Arguably the most important character on The Flash next to Barry Allen is Iris West-Allen, a reporter and canonical love of the Flash’s life. Yet, when the CW series first hit the air, some “fans” were taken aback by the fact that producers cast a woman of color in the role. (Of course, Zack Snyder did as well, but Iris’s scenes were cut from Justice League.) Tragically, as is all too common, people started to harass the actress cast in the role on social media. Well, a new CW social media comment policy is seen as a win for Candice Patton, who has been vocal about the harassment she endured.
Patton received truly terrible comments from so-called “fans” angry that a woman of color was cast in this role. In 2018, someone wrote that “100 years ago, I’d have bought and sold you’re (sic) stupid ass.” Patton only responded to correct the racist’s grammar, substituting “you’re” with the correct “your.” When talking about an alleged hate crime, a person replied “should’ve been your character in season 3.” On the official show posts across social media, Patton is frequently the target of truly terrible threats and insults. Yet, until now, the companies she works for have been silent.
Of course, not all the feedback was racist and negative. A huge number of fans quickly latched on to Patton’s portrayal of Iris. As the actor pointed out in an interview with PopSugar, “in years to come, people will remember Iris West as being African American.” She also took to Twitter to thank the fans that support her back in 2015.
I love how many people tell me how amazing my fans are. You guys are a force to be reckoned with. Thank you for always supporting.
— Candice Patton (@candicepatton) October 3, 2015
“I love how many people tell me how amazing my fans are. You guys are a force to be reckoned with. Thank you for always supporting.”
What the New CW Social Media Comment Policy Means for Candice Patton and Other CW Actors
Image via CW
After six years of next-to-no response to complaints made by Candice Patton, the new CW social media comment policy is a good first step. However, it’s clear that they still have a lot of work to do to address the problems faced by its actors of color. Patton recognized that the CW features diverse casts, but she also noted that they could do even more. Not only by committing to diversity in front of the camera but by committing to diversity behind the camera, in writers’ rooms, and in executive boardrooms.
Hopefully, this conversation is (at least) ongoing with the CW, Warner Bros., and their employees. Still, the specific social media comment policy CW just announced address the most basic of the problems raised by Candice Patton over the years.
Words matter. The CW is committed to making our social pages a safe place for our fans and talent. We will not tolerate and will block racist or misogynistic comments as well as any hate towards the LGBTQ+ community. pic.twitter.com/TgqumGrnag
— The Flash (@CW_TheFlash) June 15, 2020
The CW tweeted:
“The CW appreciates and welcomes enthusiastic and thoughtful commentary about our shows. We are committed to making our social pages a safe place for our fans and talent to engage with each other.
“We will not tolerate and will block racist or misogynistic comments as well as any hate towards the LGBTQ+ community.”
This means that anyone who comments on official CW social media accounts using hateful language will be blocked from seeing or interacting with the page. Again, this seems like something they should have done very early on. However, it doesn’t really do anything to prevent these hateful comments from being directed to the actors and personalities themselves. While individuals’ own social media accounts are their responsibility, a company like Warner Bros. should provide as much assistance to their employees (especially those not ready for the high-profile status a role like Iris West gets) as possible.
Also, it is worth mentioning again, that the show wasted no time in firing Hartley Sawyer once racist and misogynistic tweets from his past resurfaced.
How Fandom Toxicity, Racism, Sexism, and Hate Are All Eager Bedfellows
Image via CW
Now, some people out there are surely thinking that at least some of the criticism about Candice Patton being cast as Iris was “not racist.” My first response is “who cares? It doesn’t matter.” My second response is that bigotry and prejudice often drive some of these “fandom” discussions.
For example, many fans of Candice Patton are actively angry at fellow The Flash actress Danielle Panabaker and those who shipped “SnowBarry,” a romantic pairing between Barry Allen and Panabaker’s Caitlin Snow. In the early promotion for the show, before Iris and Barry became an official couple, the whole “SnowBarry” thing was a romantic misdirect. This is common in television shows of all kinds. Panabaker’s milquetoast support for those shippers is seen by some fans as racist in itself. Now, only she and Candice Patton really know for sure if that is true. However, given that Patton has also spoken out about the importance of not pitting women against each other, on- or off-screen, it seems unlikely.
Yet, unquestionably, some people likely preferred that romantic pairing because Panabaker, like Gustin, is white. So, to paraphrase a common political saying, not all SnowBarry shippers are racists, but it’s likely that all racist shippers wanted SnowBarry to happen. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, your humble correspondent knows very little about shippers and the culture of conversations amongst them. So, if I am missing a major point or two, please tell me in the comments below.
Ultimately, what’s important to remember is that racism, sexism, and all other forms of hate should be antithetical to fans of shows like these. Since their inception, superhero comic stories have been ones of inclusion and promoting social justice. Such hateful commentary doesn’t elevate discussion about a piece of art, and the CW is right to say it has no place on their social pages.
The Flash returns for Season 7 in 2021.
What do you think about the new CW social media comment policy, and do you think it addresses the issues Candice Patton raised? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.
Featured image via the CW
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.