The Problem With ‘Arrow’s’ Portrayal of Black Canary

Over my month-long Christmas break, I decided it was high time for me to start the show that began DC Comics’ television universe, Arrow’. Airing its first episode back in 2012, ‘Arrow’ bagged in over one million viewers for its first and second seasons and continues to be the leader of DC’s television universe. What pulled me towards the show was the array of characters it involved, specifically one of my favorite Birds of Prey, Black Canary. But for such an independent, multi-faceted character in the comics, ‘Arrow’ seems to kill her (or whoever wears the leather jacket next) every other season.

Caity Lotz as Black Canary/The CW

The two main characters in ‘Arrow’ that take on the Black Canary alias are Sara Lance (Caity Lotz) and Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy). Both women check off all the boxes as Black Canary. Great at hand-to-hand combat? Check. Can rock a leather jacket? Check. Fight for justice? Check. Unfortunately, their stories can at times feel weak and pushed to the back for storylines that instead center around their romance with Oliver. Green Arrow and Black Canary have a wonderful history in the comics, but that relationship does not make them who they are as characters. Then, if Black Canary is kicking ass by her lonesome, she is killed off on a whim without any proper ending to her storyline (“The Calm” and “Eleven-Fifty-Nine”).

As I’m catching up with this current season of ‘Arrow’, I’ve realized how even with other women on the show, there is still a lack of well-developed female characters. Laurel Lance as Black Canary was so close to being an earnest depiction of a complex woman in the ‘Arrow’ universe. Except she was killed off before she had the chance to become fully established as her own vigilante. The only way I can imagine ‘Arrow’ fixing their lack of developed female characters is to WRITE COMPLEX FEMALE CHARACTERS. There really is no way around the issue, especially with shows like ‘Agents of Shield‘, ‘Agent Carter‘ and ‘The Flash proving that successful superhero shows can have well-written female characters. With a new Black Canary entering the arena of the ‘Arrow’-verse this season, we can only hope that she’ll be the representation women audiences deserve.


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