Thank you, Arrow

Subject: Thank you, Arrow
From: Menna Zahra
Date: 30 Mar 2016

How many of these have you been getting lately? It's kinda ridiculous but add this one to the pile.
First off, I want to say how incredible Arrow's success has been, and how elated I am to have been someone that got to see it happen. Ratings up in the fourth season? Not a very common thing. To me, the writing is continually improving. I never trust in EPs because I've been bitten so many times before, but I always take the Arrow writers and EPs out of that generalization because, by ANY normal standards, the writers have delivered and surpassed all expectations.
Now this is my personal story, but I did feel like sharing, since it seems like we are content just winning the show awards to get it more publicity while people who apparently don't own a remote and don't know how changing the channel works choose to channel their vitriol into a letter that they, instead of just putting it out there into the universe like you're supposed to do with these things, choose to spam people with until they cave in and read what can only be described as hate disguised as "criticism". So here's the opposing side to that.
I've always had a special connection to television. I lived in a country that viewed women's rights as a mere suggestion that they weren't too fond off. We were treated as second class citizens and doomed to a destiny of an arranged marriage and raising a family. I lost my father there and because that country is structured the way it is, to this day I can't even visit his grave. I'm not sharing this for sympathy. I'm sharing this to share one of a million stories of why television is more than just a fictional thing that you turn on when you're bored. To some people, as it was to me, television is an escape. It's an outlet into a freedom that you long to have because the current world you live in is not somewhere you want to stay. That's how my connection to television began. After my father died, I spent 3 months watching nothing but Friends. I have every single line of the show memorized, and it was the most wonderful distraction I could've asked for because in real life all everyone was doing was looking at me sympathetically like my puppy just died... well I guess that's close but anyway..
Then I rewatched Buffy, and this is where I learned the importance of strong female role models. I was in a country that did nothing but tell me that women are good for nothing but carrying babies. But here I was, watching this show that was telling me women can be heroes. I knew it was fictional and that I'm not a vampire slayer, but the message was there, and that message is SO important to me. I know I wouldn't have believed in myself enough to be where I am today if it wasn't for that message.
This is all just to showcase one thing. Representation matters. It matters SO much. I'm now on a presidential scholarship to one of the top private schools in the country BECAUSE of that representation. To SO many people, television isn't just what you enjoy doing on your Wednesday night, it's an emotional attachment. That's why when I did get into college and realized we have a film/tv school and it's one of the top in the country I didn't hesitate to take that on as a course of studies. Television has SUCH a powerful influence on society, and that's why I'm so incredibly grateful to the writers behind this show. Not just because of the entertainment content you put out, but because I believe you set SO many healthy examples that you don't see that often on TV.
Felicity Smoak is such an important character to me because she is something I had no idea was missing from our screens, but once the audience saw her, they realized that hey, we need this. Why hasn't this existed before? Felicity Smoak is a female hero in her own right. A female hero that you can encounter every day in your life. A female hero that I RELATE to on every level. I'm someone who prides herself entirely on her brains. I can't punch someone in the face really hard but I sure as hell can psychoanalyze the crap out of them. I never knew how lacking television was in that area until Felicity Smoak was introduced. Because not only is she smart, she's not portrayed as a neurotic genius who is ONLY there to be smart. She's multi-dimensional, and that happens SO SO rarely on television that I still smile in pride as I watch her character development. Who has a woman in their life that only IS one thing? You can only do computers. You have to look and fit the role of a neurotic nerd. You can only do kickboxing. You have to look and fit the stereotype of an athletic woman. No no no no no. Women AREN'T this one dimension that TV shows portray them to be. And Felicity Smoak isn't either and the show did such a beautiful job making this character someone that will be watched years from now when all the dust has settled and viewed as an incredibly powerful representation of real women. Real women cry. Real women have emotions. Real women get hurt. Real women can be smart and wear bright lipstick and dresses at the same time. Real women can be CEOs but in successful, healthy relationships at the same time. And Felicity Smoak is one of the VERY first times I ever saw that showcased so powerfully on television.
There is a great documentary called the Celluloid Closet that I got to watch in class recently, and some of the quotes in it really hit the nail on the head on why Felicity Smoak is such an important character to so many people. Susan Sarandon said of movies "It can encourage you to be the protagonist of your own life. On the other hand it can completely misshape you." That's the kind of power mediums like movies and television has. And this is the kind of power you utilized to make someone like me accept who she is. When I see a character like Felicity Smoak get attacked by white males who have never faced oppression in their lives because she "cried" or because she took her ring off, I DO take it as a personal offense. Because SO many of us see ourselves in Felicity Smoak because it is SO rare to see a representation of a woman that showcases her full range of emotion and how women TRULY are in real life, that when you come across one you hold onto it tooth and nail and an attack on her becomes an attack on you. Why is she so dramatic? Why did she leave him? Why is she this why is she that?
Why? Because that's the most realistic portrayal.
Felicity Smoak on so many occasions has gotten attacked for doing what ANY woman with a single iota of self-respect would do in the same situation. She cried when the man she loved died, just like I cried when my father died. She took off her ring when she found out the man she loved had a secret child that he knew about and didn't tell her, just like ANY woman in her situation would.
Actually can we just talk about that for a second. Can you even IMAGINE finding out your fiance has been keeping a SON from you and sticking around? Because I sure as hell can't. No matter how much I love him. And no matter what excuses he had since the show did a good job showing how Thea and Barry and Malcolm knowing actually affected her. And I don't know if anyone claiming that she should get over it has been even watching the show or putting themselves in a character's shoes because I don't understand how that's even an argument that exists.

