The Emotional Men of The Flash (2014–2023)

By Veronika M. Heinrich

Pow! Smash! Punch! Those are expres­sions that eas­i­ly come to mind when think­ing of a super­hero. This is because heroes like Super­man or Bat­man tra­di­tion­al­ly solve their prob­lems with lots of action, some­times even with vio­lence. In the CW show The Flash, Bar­ry Allen aka The Flash takes a dif­fer­ent approach – he tries to under­stand the vil­lains’ back­sto­ries, and if there’s a pos­si­bil­i­ty for redemp­tion, he takes it. But this series doesn’t stop there – many of its char­ac­ters dis­play healthy mas­culin­i­ty. So maybe there’s anoth­er way to save the day.

With the final episode already aired, it’s pos­si­ble to write an analy­sis of The Flash. And what I think is most mem­o­rable about this show is its warmth, its heart­felt char­ac­ters, and its humor. And, of course, its healthy approach to mas­culin­i­ty and equality.

In The Flash, foren­sic sci­en­tist Bar­ry Allen (Grant Gustin) gains super­pow­ers from the explo­sion of the S.T.A.R. Labs’ par­ti­cle accel­er­a­tor cre­at­ed by Har­ri­son Wells (Tom Cavanagh). Bar­ry needs to con­trol his pow­ers, which pri­mar­i­ly con­sist of super­speed. He uses these pow­ers to fight evil metahu­mans like him­self. Wells and his crew – which include bio­engi­neer­ing expert Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabak­er) and mechan­i­cal engi­neer Cis­co Ramon (Car­los Valdes) – help Bar­ry fight crime in Cen­tral City. Then there’s also the rela­tion­ship between Bar­ry and his sur­ro­gate and police offi­cer Joe West (Jesse L. Mar­tin), who took the boy in after his mom was mur­dered and his father false­ly accused of the crime and sent to prison. Bar­ry is in love with Joe’s daugh­ter and jour­nal­ist Iris West (Can­dice Patton).

What I par­tic­u­lar­ly like in The Flash is that the men aren’t por­trayed as ‘alpha males’ but instead as nerdy peo­ple. Imag­ine James Bond with­out his gad­gets – but who cre­ates them in the first place? In this series, the tech­ni­cians don’t stay in the back­ground, they’re the ones who save the day. Which makes sense, if you think about it. Mus­cles work well when fight­ing, but you also need a cer­tain amount of clev­er­ness, espe­cial­ly as the ene­mies here are metahu­mans whose pow­ers need to be strate­gi­cal­ly over­come. But since the Flash crew’s great­est strength is work­ing togeth­er with nobody being the leader, it shows that you don’t have to be strong all the time, you can rely on oth­ers. Anoth­er mes­sage: Women – in this case Caitlin Snow – are as impor­tant for the team as their male co-workers.

Also, the char­ac­ters appear to be very human and feel basic human emo­tions. Sad­ly, this can’t be tak­en for grant­ed. Bar­ry suf­fers from the loss of his moth­er, but he doesn’t get bit­ter or dark about it, like Bat­man, for exam­ple. It’s a huge part of his char­ac­ter and leads him to make some reck­less deci­sions, but he feels regret and wants to set things right.

Bar­ry has strong feel­ings for Iris and is afraid of los­ing her. How­ev­er, he isn’t (as a true roman­tic) afraid of show­ing his love. Of course, Bar­ry also has his flaws (such as lying to his friends occa­sion­al­ly or mak­ing deci­sions over their heads). The fol­low­ing scene con­tains a spoil­er, but if you want to watch an endear­ing video of Bar­ry singing to Iris, please fol­low this link.

Now, I would like to specif­i­cal­ly talk about H.R. from sea­son 3. He is anoth­er ver­sion of Har­ri­son Wells from a dif­fer­ent world in the mul­ti­verse. While Wells is a sci­ence genius, H.R.’s strengths lie else­where, often mak­ing him feel less valu­able. H.R. likes to have fun and make oth­er peo­ple around him hap­py. He’s the type of per­son who’s full of love and always in for a good time, mak­ing those around him ques­tion his use­ful­ness. This is root­ed in the pic­ture we have of mas­culin­i­ty. Usu­al­ly, liv­ing your emo­tions to the fullest and giv­ing love is not seen as ben­e­fi­cial in a world that is so focused on being bet­ter than oth­ers. Although H.R. has the kind­est heart you’ll encounter in this show, his incom­pe­tence is often played for laughs. Then again, he doesn’t let that stop him from remain­ing his out­go­ing, hap­py, and help­ful self. That’s a les­son for all of us: Nev­er apol­o­gize for being kind, and nev­er let any­one destroy your hap­pi­ness just because they’re too bit­ter to understand.

In con­trast to the tra­di­tion­al nar­ra­tive of male heroes whose strength is defined by their fierce­ness and con­trol, The Flash shows a dif­fer­ent kind of strength, a strength that results from being true to your­self. This show insists that love can save the day and that you need to work togeth­er with oth­ers to achieve great­ness. Not a bad mes­sage – if you ask me.

 1,452 Total Views,  7 Views Today