Felicty Smoak, the IT Girl on CW’s Arrow, is one of the most realistic portrayals of a woman who’s working in a traditionally male-dominated field, and the best portrayal of a “hacker”/IT Geek I’ve seen on television or in the popular media.
As a person, the fictional character of Felicity, is smart, nervous around the opposite sex, confident in her abilities, and talented. She’s not perfect, but – unusual for the Super Hero / Comics genre – she’s not there simply to be rescued by Oliver Queen / The Arrow every week.
Unique to Felicity, unlike nearly every “Computer Geek” one sees on TV or in the movies – she isn’t entirely self-taught, and she doesn’t use her abilities like it was magic. She has a college degree – from MIT, no less, one of the most difficult universities in the country to get in to and a university known for it’s rigorous curriculum. You don’t party all the time and graduate from MIT – you just don’t. I love that the writers and producers of Arrow gave Felicity a college degree. In an era where having a university education is increasingly devalued, and even mocked – Arrow‘s heroine is college-educated. I simply love that. And she is a positive role-model for young girls that they can go to college or university, they can get an education, and they can succeed.
I also love that rather than using technology and computer science like magic (and ill-thought-out magic at that), in Arrow, Felicity explains what she’s doing. Not only did she study computer science in school, but she went above and beyond and learned how to do additional things. Felicity has practical skills alongside her education. Yes, the way technology and Felicity’s skills are used to help Oliver sometimes bend credibility – but it is a superhero TV show. I don’t expect the tech to be perfectly accurate. But it’s nice to have the “techie” not be a geeky guy, nor someone who simply suddenly learned to hack for fun, but a beautiful, intelligent, young woman giving Oliver the advice and help he needs. Oliver has few, if any, computer skills – Felicity backs him up with the skills she has. Neither can do everything but they make for a good partnership. John Diggle also helps, by providing not only military skills, knowledge, and experience – but often being the voice of reason between the three main characters. If both Felicity and Diggle tell Oliver he’s wrong – he’ll re-think his plans. And if Felicity criticizes Oliver – he will listen.
The other aspect of Felicity as hero is that what she does and who she is – is possible in the real world. A young girl cannot grow-up to be Wonder Woman, or a Vampire Slayer, or any other super-human female hero. A young girl cannot grow up to be Spiderman or Superman either. And while it might be hard to study and get good grades and work hard to gain a scholarship to get into a university like MIT, it’s not impossible. It’s difficult, yes, but not impossible. And a young woman studying at MIT, make no mistake, is not going to find it easy to graduate either. Top universities such as MIT have a rigorous curriculum, it is hard work. No one gives you a college degree – you earn it. University degrees are earned, step-by-step, day-by-day, class-by-class and there are no short cuts. Not for a real degree. Later on in Arrow, Felicity remarks on how hard she worked simply to get a job in the IT department at Queen Consolidated. And it is hard. For women, a job in technology or science – any field dominated traditionally by men, it is incredibly hard to make it. Women consistently also have to prove themselves and prove their abilities to others. But it’s possible. Which is why I think Felicity is a terrific heroine. And why I think she’s one of the most inspirational women and role models for young girls.