Monthly Archives: May 2016

Processing Fictional Trauma: Schism (S4 Finale) Edition

It’s hard to believe that the time has come to write an article on the season finale. It seems like just yesterday I was banding together with my new Arrow friends on Twitter in preparation for the season premiere to see what Olicity and the rest of our superheroes had been up to over the summer. But while it may feel like the year has flown by, Team Arrow and the Arrow fandom have been through a veritable rollercoaster of emotions and events. Domestic bliss, magic, break ups, politics, violence, wheelchairs, baby mommas, flashbacks, nuclear attack, bees, and major character death, combined with love, hate, anger, grief, and every emotion in between.

Curtis Star City.gif

It’s been a crazy ride, but now is a good time for us as a fandom to take a collective deep breath and reflect on the same thing that our superheroes did at the end of this season: self-care.

In last week’s article, I discussed the concept of resilience, and how active coping strategies can help a person more easily recover from a major stress or trauma. But another part of being able to effectively cope with the things life throws at us is by taking care of ourselves both physically and emotionally every day. While being aware of the ways in which we’re taking care of ourselves should always be a priority in anything we do, as fangirls and fanboys, the end of a season is always a good time to take a step back and contemplate how fandom is affecting our lives. And as with last week, I believe we can look to our fictional band of superheroes for some real life insight.

The end of the season found Team Arrow battered and emotionally broken. After the epic showdown with Damien Darhk and HIVE, each member had to decide for themselves how to best take care of themselves afterward to heal. For Diggle, Lance, and Thea, this meant Thea Ollie Hugtaking a step back from Team Arrow and the fight for Star City so that they could reflect on who they are without their masks and badges. This can’t have been an easy decision for any of them to make as fighting to make the world a better and safer place is such an integral part of each of their identities. In our fast paced world, we are so often programmed to think of others’ needs ahead of our own… it would be easy for each of them to struggle with guilt for leaving the city less protected to manage their individual issues, or to try to gut it out and not leave at all. But in reality, if superheroes don’t take a step back to manage their emotions and to heal, it’s very easy for them to either cross that line from hero to villain, or get themselves killed by not having their head in the game. Neither of these outcomes are at all helpful to the people they’re trying to protect, ultimately showing how taking care of themselves is taking care of the city. While my respect and adoration for these characters was already incredibly high, seeing them make Oliggle Handshake.gifthe tough choices to step back and care for themselves emotionally nearly made my therapist heart burst with joy. It’s easy to be inspired by superheroes to be a better person and to do good for the world as they do. Seeing Team Arrow show us that it’s okay to take care of ourselves is something that we don’t often see superheroes do, and I hope will inspire more of us as viewers to do the same. While the stakes may not be as high for us day to day, the consequences can be the same… if we don’t take care of ourselves, we can stop having the capacity to be the people we truly want to be, living the lives we want to live. And that’s not helpful for us, or the people we love.

Self-care for Oliver and Felicity this year looked quite a bit different than the rest of Team Arrow, and the reason for that seems fairly straight forward: Oliver and Felicity took their Discover more about that person.giftime away from the team for their own self-reflection and healing last year. They rediscovered their focus and their purpose in a way that the rest of Team Arrow will likely work on discovering over this summer. Oliver is therefore caring for himself by continuing the crusade he began four years ago, and expanding it to work to help the city in the light of day as mayor, rather than only at night as a vigilante. Felicity is staying to further the cause as well. Seemingly for her, despite the pain that she has experienced this year, continuing to work to help keep the city safe is the way that she continues to find purpose Oliver Mayor.gifin her life, giving meaning to all of the tragedy and heartbreak she’s experienced. Being on the outside looking in, however, I do hope that before they get back to protecting the city, both Oliver and Felicity take some time to sleep, eat decently, and emotionally and physically rest (separately, to get their heads on straight). They’re going to need it – especially if they’re going to be protecting the city on their own, and managing the emotionally heavy relationship issues that will likely come from them working so closely together. Alone. In the lair. Every day. (Fanfic authors, I’m looking at you right now….)

