Vanessa on Daredevil went on a date with the devil himself. When Wilson Fisk, the evil mastermind rebuilding Hell’s Kitchen in his vision, takes her to a dinner that gets interrupted by a haggard-looking criminal yelling at Fisk, Vanessa realizes this might not be your average businessman. So on their next date, Vanessa brings a gun. Later that night, they watch the city burn, together.
Vanessa on Daredevil is the baddest B on TV right now.
Vanessa is choosing to get into bed with evil–she doesn’t have to be tricked into it or lied to about it or caught by a trap. She really sees Fisk, and she can tell he isn’t on the level. She chooses to be with him not in spite of this, but because of it. This is a huge contrast with other superhero shows where men hide their misdeeds with tiny bandanas over their eyes, or where everyone is making decisions on women’s behalf while they have no say in the matter.
Another superhero show, Arrow, spent a verrrrrry long time with whip smart Thea not realizing her brother was missing all the same nights the Arrow was crime fighting. And that they kind of looked alike under that hood. And that a vigilante’s team was operating *in the basement of a business she owned*.
Oliver claimed he was hiding his identity as the Arrow to protect Thea, but Thea has faced plenty of tragedy and has fought back, learning how to fight and be a warrior herself. She is self-sufficient, and she runs her own business and she’s good at it. She is the opposite of an incapable person who can’t be in charge of her own life.
What Oliver is really protecting is himself, so he won’t have to have an awkward conversation where he shows his real self to someone he loves. It’s true that it’s hard to be vulnerable, but it’s also true that watching a man lie to a woman so he can stay comfortable doing whatever he wants is a snooze and a half.
The Flash is another show that has been tons of fun, except when a certain woman is involved. It seems like everyone in Central City–and Starling City!–knows that Barry Allen is the Flash, but Iris, who has grown up with Barry and is a professional reporter covering the Flash, can’t figure it out? I mean, the Flash is the exact size and shape of the guy you are secretly in love with and you never once daydreamed that ~maybe~ they were the same person?
It doesn’t make sense! And worse than that, every man in Iris’ life has an opinion on what Iris should know and when, and none of them have included Iris in the conversation. Keeping women out of the loop comes from a misguided, sexist sense of protection (from what, exactly?), but all it does is keep women on the fringe of the story, outside and powerless. And on the Flash, it’s keeping Iris stuck in one place while everyone else speeds ahead and leaves her behind.
But Iris won’t be in the dark forever, just like Oliver couldn’t keep lying to Thea. And hopefully these weak plots to maintain the status quo and hold off the inevitable will give way to richer stories for all of the characters.
Vanessa is exciting because she makes her own choices, and she creates her own power. Sure, Fisk runs Hell’s Kitchen, but Vanessa runs Fisk. When Fisk wants to protect Vanessa and send her out of the country, she says no thank you. She has power and agency in their relationship, and it comes from being on the inside, seeing Fisk when he’s vulnerable, and then using that information to make her own decisions.
It’s so much more interesting to watch a woman choose to stay when things get hard, and know she’s getting involved with a man who does bad things, rather than yet again see a woman who happens to fall into a situation based on everyone else’s choices but her own.
And if it’s all the good guys who are lying? I’d rather be a bad bitch, too.