As beautiful and iconic as the proposal was, the thing that stood out to me as it was unfolding, the thing that stayed with me the most when it was over, was the imagery and what it means outside of the show’s narrative. It was important. I don’t think I can emphasize enough how important it was. Historically, Hollywood has not been kind to black women. When we’re fortunate enough to appear on screen at all, it’s usually in singular, familiar (read: comfortable) ways: strong, single, silent, sassy, unrealistically perfect, best friend to everyone while selflessly shouldering all of our burdens alone. It’s frustrating. It’s demoralizing. It’s tiresome. And it’s utter bullshit.
We don’t get love songs sung to us. We don’t get not one, but two romantic proposals in one season let alone at all. We don’t get to be the love of someone’s life. We rarely get to be vulnerable and unsure and carefree and overwhelmed and ecstatic and cry tears of joy within the narrative of a story in this way. It rarely happens. It’s not about “just being the love interest” as is so frequently the charge when a black woman is the love interest (which is still the exception and not the rule). And it’s certainly not about being validated by a white man or the white gaze. It’s about black women having been historically presented as not needing love, not being worthy of love, not being worthy of being cherished, not being worthy of being protected at the same time that we can do all those things for ourselves.
Little black girls needed to see this. Black women needed to see this. A society that constantly reiterates to the world every single day that black women aren’t beautiful, aren’t feminine, aren’t worthy and are “less than” needed to see this.
Love, hate or feel nothing at all toward Westallen and Iris West, this was a big deal. It may not seem like it to some, but it was. Representation matters. But optics matter just as much.
***And to my fellow Richonners, what I said above also applies to the King and Queen of the apocalypse. Rick may not have said those four little words, but what he did say was basically a proposal. What happened between them in that abandoned school (and the rest of the episode) mattered, and it was just as important.