So in looking at ourselves as fans, I would encourage anyone reading this to do some self-reflection. In the same way that each of the members of Team Arrow reflected and searched for self-awareness about their status on the team and how it’s affecting them emotionally, it’s important for each of us to reflect on our participation in the Arrow fandom. Television is meant to be entertainment… something that enriches our lives in some positive way. Participation in a fandom is the next step, in that if we’re so excited about a television show (or any other form of entertainment), we want to connect with other people who are also passionate about that show. While this doesn’t mean that fandom participation has to be 100% positive all the time, it is a balance that we have to find.

Oliver youre saying its not black and white.gif

Regardless of your feelings on the finale or the entire season, it’s important to internally examine whether or not watching Arrow and being a part of its fandom are still primarily positive and enriching to your life. If you have found that you are getting upset every week watching Arrow (or any other show), then stop watching. It’s a TV show, not a cult… no one is going to drag you back if you try to leave. If you’re not quite ready to do that, then take a step back from the show and the fandom for the summer, and reassess your feelings on watching come the fall. If you’re feeling frustrated with elements of the show, write the showrunners a note and tell them about it… respectfully. It’ll likely be therapeutic for you, and will help them know the feelings in the fandom. If you still enjoy the show, but are struggling with the significant negativity within the fandom, take a social media break, or use the mute/unfollow/block buttons liberally. While it’s important to not completely seal ourselves away from people who disagree with us, it’s also important to take care of ourselves. If that means paring down the people you follow on Twitter, or the groups you follow on Facebook, so be it. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with decreasing exposure to things in life that upset you – especially when we’re talking about an area that should be about entertainment and fun. And hey, if you love the fandom but don’t want to watch the show anymore, that too is totally okay. As long as you’re respectful and aren’t malicious towards people for their choice on what brings joy to their lives, I’m sure most people would be completely okay with continuing friendships, even if fandom decisions differ. Most fangirls and fanboys tend to be cool like that, at least in my experience.

Works of fiction can inspire us, enlighten us, touch us, and motivate us. They can make us laugh, make us cry, and feel every powerful emotion you can think of… just as relationships with others can. When you combine those two elements – fiction and We will look to give each other hope.gifrelationships – emotions can easy escalate, causing the tremendous passion we so often see in fandom. Passion about our fandoms is what we’re known for, and for many of us, it’s a point of pride, no matter what the rest of the world may think or feel about it. But keep in mind…. Life is short. Energy is finite. There are battles we have to fight in our daily lives that we can’t back down from. But our television choices don’t have to be one of them. When it comes to fandom, do the things that bring you joy and make you feel good. Focus on elements of your shows that make you happy. Read good fan fiction and leave positive comments for the authors. Find fun people and groups to engage with on social media. Go to a con and find your fandom family. Send your favorite actors, writers, and showrunners a love letter thanking them for their hard work and tell them how they’ve touched your life. Revel in the positive, and most importantly… Take care of yourself. You deserve that.

Happy hiatus, fellow fans… I wish you all an amazing summer! I’ll see you back here in October to process more fictional Arrow trauma!

You thought I was leaving too not a chance.gif

 

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Processing Fictional Trauma: Lost in the Flood Edition

ARROW SPOILERS THROUGH EPISODE 4×22:

LOST IN THE FLOOD

This week’s penultimate episode of Arrow had it all: fight scenes, explosions, decades old arguments, hacker on hacker violence, no less than *counts on fingers* five villains, an Olicity embrace… and a revolving beer. It was nonstop, break neck, edge of the seat drama. And yet, despite all of that activity… all the nukes, electricity surges, and flying arrows, at its heart we saw a continual theme coming through from each member of Team Arrow:

Resilience.

In the world of psychology, the term resilience has been defined many ways*, but at its core, it’s basically the ability to bounce back after major stress or trauma. The last few episodes have seen both Felicity and Diggle experience almost unspeakable emotional challenges, and in this week’s episode we got to see a little bit of how each of them are dealing with the aftermath of those traumas.

Two weeks ago we saw Diggle kill his brother. While the argument could be made that it was ultimately in self-defense, as Andy had insinuated Dig’s family would never be safe from him, the actual act was done with Andy unarmed and essentially defenseless. As traumas go, I think we can agree that’s a major one.

