Philosophy in The Flash (SEASON 1) Post 7
Trust, Alliance & Lies
It’s time for an examination of some ‘Flash fibs!’
One of the most fascinating themes within all super-heroic shows, is the concept of lies, and alliances created to protect identities. Not only does this theme create irresistible drama and inevitable tangles between friends and foes alike, but it creates complexity to our superheroes…as well as some great grounds for dredging up philosophy.
The Philosophy of the Noble Lie
By keeping his public identity a secret, the Flash preserves his privacy and safety whilst fighting crime; avoiding the repercussions of criminals chasing him, his family members or friends down for revenge and use as lures and traps against him. However, there are several people whom Barry entrusts with his identity in order for them to help him, such as his adoptive father, Joe, policeman, Eddie, his co-workers at S.T.A.R Labs and other superheroes/superhero associates.
Barry entrusts pretty much everyone with his secret… except for Iris West: his best friend and love interest, who he typically is supposed to have complete faith and trust in. But is it fair for Barry to have left the one person he should trust, ‘out of the loop’ for her own safety…particularly when he is trusting relative strangers in comparison?
How noble is lying to someone for their safety, when that person is trustworthy enough to handle your secret and important enough to deserve to know the truth?
As the Flash, Barry Allen not only puts on a literal mask but hides his identity in the philosopher Plato’s concept of ‘the noble lie’, that is: the concept of lying or keeping a secret for the protection of someone; yourself or another person.
The nobility of this sort of lying (that is keeping a secret for someone’s protection) is however, questionable.
When Iris begins writing articles on the Flash, his plan of nobly lying to her about his identity to keep her safe backfires, as she is targeted by the Flash’s foes and used as bait. Additionally, by lying, Barry is not only corrupting his relationship and the trust between his best friend and him, but is also corrupting truth itself, according to the father of the ‘categorical imperative’, Immanuel Kant. To Kant, not telling a lie is a moral duty that all people have, even if lying means breaking other moral codes or our own personal ideals and desires. This is because, according to him, telling the truth is a ‘categorical imperative’; an unconditional moral obligation which is binding in all circumstances and is not relative to a person’s intentions or purpose.
Though Barry’s intentions behind lying are noble and good: to keep both himself and his friends safe from harm and blackmail, Kant would say all superheroes should simply tell the truth about their identity despite the risks that entails, for the sake of retaining the purity of truth in their lives. Another thought: how noble is lying to someone for their safety, when that person is trustworthy enough to handle your secret and important enough to deserve to know the truth? Iris West argued this point to her father, Joe -as well as Barry- after she accidentally discovered Barry’s identity as the Flash.
The repercussions of Barry’s lying to Iris and sharing of his secret with Eddie: Iris’ current boyfriend, also results in accumulating tension in their relationship.
Further, as it always seems to happen, despite everyone’s best intentions, it seems that secrets always unravel and despite promises, the truth almost always comes out. So in hindsight, it would have been better and relatively safer for everyone, if Barry had simply told Iris the truth of his identity in the first place.
Watch video from 1.26 for Iris’ confrontation of Barry after she discovers he is the Flash.
But we’re not done with you yet, Barry Allen…
Barry’s alliances and relationships of trust with Caitlin Snow, Cisco Ramon and Dr. Harrison Wells prove also to be impacted by lying and deception throughout Season 1 of The Flash. But how does trust work?
Keep a look out!
Missed the last two posts on Philosophy in The Flash?