This show has had some of the most realistic characters and events in a not-so-realistic setting. And that's a feat most shows can't claim. What makes the MOST powerful shows what they are is putting real characters that people relate to in unreal situations. Like putting a frat boy on a deserted island. Or like putting an IT girl behind an arrow-wielding vigilante. I can still relate to these characters and view them as real and that's why their struggle is so important to me. That's why Felicity Smoak and Oliver Queen finding each other is so important to me. Because she's a genius CEO but she's also a woman who fell in love with a man and the show decided ok she can BE both those things. She doesn't have to be of a specific type of woman to fall in love with a specific type of man. That's not how it happens in real life, and that's not how it happened on Arrow. And the relationship drama. Oh I'm sorry who grew up in a household where everything was all butterflies and rainbows cause I sure as hell didn't. Pretty much every long-term couple I've known has had a break at some point due to some issue or another. It's all REAL.
Oliver Queen isn't perfect. Felicity Smoak isn't perfect (but some people like to call her a Mary-Sue then point out her flaws so I'm not entirely positive which it is). Oliver Queen is a realistic portrayal of a man put in an unrealistic situation. Felicity Smoak is a realistic portrayal of a woman (literally that's it. that's what's got everyone riled tf up). Olicity is the perfectly imperfect union of what a healthy adult relationship looks like. And that's a beautiful example to set, and it's so enlightening to watch.
Literally every single person complaining didn't WANT realistic. They wanted comic book level realism, which is NOT that high. I love comic books, sure I didn't read Green Arrow but that's simply because it wasn't one of the comic books they had translated and distributed back home, but I LOVE comic books in general, and I have an entire Arabic collection that I would be happy to showcase once I go back for a visit. But they're not television. You cannot take a medium that has SO many different elements and expect to just stick it on TV like it's nothing. SO much more is involved, and most importantly the general audience that makes up the majority of TV viewers is involved. General audience doesn't watch something if they don't relate to the characters. General audience isn't gonna tune in if you just follow the comic books and nothing else. Because they don't know the comic books and don't care about them. They do however care about the powerful story unfolding before them with characters they connect to because they see a piece of themselves in every one of them. This is just to clarify why there's a division even at all, because I know if this were any other show that was not based on a comic book medium, it would probably be one of the most celebrated shows out there for its portrayal of so many different elements that people always complain about needing more of on TV.
Anyway, I feel like I'm missing a lot, but I can go on about the show for a week. I just want to thank the writers for making this something people can connect to and get attached it; if you didn't have general audience hooked and invested, I would've never discovered the show because I was introduced to it by general audience members who told me that I was gonna LOVE the blonde genius. I do. I really do love the blonde genius. Thank you to the incredible actors, especially Stephen Amell and Emily Bett Rickards, for acting the crap out of those actors and making their connection so tangible that it awakens emotions in people that may have not been reached before. Thank you to the EPs for not engaging in a game of tug of war and picking your horse. Thank you for not making this a juvenile and unrealistic case of forcing something simply because it existed once in some source materials even when it wouldn't make sense on screen and making it instead about mature, loving relationships and friendships that manage to strengthen the crime-fighting plots even more because they give them something to keep them grounded. I don't think you get shown enough appreciation, so just thank you.