Diggle 2

Felicity…. well, I put her recent traumas in bullet point format in last week’s article, and I’ll go ahead and do it again for this week because the hits just keep on coming for our girl. This week Felicity had to deal with:

  • Watching the news discussing the full damage from the nuclear bomb she was unable to stop and had to change the course of.
  • Finding out her teammate and almost sister-in-law was captured by HIVE.
  • Her parents’ constant arguing… over her.
  • Going up against her ex-boyfriend yet again.
  • Learning that her father didn’t actually abandon her, but that her mother took her from her father and that she’d grown up with completely false beliefs about her parents’ split.
  • Fighting to again dismantle Rubicon, which she had worked to disable the day before and was unable to completely defeat, leading to the death of tens of thousands.
  • Kidnapping by Damien Darhk, along with her mother and one of her best friends.

Felicity Horried 2.jpg

Now, I fully understand and accept that this is a television show, and so our heroes are constantly dealing with immense amounts of pressure and coming out the other side relatively unscathed. That’s what makes this fiction, and them superheroes. But I do find it interesting that when you look at the things that mental health research has shown to make us mere mortals more resilient, it also applies to our heroes.

There are five things that have been shown to deeply influence a person’s ability to be resilient: Active coping strategies, positive emotionality, cognitive reappraisal, social support, and a sense of purpose (Reich, Zautra, & Hall, 2010). So let’s break those down into layman’s terms and apply them to OTA.

1. Active coping strategies: These are things that we do that help us manage our emotions and feel better. For me this is often escaping into an awesome TV show or book, doing something outdoors, or punching something at martial arts. For Oliver and Diggle, coping very often involves training, working out, or fighting… something intensely physical, Oliver Diggle Trainingwhich is absolutely been shown to be a successful and useful coping mechanism. I hate exercise with a fiery passion, but it’s true that physical activity does help both mind and body feel better. Felicity’s coping (that we’re aware of) tends to involve ice cream and television, which I can also get behind and can certainly be helpful in moderation. Another active coping strategy, however, which all of our team excels at are problem solving and planning. Working to change your situation, and the ability to see and plan a way through is absolutely a useful coping skill, and can help manage stress. Oliver, for example, may get beaten down and defeated, but as long as he can see another way to attempt to fix the problem, he continues to cope. The only times when he seems to truly panic or despair is when he can’t see a next move.

2. Positive emotionality: This trait involves the ability to keep your sense of humor in the face of epic stress and trauma. This trait is essentially tailor made for FeFelicity I Love the Internetlicity, as her witty comebacks and one liners are constant, even through the most challenging missions. At times she may use this as a defense mechanism to avoid dealing with her real feelings, but sometimes that can actually be useful. That’s why they’re called “defense” mechanisms. They can help us make it through until we’re ready or feel safe enough to deal with those challenging issues and feelings.

3. Cognitive reappraisal: What this means is having the ability to look at a situation and see it from a completely different perspective than may be obvious. I would consider this to be another of Felicity’s superpowers. How many times has Oliver Season 2 Endand other members of the team seen things a certain way – usually with an outcome that involves reverting back to killing and death — but Felicity is able to reframe it to be something else? At the end of season 2, both Lance and Oliver very clearly believe that Oliver has to go back to killing to be able to win. Felicity sees things differently, in that the reason for all the madness was because of killing, not because he refused to. It made Oliver see the entire situation in a different light, leading to an outcome where neither Slade nor Oliver died, keeping another piece of Oliver’s soul intact (while also giving us that Olicity scene in the mansion… thankyouverymuch!)

4. Social support: This is where OTA has created a never ending supply of emotional resilience for themselves. While they all have outside loved ones that also ground and support them (Thea, Lyla, Donna, etc), Oliver, Diggle, and Felicity always have each other. If one of them falters, the other(s) step in. If one person can’t see the way through, the others help to create a different plan. When one is feeling guilty or insecure, the others help them regain their balance. They feel secure in their attachments to each other, and that allows them to continue to battle through the ridiculous amounts of stress they face – because they always have each other to lean on.

