There is no shortage for love and praise for Felicity Smoak as a character. By a completely serendipitous stroke of luck, Arrow landed exactly the one element it was missing to balance the tone of the show and balance Oliver Queen's utterly sexy but sometimes overbearing broodiness. They found it in the genius IT girl with the refreshing honesty and sassiness. From the minute we followed Oliver into her booth, she brought on a refreshing wave of.. something. Something that got people to reflexively smile, including the king (Queen?) of broodiness himself (the reaction to her was not scripted, as stated in multiple interviews). And yet, to me, Felicity Smoak's power extends way beyond what she does for Arrow, into what she does for me as a person and for the interface of television as a whole.
The Arrow producers immediately saw the sprinkle of TV magic that Felicity Smoak seemed to dust all over the few moments she appeared in, as they immediately asked for more of her before ever seeing the audience's reaction to her. Luckily, these people clearly knew exactly what they were doing, as the audience reacted to her exactly like they expected them to, and Felicity Smoak immediately became a fan favorite.
But Felicity Smoak has grown and evolved into so much more than merely the missing piece of the puzzle that is Arrow. The writers of the show have managed to expand the character into an incredibly powerful and realistic depiction of a strong female. There is an evolution in the representation of women on television, and while it was on the rise for a while, it's not nearly enough. Not only that, but there is often an element of realism and relatability that seems to escape writers when giving us a strong female.
They are sometimes reduced to these relentless unyielding ice queens who don't shed a tear and have only one dimension of strength to their character. Felicity Smoak is the complete opposite of that. Her strength, and the way it is represented, is so far from the patriarchal power that seems to be the predominant type of "strength" in female characters. It is an element that manages to, again, take the strength in female characters and mold it into something that seamlessly melds into a still patriarchal view of society. I don't relate to characters whose power stems from this physical, patriarchal definition of strong. Physical strength absolutely is strength, but it's not the only strength, or even the most powerful or preferred one. People can do so much more with their brain than with their fists. And the problem is that for a while there it seemed like a woman has to be able to beat up a gang of masked assailants to fit some unproven, male-driven definition of strong. Either that or she had to be heartless and uncompassionate.
With Felicity Smoak, the writers trampled all over these common misconceptions. They gave us a character who is realistically strong. Relatibly strong. A character little girls can look up to, who can make them want to work harder to get into their dream schools. A character I can look up to, who made me realize that I can't put my love for anyone above my own personal and emotional health. A character that anyone stuck in a seemingly dead-end situation that they had no hand in can look up to and realize that if you want it bad enough and if you work hard enough you can absolutely get out of whatever you're stuck in.
Felicity Smoak got out using her brain, on a scholarship, which is the exact same way I got out of what I was stuck in, and it's doable, and she's a television representation of a real-life issue that can be overcome. She's a character who lets you know that you can be so many different things, have so many different dimensions. That your tears don't take away from your strength. That when I cry over losing someone close to me, it does not make me weak, it makes me real. She's a character whose strength is in her vulnerability. In her ability to represent so many different emotional dilemmas that you can face. In her ability to not let her emotions completely lead her through life, but still be able to love fully. In her ability to be compassionate and understand others' pain. In her ability to see the good in others and call out the bad. In her ability to avoid hurting people purposefully just because she is in pain herself. In her ability to recognize when her lashing out is undeserved and apologize for it, because apologizing takes strength. In her ability to struggle through life-changing trauma, but still manage to turn it into something that she uses to help others.
Her strength is also in her ability to not turn falling in love into a weakness. It seems like in our demand for stronger female characters, some people take it a step too far and completely condemn the existence of men (even when the show is about said man). That is absolutely not the case. Supporting strong women doesn't mean hating strong men. That is why the union of Oliver and Felicity is another incredibly strong element to her character. For so long we were taught that it is so hard to be a strong woman and be in love. Felicity Smoak continuously proves that that is not the case. There is literally nothing wrong with being in love. It is fundamentally human to want to be in love and want to find love. It does not make you any less of a strong woman to fall in love and let yourself be vulnerable to that emotion. This is such a common misconception that it is even directly addressed on the show head-on in episode six of this season.
Even the simple act of walking out on a man she’s clearly completely in love with was a powerful act of empowerment, because even while being in love, she demonstrated that love doesn’t make you weak, and that that notion is so wrong. The minute she felt her love start to affect her and her foundation as a person, she walked out. That is an incredibly powerful portrayal of emotional strength in a female character. Walking out on someone you love can be so difficult, which is represented through so many women who hang onto relationships that are continuously damaging their self-value. Felicity Smoak is representation of not settling. When your self-respect and self-worth are powerful and structured properly, you shouldn’t settle. We all know they’re getting back together (most likely after Oliver finds a way to open up to her), but her unwillingness to constantly compromise on the fundamentals of relationships, like trust, is an incredibly powerful example of a different kind of strength you don’t always get to see in women on television.
Felicity Smoak is a woman. She’s smart (a genius, really). She’s funny. She cries. She fights back. She’s in love. She’s compassionate. She feels pain. She’s witty. She’s a CEO. She’s snarky. Felicity Smoak is STRONG. Felicity Smoak is real. So real that I see a reflection of myself and every strong woman I know in elements of her character. The kind of real that can inspire more strength in you, because she’s not an unattainable kind of strong, she’s the kind of strong that you can see yourself being.
So here's to many more seasons where this Bitch with Wi-fi shows us that the sky is our limit and that there's nothing that we're not strong enough to overcome.