The Ralph Dibny Problem: The Wrong Hero At The Wrong Time on ‘The Flash’

The Flash Season 4 Episode 6 / Ralph Dibny
Season 4 of The Flash has introduced a new addition to Team Flash with the introduction of Ralph Dibny, a man who, in the comics, is an intelligent private investigator called The Elongated Man and has the ability to stretch his body to incredible lengths.

The Flash has somewhat reimagined Dibny into a fairly arrogant character. He and Barry have a tumultuous relationship after they briefly worked together in the Central City PD. Barry actually got Dibny fired from the force after he discovered Dibny planted evidence at a crime scene to get someone in jail for murder. Years later, he’s become a P.I. and gained superpowers after Cisco and the team freed Barry from the Speed Force, exposing Ralph to a wave of dark matter. Since then, Ralph has come under Barry’s tutelage on how to use his powers for good and help people.

Barry’s Teaching 

The last couple episodes have focused a lot on Barry in the role of a mentor once again to a new person with abilities. Whereas before he had the experience of using the Speed force to guide Wally, he instead has to teach Ralph the basics of heroics and how to use his powers responsibly and help people rather than himself.

That lesson came up in a big way on The Flash Season 4 Episode 6 as Barry taught Ralph the importance of putting the safety of civilians first over catching the bad guy. Though Ralph is still arrogant (and even misogynistic to the female members of the team), he’s beginning to catch on and is less selfish than when we first met him. It’s nice to see Barry’s good nature continue to influence even the most difficult of people.

Ralph’s Treatment of the Women

However, it is quite clear that Ralph Dibny isn’t exactly a team player. Though he’s lightened up since his introduction and become more likable, he’s still rather condescending not just to Barry, but to the rest of the team. This would be problematic, but the real drawback comes from Ralph’s treatment of all the women on the show. Ralph’s characterization on the show has been that of a womanizer, or at least a wannabe womanizer as he attempts to seduce every woman he comes across, but I already mentioned he’s rather misogynistic. He’s come on to Iris, Caitlin (and her alter-ego Killer Frost) as well as Joe’s new fiancé, Cecile. He even hijacked Barry’s bachelor party by taking them all to a strip club where he even came onto Cecile’s young daughter.

This is problematic not just because of Ralph’s characterization (he was never a womanizer in the comics), but because this is just unnecessary for The Flash. This type of “humor” is very crude and unwarranted, especially with such great female characters like Iris and Caitlin. “When Harry Met Harry” even included a joke where Ralph can identify a woman’s measurements just by sight, showing how much of a pig he really is.

The Flash doesn’t need this type of humor. The characters deserve better treatment than this and it’s just unnecessary to make Ralph demean these characters just for laughs. The CW’s shows already have enough of this problem on Arrow where very few of the female characters have not slept with Oliver Queen or died to enhance his story. It certainly doesn’t look good given the current controversy in Hollywood around sexual harassment and at the Arrow-verse’s producers Andrew Kreisberg and Marc Guggenheim.

Where’s Wally?

The problem of Ralph intensifies when one looks at the diminished role of Wally West, aka Kid Flash. The Flash didn’t even wait one episode after Wally left on a journey of self-discovery to introduce a potential new sidekick and member to Team Flash by bringing in Ralph.

I’ve already talked in my reviews on the subject of Wally, but I will repeat it here. The show missed a huge opportunity to showcase Wally and his growing role as Kid Flash by bringing Barry back so soon. I had hoped Barry would have remained in the Speed Force for a few episodes, giving Wally a chance to evolve into a better speedster and hero for Central City, but they sadly brought Barry back as soon as they were able.

Not only that, but in the couple of episodes Wally was in he was sidelined hard. He didn’t even get to do anything in his last appearance before leaving the team. Wally at least got to vocalize his displeasure at being sidelined when he asked the team if they even knew where he was during the episode’s conflict. It’s odd the show felt it better to just get rid of Wally for the time being rather than focus on his growing position as a superhero or continue his journey of self-discovery onscreen.

While Ralph’s arc has been intriguing, it definitely sucks his replaced an already great sidekick in Wally. However, his story doesn’t make up for his arrogant and sexist attitude. The Flash and its audience deserves better than unnecessary and crude jokes aimed at the female cast’s expense. While it’s nice to see another fan-favorite DC hero enter the picture, it’s very unfortunate Wally’s exit and Ralph’s portrayal are the cost for expanding The CW’s Arrow-verse.

 

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What is your opinion of Ralph Dibny? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on The CW! Follow The TV Type on Twitter!

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