You are not alone

5. Sense of purpose: For our superheroes, and probably most superheroes, this is the one that they perhaps have the most of, and can truly help them continue to put one foot in front of the other when fighting what seems to be an impossible battle. Each person on Team Arrow is fighting this fight for their own reason, for their own purpose. It is that sense of purpose that leads them to continue to move. Felicity will not wallow in her grief over tens of thousands because she knows she has billions more to protect. Diggle will not allow himself to be consumed by what happened to Andy (yet) because he still has a fight to win against HIVE. And while Oliver may very often truly be the “Guilt Arrow,” even he continues fighting despite the guilt – because this fight gives all of the trauma and pain and horrors that he’s faced meaning.

Three of Us

While there are many other reasons that a person might be extra resilient (early childhood experiences, biological factors, the list goes on…), these five represent a good sample of things that can help us all handle stress more effectively. These five also help us see why OTA works so well together as a team, and how they manage to realistically fight against the odds they face on a weekly basis. While they may be superheroes and therefore have heightened abilities to fight, cope, and effectively deal with supernatural crazy, I believe as fans we still can learn from the way they manage things and maybe pick up a few tips and tricks on how to manage our own lives more effectively by watching them manage theirs.

With that said, while I know for a fact that I would not be able to deal with all of the things that Felicity Felicity and Family.jpghas faced the last few weeks with nearly as much calm and composure as she has, I also understand that we only see small pieces of what’s happening in their lives. FeliOlicity Hugcity is a strong female character who has inspired many of us with her ability to persevere and save the world despite all of the things she’s facing down. But in the spirit of also making sure our expectations for ourselves are realistic, remember that we saw Felicity hug both her father and Oliver, almost seemingly against her will. Remember that we saw her have talks with Curtis and with her mom. While we may not see all of it, Felicity does seem to be seeking out comfort and support to help her carry on through these nightmarish days. She seems to know (even if she hasn’t consciously thought about it) that she can’t do it all on her own.

Throughout season 4, we have seen how Felicity’s increased resilience has not only saved Oliver’s life, but has led to him learning some of those same skills from her. Now, he’s Good things in my lifeable to see things more positively when others can’t, and he is able to keep his positivity even in the face of extreme struggle, as we saw when he talked Thea back into the light in this episode. He never wavered, and he always kept the faith… in Thea, in Felicity, and in himself. Through modeling the resilient behavior, Felicity has effectively taught Oliver how to help not only himself, but hopefully also her and Diggle during these difficult days. While Felicity does seem to be managing and confronting her emotions, how Diggle will cope long term remains to be seen. He continues to work to take down HIVE, but as of now he is not being honest with Lyla, which means he’s not getting the full social support he may need to cope. Just like Oliver pointed out at the end of Season 3, coping with our own issues often means asking for help. Sometimes it’s the only way.

And that is okay.

I think Oliver has finally learned that lesson. Now we sit back and wait to see if Diggle and Felicity have fully learned it too.

OTA

 

*Examples of clinical definitions of resilience:

“The capacity of a dynamic system to withstand or recover from significant challenges that threaten its stability, viability, or development” (Masten, 2011).

“…an outcome of successful adaptation to adversity,” (Reich, Zautra, & Hall, 2010, p. 4).


References

Masten, A. S. (2011). Resilience in children threatened by extreme adversity: Frameworks for research, practice, and translational synergy. Development and Psychopathology, 23(02), 493–506. http://doi.org/10.1017/S0954579411000198

Reich, J. W., Zautra, A. J., & Hall, J. S. (2010). Handbook of adult resilience. New York, NY: Guilford Press. http://doi.org/10.1007/s13398-014-0173-7.2

 

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Processing Fictional Trauma: Monument Point Edition

MASSIVE SPOILERS FOR ARROW 4×21: MONUMENT POINT

READ AT YOUR OWN RISK

Going into this week’s episode of Arrow, I actually wondered whether there would be much trauma for me to write about. It was being advertised as episode 1 of 3 of the season finale, so I thought perhaps they’d leave the heavy hits for closer to the end.

I was wrong.

