For those of you that have been watching Season 3 of Arrow, I’m sure you have formed an opinion on the show’s character Ray Palmer. Many are charmed by his quirky brand of genius, but I am not fooled. Ray Palmer is a misogynist, and a creepy one with no boundaries at that.
Let me explain: Since his entrance into the show, Ray has continually engaged in behavior that we can’t just turn a blind eye to. Ray Palmer has proven to be narcissistic, patronizing and honestly pretty creepy.
We’ll start with the narcissism. Is anyone else wondering why Ray Palmer is at EVERYTHING?!?!?!? A meeting with the city council, the chief of police, and the DA’s office: why of course Ray should be there. Secret rendezvous to confront the criminal boss controlling half of the city: who better to accompany Captain Lance and the mayor than Ray Palmer. Dig and Lyla’s friend can’t officiate their wedding: let’s awkwardly insert Ray Palmer. The last example aside (that was an emergency after all), why does Ray feel like he has to be a part of everything that concerns the city. I understand the desire to help, but why does he get a seat at the table? He is after all just a local businessman, as far as the citizens of Starling know anyhow. Ray Palmer is not an elected official, he is not trained to protect and serve, he is just a well-intentioned, rich white boy. So why does he get to give input on the city’s safety?!?!?! (No seriously, someone please answer this question)
And now on to how he treats women. Ray Palmer is that guy we’ve all known; the one who can totally say the right thing, but whose actions reflect something else entirely. Ray Palmer tells Felicity all of the right things: she’s brilliant, she’s his partner, and that he loves her. However, none of his actions match up. Felicity is brilliant, we as viewers have known this for three seasons. If Ray really thought so, he would have done quite a few things differently. Firstly, he never would have strong armed her into working for Palmer Technologies. Was her talent being wasted at a Best Buy knock off…well, yes, but when you truly respect someone’s brilliance you present them with an opportunity and let them decide their course of action. When you don’t get the answer you want, you respect their decision making (especially if you think they’re so brilliant) and back off. You DO NOT find a sneaky way to force them to work for you. Secondly Ray, you do not take the technology they have developed WITHOUT THEIR CONSENT and then use it for a purpose you 100% know they wouldn’t be ok with. That is not how you treat a partner or anyone you respect, and you certainly don’t love people you don’t respect.
Further, Ray insults both Felicity and Laurel’s intelligence when they try to stop him from exposing Oliver as The Arrow. He tells both of them because of their “feelings” past or present for Oliver, they couldn’t possibly see the situation rationally (by rationally he means the way he sees it). Damn. If I had a dollar for every time a man tried to undermine my position on an issue by saying I was too emotional…well let’s just say I wouldn’t be quite so worried about my student loans. Laurel is a phenomenal attorney who was able to battle addiction and transfer her grief into a strong will to protect her fellow citizens. Felicity is a computer science genius who has effectively been the mastermind behind the technical operations of a vigilante cause for the past few years. And Ray wants to tell them that their judgement can’t be taken seriously because of their “feelings”. FUCK OUTTA HERE.
Lastly, the creep factor, and possibly the biggest reason those in Ray Palmer’s corner need to exit immediately and then sit their asses down. From the jump, Ray ignores social boundaries and engages in behavior that literally makes my skin crawl. If someone who took my friend’s company wanted me to work for them, and instead of accepting my refusal decided to buy the company I currently worked for, so I was forced to work for him, I’d be creeped out. Unfortunately, it only goes downhill from here. Once Felicity does in fact work for Palmer Technologies, Ray is so excited by an idea he has that he just shows up at Felicity’s house to discuss it. Ummmm…No. You DO NOT show up at your female employee’s house uninvited and unannounced. If that weren’t bad enough when Felicity and Ray go on a “work date” he buys her a couture cocktail dress and rents her a 10,000 dollar diamond necklace for the occasion. These gifts are unnecessarily extravagant and inappropriate. Once again, she’s his employee. Additionally, what do these gifts mean? Are they entering a social contract? Does Felicity know “owe” Ray something for his “kindness”? And worst of all, when Felicity avoids Ray after their kiss he tracks her cell phone to find her. I’m sorry…what? A girl wasn’t answering your calls, so you tracked her cell phone. What the fuck is wrong with Ray Palmer????
Now here’s the thing. Men act like Ray Palmer all the time in real life. So to create a character like this isn’t really the problem, it’s how the other characters respond to the problematic behavior. Ray Palmer is allowed to get away with it all, and it’s just passed off as quirky. Ray Palmer’s behavior is not cute, it is not quirky. The other characters need to convey that his stalkerish tendencies are not endearing, but problematic and disconcerting. If the writers are creating these situations and then not addressing them, we have a problem. In fact, the one time the writers do address how weird it was for Ray to buy the place where Felicity worked just so she would work for him, Felicity defends him. She says “it sounds creepy, but it’s not”. Sorry girl, normally I’m always with you but not on this (internalized misogyny strikes again…le sigh). What Ray did was creepy, and totally not OK. Why isn’t anyone telling him this. I get the feeling that he might actually listen. Do the writer’s not see how problematic he is? Have they not had the feeling of unease when a male in their life is crossing too many boundaries? Could this be because most of the people that write and run the show themselves are men???
I love Arrow. I will watch that show every week until the last episode airs and then relive the magic on Netflix. But it is so upsetting to continually see the character of Ray Palmer act this way. I know the writers can re-imagine and redesign the characters from the comics and create something truly amazing, so why did they fall short here?
Well, regardless of my opinion there will be an Arrow spin off series centered around Ray Palmer. I will not be tuning in. (Sorry Caity Lotz, not even for the Canary). But the character of Ray Palmer should make us think. What do we want out of our television shows? Television does far more than entertain, it either reinforces existing social hierarchies and patterns or it challenges them. In a comic book show that has women kicking ass, taking names, and actually passes the Bechdel tests, how do we explain Ray Palmer?