Turning Felicity Smoak into Oracle is a Terrible Idea
If you’re allergic to spoilers and have not yet seen the mid-season finale to Arrow, turn back now.
Good. So Felicity ended the season in a bit of a pickle. She survived a gas chamber and put a ring on it, only for her limo to be riddled with bullets. Felicity Smoak, hacker extraordinaire and love interest to Oliver Queen, could well be dead. Except nobody believes that will be the case, as the actress has already been seen on set for the nest season and because nobody really dies in this show. Felicity will be back, the only question is what kind of shape she will be in.
As reported on comicbook.com one popular theory is that Felicity will take up the role of Oracle, a DC universe character and alternate identity to Barbara Gordon. The reasoning being this is that Oracle was a wheelchair bound character after suffering a gun shot, and is an expert computer hacker who provides support for vigilante characters (usually Batman and his crew). As the comicbook.com article states, the Arrow showrunner has said that Felicity will get a codename in the future.
So it seems likely that Felicity Smoak could well become Oracle in the near future. I have a problem with this. Not just the alpha-nerd rage about Barbara Gordon’s codename being napped for another character either.
Let’s wind the clock back to 1988 when DC released the Alan Moore scripted, Brian Bolland illustrated one-shot comic ‘The Killing Joke’, widely considered to be one of the best Batman stories ever written. Batman is questioning his dynamic with The Joker, knowing that their back-and-forth is going to wind up with one of them killing the other, and he wants to at least try to reason with him before it comes to that. It turns out that he’s already to late because The Joker has already escaped Arkham and is unrolling a plan to drive Commissioner Gordon insane. The first step in his plan involves turning up at his door and shooting his teenage daughter in the gut. Barbara Gordon is mortally wounded and The Joker pursues his plan only to be foiled by Batman. Barbara, who was Batgirl, was left paralysed and it was intended that she would be written out of the story.
Some people did not take kindly to this suggestion, especially editor Kim Yale and John Ostrander, who vowed to ensure that the character wouldn’t be left to fade into obscurity. Gordon was one more female character to join the depressing ‘Women in Refrigerator’ list maintained by writer Gail Simone. For those unaware, this list keeps track of the female characters who have been killed, mutilated or de-powered for the purpose of motivating the male characters into action. The name comes from the 1994 Green Lantern story where the hero finds his girlfriend dismembered and packed into his fridge, written only to give the hero a reason to fight the bad guy. Barbara Gordon was Batgirl, a main character and well known hero, who makes a one page appearance in a major story and left paralysed only to give Batman a reason to beat up the Joker, because he didn’t already have one apparently. This is a definite case 0f a female character being written out for the sake of a male hero.
Thanks to the intervention of Yale and Ostrander the character was kept on as a major part of the Batverse. Having been established as having a high intellect, Barbara took on the codename Oracle and served as a data and observation hub for the Bat-family. She kept everyone in contact, provided information and hacked everything that needed hacking. She maintained a strong physique and mastered the use of hand-to-hand weapons that she could use from her wheelchair. Being restricted by a wheelchair was a blow to Gordon. She had been a physically exuberant character. Trained in ballet, she took up the mantle of Batgirl largely for the thrill of the adventure. She revelled in swinging through the city and taking on bad guys, pushing herself to the physical limits. Becoming Oracle was not a necessity or a compromise, but a redirection of her energies and passions. It was a positive and powerful character development, and she was a massive hit with both readers and critics. DC faced more backlash for restoring her ability to walk in 2011 than they did for making her Oracle to begin with.
Now compare that to Felicity Smoak going through the same transition. Felicity is already a master computer technician and hacker who provides support and communication for the team of vigilantes who work with Green Arrow. Becoming Oracle would have her doing the exact same thing in a wheelchair. She won’t need to redefine herself as a character the same way Barbara Gordon did. The only…ONLY…reason this would be done is to give Oliver Queen a reason to go gunning for Damien Darhke. They’re making this personal by crippling his girlfriend.
Making Felicity Smoak into Oracle will not only add her to list of women in refrigerators, but fly in the face of the objections people raised to Barbara Gordon being paralysed in the first place. The creation of Oracle flew in the face of a long standing narrative tradition of murdering women for the sake of motivation, and now they’re using the name brand to do just that.
I have a problem with Felicity Smoak being made Oracle.