This episode was titled “Monument Point,” but could also realistically have been called “How Much Trauma Can Felicity Possibly Handle?” While all of the Original Team Arrow (OTA) is facing and dealing with inner demons and epic tragedy, Felicity bore the brunt this week by a wide margin. To spell it out, let’s recap. This week, Felicity:

  • Had to ask her father, who she has a massively strained relationship with, to help her and her team.
  • Had to then work with her father closely for a solid 24 hours while he kept bringing up their painful relationship issues over and over.
  • Had to also work with her ex-fiance, who she had avoided working with before Laurel’s death because she said it was too hard.
  • Got fired from a job which she loves, and which she took over because a dear friend trusted her with it. Oh, and let’s remember it also used to be Queen Consolidated.
  • Got shot at.
  • Wasn’t able to completely stop the nuclear attack, which then led to the death of tens of thousands of people — which happened through a choice she had to make to divert the landing location of the nuclear missile.
  • Honorable mention: Let’s keep in mind that, regardless of any of our feelings about Laurel, the character was a good friend of Felicity’s and she died very, very recently (which Felicity is still carrying guilt about).

 

Felicity Team

In other words, this episode forced Felicity to deal with trauma after trauma, trigger after trigger and to do so relentlessly, and without time to stop to accept comfort or to process it with people she loved. Now, Felicity has been through a tremendous amount of trauma in the past (how she got through Season 3 without a full mental break I’ll never tell you), and she has had times where the team was not able to save the day, but…. while we understand that she saved the world, based on Felicity’s response, I don’t feel that she will be so forgiving of herself.

Tweet 2

In the past when Felicity has needed help… when she is feeling guilty, angry, upset, or having a crisis of confidence, she tends to turn to the people she’s closest to to get support. Oliver, Diggle, Thea, Laurel… they’ve all talked her through difficult times. But now, when she is facing what is likely to be the darkest time of her life, her support system is splintered. Again, let’s recap:

  • Working with her father likely feels like a betrayal of her mother. With Felicity’s dad present, any topic of conversation with her mother would likely center around Donna’s worry and anger about Noah, not about Felicity’s trauma and loss… not to mention Momma Smoak doesn’t know the Green Arrow secret, so Felicity can’t be entirely honest with her.
  • Diggle is so far in his own head over Andy he can’t see much else.
  • Lyla is busy supporting her husband, who is at his darkest time as well.
  • Thea is captured.
  • Laurel is dead.
  • Oliver… her greatest supporter and the current light of the team didn’t have time to comfort her through this crisis (or more people would’ve died), and is now in a room with a super strength Damien Darhk, the outcome of which is unlikely to be good.

 

Felicity Upset

 

This leaves Felicity alone and emotionally isolated — a feeling that many of us have likely experienced and know is one of the worst feelings in the world… especially when it’s compounded by having just experienced a massive trauma. Research in the field of mental health tells us that social support can be one of the most important things in helping to heal after suffering a trauma. This means that Felicity’s current situation could be considered rather emotionally dangerous and ultimately harder to come back from. Obviously our heroes tend to cope with grief and emotional devastation better than your average human, but this event certainly has all the signs of something that will haunt and influence Felicity for a long time to come.

In watching fans react to this episode, people exhibited a tremendous amount of sympathy towards Felicity. But on top of that, there was also a lot of respect sent her way. People understood the impossible position she was put in, and the horrifying decision she had to make and many felt that that made her a bigger superhero than perhaps even Oliver. While he’s had to make major decisions in the past, even he has never had to make the split second decision to sacrifice tens of thousands to save millions. The numbers make the decision seem obvious, but logic often doesn’t affect emotion, especially in the event of a trauma.

 

Despite the respect, however, many people seem interested in watching their fictional heroes be tested, and it makes me think about why that may be. On the one hand, it can be helpful to see our heroes being heroes. It’s inspirational to see people taking tragedy and turning that into Tweet 4wanting to make a difference in the world. It’s something we can relate to and aspire to be like, and watching Felicity this week make a gut wrenching decision to save the world was much like watching Dig make a gut wrenching decision to save his family last week – it’s a terrifying thought, but it may be comforting to think that if Felicity and Diggle can make those kinds of decisions, maybe we can too – even if we’re not sure we want to. But I’m pretty sure that none of us can relate to a person that’s perfect. Therefore, it’s critically important in these stories that we see these characters fail once in a while, whether that’s through regressing to former bad habits or self-imposed emotional isolation. Because watching our beloved characters bounce back from trauma with no repercussions would be disingenuous… and it wouldn’t help us as the viewer at all. We need to see how these characters get through, what strategies they use, what strengths they fall back on, and what moral and emotional foundations finally bring them back to themselves. And we need to see that so that maybe we can use those skills, strategies, and foundations ourselves.

