Why ‘Supergirl’ is the superhero TV show we need

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Last week the much anticipated series premiere of Supergirl aired on CBS, drawing in an audience of 12.9 million viewers, making it the number one ranked premiere of the new television season. Made by the people responsible for Arrow and The Flash, Supergirl is the story of Superman’s cousin Kara Zor-El and her journey of following in her cousin’s foot steps to be a hero on earth. It is also the first female lead superhero tv show in a long, long time.

Here’s the thing:

Supergirl has proved exactly why we need a show like this.

Supergirl is absolutely chock full of positive feminist messages. Not only that, it brings them up and talks about them freely and without hesitation, refusing to avoid it like so many other shows do in order to hit the young male demographic.

There is a great scene between Kara and her boss Cat Grant (played by Calista Flockhart, and oh my gosh I really want to go watch some Ally McBeal right now) where Cat has taken it upon herself to dub this new hero ‘Supergirl’. Kara argues that she should be called Superwoman instead, that calling her a girl minimises her importance and suggests they are anit-feminist (yeah, they said the f-word in a show based on a comic book. Hallelujah!). Cat hits back with “What do you think is so bad about girl? I’m a girl. And your boss, and powerful, and rich, and hot, and smart. So if you perceive Supergirl as anything less than excellent, isn’t the real problem you?” Damn, that really hits the spot.

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There are some great moments between Kara and her human sister Alex as well. When Director Henshaw exclaims that Kara isn’t strong enough to fight the bad guy, her sister jumps in with: “Why, because she’s a girl? That’s exactly what we’re counting on.” Using already perceived notions of femininity equalling weakness to defeat bad guys is one of my favourite tropes, bless you Supergirl writers. I guess it’s a blessing that the only misogyny comes from the very-obviously-evil alien guy – “Females bow before males on my planet.”

In terms of entertainment value, Supergirl is super fun. It’s refreshing to watch a hero show where the lead isn’t broody and full of man-pain; Kara is peppy and cute and smiley for 95% of the episode, but not in the annoying way. And for anyone worried that an extensive knowledge of the DC universe is mandatory for viewing, worry not. Even if you only have a vague idea of who Superman is, Supergirl is still easy to follow. It do esn’t rely heavily on comic book lore, but there are some great easter eggs for any DC fans who are watching closely.

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On top of all of that, they are not afraid to directly address the lack of female heroes in the media today. A waitress in a diner watching footage of Supergirl stop a plane crash remarks: “Can you believe it? A female hero. It’s nice for my daughter to have someone like that to look up to.” Bingo. That is why this show is so important. That’s why the upcoming Womder Woman movie is so important. That’s why both Marvel and DC need to be giving their female heroes their own shows and films.  Because little girls all over the world need their own heroes. Not sidekicks, or heroes’ girlfriends, or sassy supporting characters. Their own heroes.

This is a show that is aimed at women, fully comprehending that women and young girls love superheroes too. And to that I just want to say:

Fucking finally. And thank you.

And the best part is, its not too late to catch up! Episode 2 only aired this week, get on that stat!

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11 comments

  1. swanpride · November 3, 2015

    Couldn’t disagree more. To me Supergirl feels unintentionally sexist, which is a big let-down after we got so many great characters in Agent Carter and Agent of Shield.

    The thing with supergirl is that they took the character and basically made her a female Superman. And what is the difference between to a male Superman? Well, Superman pretends to be awkward as part of his disguise. Supergirl actually IS awkward. Superman has Jimmy Olson as geeky side-kick so that he can be rescued from time to time. Supergirl has Jimmy Olson as hunky mentor who holds her hand when her boss was mean to her again.

    There were two moments in the pilot which made my blood boil. One was the “calling yourself is empowering” speech. No! Just No! there is nothing empowering about a term which implies “you are not an adult, you are just a silly little girl playing around”. The second was the “she will do it because she is a girl!” speech. I am all for girl power, but to claim that someone can do something because of his or her gender is sexism. If someone has already lost a fight against someone else, chances is that he or she will lose again. That’s reality.

    The thing is that the Supergirl from the comics does offer the base for a character which doesn’t stand in the shadow of the “better Superman”. Aside from the name there being less grating because Supergirl actually is a teen and is therefore entitled to be still a little bit immature (a character trait which isn’t particularly charming in a grown woman if you ask me – or man for that matter), what makes her stick out is that she can remember Krypton and has therefore trouble to adjust to human society.

