Arrowverse’s Iris West-Allen, played by Candice Patton on The CW’s The Flash, opened the door to significantly diversify DC’s Flash Family on screen.
Candice Patton being cast as the Arrowverse’s Iris West on The Flash not only helped diversify the Flash Family’s screen adventures but also the character herself in other mediums. One of the most significant legacies in the DC Universe is The Flash mythology, with multiple iconic characters having carried the title while also becoming their own heroes. From Barry Allen, Jay Garrick, Wally West, Bart Allen, to the famous super-villains like Reverse-Flash, The Rogues, and more, this corner of DC has a rich history of stories. One of the most crucial characters in the mythology is Iris West-Allen, the fearless Central City Picture News reporter who is Barry’s wife, Wally’s aunt, and Bart’s grandmother – and who has been part of The Flash comics since 1956. While the TV show has retooled Iris’ family ties, The Flash captures the character’s essence.
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For The CW adaptation, The Flash creators reimagined Iris as an African-American woman, played by Patton, since October 2014. While comic book properties have changed the ethnicity of characters before, Patton’s casting stood out for multiple reasons. Depicting Iris as a Black woman allowed the Arrowverse creators to tackle a significant issue with The Flash comics, which lacked diverse representation within DC’s Flash Family. Not only did it allow for other iconic characters to be played by people of color, but Patton’s Iris led to her character also getting depicted as a Black woman in other Flash media. Three years after Patton became Arrowverse’s Iris, the DCEU was clearly inspired by The Flash to cast Kiersey Clemons as the cinematic counterpart for The Flash movie and Zack Snyder’s Justice League.
After her debut in the Snyder Cut, Clemons’ Iris was the first time Barry’s iconic love interest had ever been in a feature film. As of late, Patton’s impact is being noticed even further outside of the Arrowverse, with Justice Society: World War II portraying the latest animated incarnation of Iris as a Black woman, voiced by Ashleigh LaThrop. This is the first time any DC animated property has changed Iris’ ethnicity, following Patton paving the way for that through the Arrowverse on The Flash. Not only did Patton open the door for Iris to be played by women of color, but it encouraged The Flash to diversify other key characters. While The New 52 introduced Wallace West as a Black Kid Flash in June 2014, it came months after Patton’s casting, meaning The Flash could be considered as already having an impact before even premiering in October 2014.
The Flash has always had one of the best mythologies in comics, but before the 2010s, it consisted primarily of white characters with little room for inclusivity. While not intentional by any means, it did give a troublesome message that Flash stories didn’t have any space for marginalized characters. This iteration of the Flash mythology demonstrated the power of celebrating diversity through characters like Iris and her family members.
Patton’s Iris has been part of The Flash’s foundation for seven years, and has become more than just Barry’s true love. The actress has spoken in the past about the importance of a Black female character not always being cast as the white lead’s best friend or sidekick, which is why The Flash’s change to Iris became as significant as it did. Iris is not only Barry’s partner, but she is also at the center of this iconic mythology as an equal to Barry, while having a legacy of her own. Superhero media still has a long way to go for representing characters of color, with The Flash’s Candice Patton as Iris West as a great example as she helped diversify the Flash Family on screen, both in and outside the Arrowverse, including Kiersey Clemons and Ashleigh LaThrop.
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