But for the sake of this conversation, let’s turn the tables. What would you recommend for Felicity to help her cope with the horrors she just faced? As a viewer that knows all about her life, if you were her friend and you could get five minutes with her, what would you encourage her to do? Is there anything she can do right now when the world is still facing imminent destruction by Damien Darhk who seems to be Malcolm Merlyn level evil on steroids? Or does she have to wait until they’re past this crisis?

How would you help Felicity find her light again?

 

Felicity

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Perfect: A Modern Day Fairytale

This week, for some untold reason, I decided to Google myself as we all (probably) do occasionally. It had been a long while, and in doing so I stumbled upon a blog that I started several years ago and forgot all about. One of the entries, however, has to do with a romance novel that I’ve been in love with for most of my adult life, and that I actually just re-read again this week. Re-posting that entry here (keeping in mind its multiple years old) seemed like a good idea, as the content is still relevant and my feelings remain the same.


Perfect Collage

I love to read. And because I have an addictive personality, I tend to do what I call “binge reading.” I am not the kind of person that can read a few chapters before bed… when I start reading, I have to cannonball the entire thing in 1-2 days (maybe more for Diana Gabaldon… simply because her books are freaking epics).

I think this is a particularly interesting personality trait when I read Perfect by Judith McNaught. I have read this book conservatively 20 times. It is the only stand alone romance that has every really stuck with me, and about once or twice a year I get the giant urge to re-read… and I always fall back in love with the story. But despite the number of times I’ve read it, when I decided to reread it again this week, I had to stay up until 2am to finish it. I get so wrapped up in the story that I can’t put it down!

I don’t know what it is about this story that captivates me so much. The people in the book are basically the complete opposite of me and my life in many ways… the main character grows up in a small Texan town (after living in foster care for 11 years) and now strives to be Perfect. She’s a school teacher (in same small Texan town), her adoptive father is a minister, and she follows all social protocols of the small southern town even if it goes against everything she wants out of life. The male lead character grows up a super rich kid, his parents die in a car accident, and his grandmother casts him out. He then grows up to be a rich and famous movie star. But even though it talks about how jaded and cynical he is with the sewer that is Hollywood, he’s still a sweet guy with a conscience who (while he has some dick-ish episodes) is ultimately gentle and caring.

So.. is that what the draw is for me? Watching these people who are so unlike me (and seem to live in a different world than I do) find each other and find love? Could be. I also think it’s because their story is a modern-day fairytale. In this day and age it’s not princes that little girls dream about, it’s celebrities. When I was a little girl, my “prince” was Jonathan Knight from the New Kids on the Block. My dream about how we would get together certainly didn’t involve kidnapping, but I would sit around and dream up wild and crazy ways that we would meet and fall in love. And then we would live and love together, and jet all over the world and do whatever we wanted because he was rich and famous. So yeah, maybe I love the story because it’s a pretty good representation of what I think of as a fairy tale.

Either way, I absolutely adore their love story. I usually like more paranormal romance, and maybe in some ways their love story is “fantasy” in this day and age. Two wholesome people who meet under difficult circumstances, but everything ultimately works out Perfectly. In real life, I definitely have all the love that Zach and Julie have, but sometimes the details aren’t so perfect. Real life is stressful, jobs are stressful, money is stressful. If my husband and I both had perfect jobs that made millions of dollars and brought us loads of personal satisfaction, and family wasn’t crazy, and my husband didn’t have kids that he doesn’t get to see enough, and… well, the list goes on, then perhaps then my life would look exactly like Zach and Julie’s. But in reality I know that finding my husband and having the relationship that we have is WAY more Perfect than most humans. And for that – and for having works of fiction which help me remember it – I am thankful.:-)

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Processing Fictional Trauma: Genesis Edition

For the past few weeks, the tone has been a somber one for our team in Star City. Grief has cast its shadow over every situation that’s played itself out on screen, as our team comes to terms with their recent loss. But things changed this week. While the grief still remains, what the Original Team Arrow (OTA – Oliver, Diggle, and Felicity) came to realize is that now that the traumatic loss has occurred, they are left with the very things that we always so intensely want, but in times of crisis may desperately fear:

Choices.

