Barry Allen, Ross Geller, & Toxic Masculinity
As a scientist, I know there’s nothing magical about what makes us feel something for someone else… But then I see her smile. Man, that cannot be science.
Yeah, so please watch The Flash. Iris West is the heart and soul of that show, and good lord does Barry Allen worship the ground she walks on. He's had a crush on her since elementary school. Is Barry Allen a fool who has a bad habit of rushing into things without fully thinking them through and then not learning from his mistakes? Yes. But does that boy care about Iris West more than anything else on the planet? 100% yes.
As y'all know, I've been watching Friends and there's a very similar story line to Iris and Barry in the form of Ross and Rachel.
If you haven't seen Friends, the basic premise of the show is that there are these six people who are "friends." I use that term loosely because I don't think anyone actually likes Ross and he's only there because everyone likes Monica. Anyway, Ross and Monica are siblings and they grew up going to school with Rachel. Monica and Rachel were best friends and Ross was the creepy older brother who had a crush on Rachel.
As someone who has had numerous unrequited crushes for NUMEROUS years, I relate to the feeling. HOWEVER, unlike Ross, Barry and I are not assholes about it. That's one of my main issues with Friends; the way Ross treats Rachel as though he has some definitive say in what she does because he's had a one-sided crush on her since ninth grade.
What The Flash writers do well is let Barry have this beautifully tragic longing for Iris without it taking away from Iris' life and her choices. When the show starts, Iris is in a relationship with Eddie. And like, I wanted to hate Eddie because he was the one standing in the way of Barry and Iris, but I couldn't. Because he was a good guy who treated her well and loved her. Barry felt the same way. He couldn't hate Eddie because he saw how happy Eddie made Iris.
The difference between Ross and Barry is that Barry is a man and Ross is a whiny little punk. At the bottom of his heart, all Barry wants is for Iris to be happy even if it's not with him. Does he want her to be happy with him? Uh, yeah, of course he desperately does, but he cares about her enough to put his feelings aside. And he doesn't act like he's a saint for doing so, unlike some people.
Ross does not offer the same basic human decency to Rachel. He purposefully sabotages her relationship with an attractive Italian man because he doesn't think the Italian dude deserves Rachel. And then, when things go south because of his own doing, Ross acts like the "nice guy" with a shoulder to cry on, as though he didn't just ruin the life of the woman he "loves." He constantly spins every narrative so he's somehow an innocent victim, and keeps reminding everyone that Rachel put him in the friendzone, which is not a real thing. Newsflash, dudes: Your female friends don't owe you sex or a relationship. That "friendzone" you keep crying over is actually just what friendship looks like.
I haven't gotten past the second season, but it astounds me that somehow, this Ross/Rachel relationship is heralded as one of the greatest TV couples of all time. How could it possibly be??? I mean, in the first two seasons alone, he's been so mean to her! Ross wants Rachel because she's Rachel Green, the popular prom queen he put on a pedestal nine years ago, but he doesn't want any of the things that make Rachel actually Rachel. When he, Chandler, and Joey make a pro/con list about Rachel and Ross' girlfriend, Julie, Ross is quick to list things that he doesn't like about Rachel, and the only con he lists for Julie is that she's not Rachel. The reason being, he doesn't like Rachel as a person, but as the one-dimensional picturesque version of her created in his head. Ross consistently lashes out when the pristine version in his brain proves to be starkly different from the very real woman in front of him.
One of the things on his stupid list is that Rachel is "just a waitress," as though that's somehow a bad thing. The reason Rachel is "just a waitress" is because she took matters into her own hands after leaving a life where every decision was made for her. It was a life that didn't give her any happiness or freedom to be the person she really is. The first time we meet Rachel, she's in a wedding dress running away from a man she felt she was being forced into marrying by her parents. A man she didn't love. So she's a waitress because she'd rather do that than be forced to go back to a world where she wasn't allowed to live the life she wants to live.
Of course, Ross doesn't see that and simply thinks she's a slacker who can't get a real job. What a good dude!
I've spent almost a thousand words on this and, trust me, I could write a thousand more about the messed up way Ross treats the hero of the show, Susan the lesbian life partner, but I gotta stop somewhere.
I'm sure no one else is out there comparing the differing styles of masculinity of Barry Allen and Ross Geller, but here we are. As far as representations of men go, Ross is awful. It's no wonder men act the way they do when they have someone like Ross on their TV for ten years. They see him be mean and cruel and awful and still end up with the girl of his dreams. (Also, the girl of my dreams. @90sJenniferAnniston, call me.) Media will never exist in a vacuum, and we learn from the examples we see on television. There's a generation of boys out there who learned that if you like a girl, you basically have ownership of her for the simple fact that you like her. Doesn't matter that she rejects your advances, because she'll come around. After all, you're such a nice guy.
When you look at the actions of Barry Allen, another man hopelessly in love with a woman who won't look his way, you see how harmful Ross Geller's interpretation of masculinity is. Barry Allen, a genuine nice guy, is the antithesis to Ross' masculinity.
A difference right off the bat is that Barry Allen cries. Which, wow, when was the last time you saw a male superhero cry?? All because he was raised by one of the greatest fictional TV dads around, Joe West. There's an insanely beautiful scene where Joe tells Barry that it's one thing to be mad, but it's another, stronger thing to let himself feel sad. It's a concept that appeared foreign to young little Barry Allen, even though his mom died and his dad was framed for her murder, so he had EVERY right in the world to be sad. His world changed so dramatically overnight. Telling young boys it's okay to feel things should not be groundbreaking, but it IS.
How many times are young boys told that crying makes them weak or less of a man? EVERY DAY OF THEIR LIVES. But Barry Allen is out here proving that everyone is wrong. He can feel things, he can cry, he can love, and he can still be the hero of Central City. Yeah, he's a superhero because of his speed, but what makes him a real hero is the way he cares about people and his city. That's the mark of a real man and a real hero. Like Adam West's Batman and Christopher Reeves' Superman. That's where Grant Gustin firmly plants his Flash. A hero, not because of his powers, but because of his compassion.
In fact, the only thing Barry Allen and Ross Geller have in common is they've both got a weird ape friend.
(WOW did I go off the deep end??? This was just supposed to be a quote of the day, but I guess my love for Barry Allen and my distaste for Ross Geller know no bounds.)