanted to leave the show – but it isn’t surprising considering how little screen time Laurel has been given this season. Having been relegated to romantic lead and damsel in distress for the first two seasons, it seemed about time that Laurel came into her own. However, the more badass she became, the less she was given to do, almost as if, without a romantic clutch, the writers and directors didn’t know what to do with her.

But Laurel’s death is even more egregious when one looks at Arrow’s dismal track record with its female characters. There are way too many women who have been killed on the show to further male characters’ journeys (called fridging and it is common enough in film and television for the term to actually exist).

The lead male character, Oliver Queen’s, journey to becoming the superhero Green Arrow is littered with the deaths of the women around him. His journey began with the death of Sara Lance, sister of Laurel, who is brought back and killed and then resurrected again. Then his partner, Shado, is murdered to motivate him. After that his mother, Moira Queen, is murdered by Arrow’s enemy Deathstroke and his sister, Thea Queen is killed by Ra’s Al Ghul and then resurrected. Laurel Lance has been threatened and kidnapped by numerous villains to enable Arrow’s journey but she had managed to escape (been rescued from) the clutches of death. Until now.

As The Mary Sue has reported, these last few months have been particularly terrible for female characters. I don’t watch all the shows they’ve mentioned, but I do know that they’ve probably only touched the tip of the iceberg. The treatment of female characters in media, be it films, television, video games or music videos, has been appalling for much too long.

But there have been glimmers of hope including Laurel Lance and her transformation into the Black Canary. Her character was brilliantly built up, starting off as a community lawyer and the central point of a love-triangle between Oliver Queen and his best friend Tommy Merlyn, to constant damsel in distress, to a recovering alcoholic who puts her life back together to end up as the Assistant District Attorney and, finally, to taking up her dead sister’s mantle to become the much-loved superhero Black Canary. That’s quite the character arc for someone who isn’t the lead. Which is why the Canary’s death at the hands of Darhk, a villain who has had little to do with her for the majority of the season, is a huge step back for female representation.

The DC television universe has been doing quite well so far and it all began with Arrow. The shows that have been spun out, The Flash, Supergirl and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, have been exciting and entertaining but the only one (too early to tell with Legends of Tomorrow) that seems to go out of its way to give its female characters their due is Supergirl. Why am I not surprised?

A lot of fans are also annoyed because it seems that the Canary’s death is being used to prop up the Oliver Queen-Felicity Smoak (Olicity) relationship. I admit that is not how I saw it, especially because Olicity was a fan concept and most fans were celebrating when the two characters finally got together, so why they’re complaining now is a mystery to me. I wasn’t a fan of Olicity, especially as it deprived viewers of some hilarious moments where the love-struck Felicity would say the most inappropriate things to Oliver but it also led to Felicity spending the majority of season 3 weeping over him and not being the tech badass we were used to.

Felicity’s diminished characterisation in season 3 allowed for more development for Laurel, who, unencumbered by any relationships, grew into a very real and relatable superhero. She ended up being the best thing about the season. It’s a shame that the writers didn’t know what to do with this incredible character they had created and unfortunate that we will never know what could have been with Black Canary as I doubt she will feature on any other DC show, like Sara Lance, who is being fleshed out in Legends of Tomorrow.

A lot of fans have been threatening to stop watching Arrow, which is a bit extreme, but their frustration is understandable. Arrow has had its ups and downs, struggling to capture the highs of its first season, but it has been able to keep growing strong. Of course, Arrow’s struggle with its female characters has been problematic for a long while but it’s not as bad as other shows (looking at you, Supernatural). However, when every single woman in the lead character’s life has been used as leverage against him, one begins to wonder whether the show runners really care about the women they write.

Over the past few years, we have seen some great female characters on television that have filled us with hope but they are a precious few that we should do our best to keep alive, not killing them off for absolutely no reason. One can only hope that Arrow finds a way to replace the Black Canary with an equally well-written female character and that nothing terrible happens to the remaining women in Oliver Queen’s life.

It’s not unusual for female characters to be killed as motivation for male characters, but one would think that in 2016 we would be passed using women as crutches to build men up. For all the progress we have made, we keep taking steps backwards at regular intervals. If the entertainment industry doesn’t get its act together and realise that women on and off-screen deserve to be treated like people, which they are! Sigh. I can’t believe we’re still fighting this.


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Louis Skye
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One Comment


    If you’re looking for female representation then you might be better off watching a show or movie with a female lead. Supergirl for example, it’s not perfect of course, but it’s more watchable than the depressing Jessica Jones. I love Arrow, but I admit it’s never been better than its first season, yes characters besides Oliver Queen are lucky to still be alive on the show, especially a show that’s trying it’s best to shock with cliff-hangers and character deaths. The show finds itself with an unusually large number of supporting female characters, one could say it’s overcrowded, henceforth they tend to be the ones that get the chop, some male characters have died to further motivation, but it speaks to Oliver Queens’s core character values that he would be more motivated by a female characters death. If Laurel Lance was the only female supporting character however, she would most certainly be much better off in the way you expect. What frustrates me is when they bring back dead characters. I know its comic book normality to bring back the dead, but it’s happened far too often and now has no meaning. Ideally the show needs to cut its overall number of characters and devote time saved to remaining characters, story and action. Your right that they never new what to do with her, even in season 3 when Oliver’s character was presumed dead and took a few episodes off, which would have been the ideal time for her to step up and become team leader, still nothing, it’s a shame but fundamentally it’s not a show about Black Canary, maybe if she’d had a spin off or something like that. I feel like the treatment of female characters has improved quite a lot of late, leading female characters are holding down big blockbusters films and TV shows, especially now in the Star Wars films.

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