How will they channel this grief? How will they give this loss meaning? And how far are they willing to go to do that?

Canary Cry

For me, superhero stories are so profound because they show us the importance and the consequences – both positive and negative – of choice. In Arrow, the line between heroes and villains is explored frequently and intensely, with Team Arrow desperately trying to keep each other on the side of Good, while many of the villains (Daddy Merlyn for example) think they’re trying to do the same but have actually fallen headlong into Evil. Arrow is forever delving into the idea that while choices define you, redemption is also possible, and they explore that notion through a multitude of angles, characters, and scenarios to highlight the shades of gray in the world on these existential issues.

The Punisher (if you’ll allow me a brief Marvel reference) once said that a superhero was just one bad day away from being him. Is that true? Does that apply to all of us? And if we are, does that also then mean that we’re all one really good day away from being a superhero?

It’s all about choices.

OTA’s choices in this week’s (ridiculously awesome) episode show that everyone changes, Olicity Casino 4and that life is a constant cycle of choices and consequences. Arrow is about the origin story of Oliver Queen, and we have watched him go from feckless boy to stone cold killer to the imperfect but much healthier, mature man and superhero that we know today. Through that journey we’ve watched Felicity and Diggle pull him back from the line between hero and villain any number of times. This week, OTA played musical chairs with their roles on the team. Felicity is working through pushing people away and isolating herself due to reacting strongly to having trust Dylabetrayed, while Diggle has completely lost his ability to be rational when it comes to his family and has now officially done something that has walked him right up to that hero/villain line that Oliver is usually flirting with. And Oliver is now the voice of reason. He is the light and the Yoda of Team Arrow, showing such profound and believable character development that I get a little misty eyed. I’m so proud of Oliver that my heart could burst.

And the fact that he’s fictional doesn’t dampen my feelings even a little.

The reason that I want to spit rainbows all over this episode is because it is so mired in Rainbow-vomithope. Oliver beat back Darhk’s magic not just because he thought of Felicity and his team and the others who have said wonderful things about him… but because he finally, truly believed it. Yes, we saw Diggle destroy a part of his soul, and yes, it hurt. But we saw it happen just as we saw Oliver officially – really and truly – restore his soul to whole after he losI Thought of Yout so much of his. Diggle can and will come back, and Oliver will help him, just as he helped Oliver. Felicity can and will regain her equilibrium in her relationship with Oliver and Oliver will help her believe that people can change, just as she helped Oliver believe it. Their roles are ever shifting, but their relationships remain.

They are family.

In watching the fandom’s reaction on Wednesday, I believe that’s what so many saw, and why so many responded so positively.  We saw characters who love each other band together, to be there for each other no matter what. We saw progress, hope, love, and camaraderie despite such challenging circumstances. We saw imperfect people loving each other regardless of their flaws. Like moths, we are drawn to the light… just like Oliver.

TweetTweet2Tweet3Felicity None of Us Are

But more than just being drawn to the light, we also get drawn into this story and these characters because rooting for them is the same as rooting for ourselves. If Oliver Queen can come back from the horrors that he went through on Lian Yu… pain, torture, betrayal… then maybe we can come back from our traumas and heartbreaks too. If Felicity can have the courage to stand up for herself and her needs in a relationship which she clearly holds dearer than anything in the world, then maybe we have the strength to stand up for ourselves too in our own relationships. If John Diggle is able to do the unthinkable to keep his wife and child safe, then maybe we do too… even if we’re not necessarily sure we want to. While these characters may be fictional, we can relate to them. Their lives are what our lives look like, just with the volume turned WAY up on the fantasy drama. But if they can do these things… well, there might just be hope for us too. And if we aren’t sure, we can go back to Felicity’s words:

“You are not perfect. None of us are. Good news is that all of us can change.”

We just have to make that choice.

Felicity I Believe in You

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Filed under Fangirling, Mental Health