    In short, hanging some lampshades doesn’t make a TV show or movie progressive…if that were true, Ant-man would be the most progressive movie ever for constantly pointing out how unfair it is that Hope isn’t the heroine of the story in the first place. What makes a show progressive are well written, layered female characters. Hopefully Jessica Jones will do better.

    Like

    • Lauren · November 3, 2015

      Hi there! You are entitled to your opinion, just as I’m entitled to mine. I thought Supergirl was great fun, I thought it had a lot of positive messages for young girls, and I’m really keen to watch more. In regards to the “girl” term, I think the point Flockhart’s character was making is that ‘girl’ is a term that we have been made to think is belittling to women because of the way men have used it. She is suggesting that we should use whatever terms we like, because its our lives? Think how the TV show Girls is called Girls; I like to think its part of taking the term back. Thanks for reading 🙂

      Like

      • swanpride · November 4, 2015

        I think that there is a reason why a man is insulted when someone calls him a boy and it is kind of worrisome that so many females are so ready to let go of their claim to adulthood.

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  2. Jessica Van Der Linden · November 3, 2015

    I hadn’t even heard about this! I’m so excited now, I need to go and watch it! I was going to have an issue with the fact that her costume still includes a short skirt, because come on, that’s ridiculous for combat. But i saw that it isn’t that short and she also wears tights underneath, so I’m fine with it.

    Pick up you sword and your tampons, this is a call to arms!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Racheal · November 4, 2015

    ‘Broody and full of man pain.’ LOL. Sounds just like the last 5 seasons of Supernatural (it pains me to say that, but it’s true)… Would we classify the brothers Winchester as superheroes? Super sexy for certain, but it’s getting to a stage where their main pain is even killing that (Forgive me, Dean Winchester) but I digress –

    Admittedly I don’t know much about the whole superman/supergirl universe, but I don’t get the whole girl/woman issue that seems to be happening here. Could it be that she isn’t called superwoman because it sounds dumb? Too much like Wonder Woman? Was she much younger in the comics? Was she in fact a girl? Ultimately these are characters from a different era, when gender roles were defined differently. It’s nice that they’re being revamped for modern audiences but there’s some things you just can’t fuck with or it defeats the purpose of using the whole character.

    I’m happy there’s a female lead superhero drama happening for all the superhero drama fans and I’m hoping this proves to be a positive influence in young girl viewers … maybe that’s why she’s called super girl, so girls who are not yet women can identify with her as opposed to seeing her as too old to be their role model? Whatever. I’m just super excited that she is looking way healthier than Callista Flockhart during her Ally McBeal days . Sorry Lauren, but fuck me, any positivity in that show was overshadowed by the fact that it was a living promotion for eating disorders.

    You go, Supergirl, get out there and wear your cape and tights – but I’m going to be super sad and pissed off if you show up in season two having lost 20 kilos (Not mentioning any names…Buffy) it’s about time young girls had a positive role model to admire.

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    • Lauren · November 4, 2015

      True, its been a while since I watched Ally McBeal, so maybe I didn’t realize at the time as I was so young. And yeah, she was called Supergirl in the comics, and she is a younger character (one of those perpetually young ones, like Spiderman), so calling her a girl is accurate. I think its one of those terms that some women have a problem with (which is totally fine), but really, this show is putting ‘girl’ back into a positive light. And at the end of the day, its a show for girls to watch and have someone to look up to, so girl is an appropriate term.

      Like

  4. Racheal · November 4, 2015

    Thanks for clearing up some of the comic mythology for me. I don’t know if I have ever seen Supergirl anywhere. I only remember Batgirl and she was just bloody well awful.

    Like

    • Lauren · November 4, 2015

      GASP! I’m going to have to make a Batgirl post now to change your mind! 😀

      Like

      • Racheal · November 4, 2015

        Can it not mention Alicia Silverstone or Chris O’Donnell? Or George Clooney, or their plastic nipples? I’m old. Val Kilmer is the only Batman I will recognise and his movie only has the Riddler

        Like

      • Lauren · November 4, 2015

        Hahaha can do, maybe I’ll do a Batgirl in the Comics post instead. With a side of Batman The Animated Series, because that was the best.

        Like

  5. alanamyoung · November 5, 2015

    Yo girl!

    I haven’t seen the pilot yet but this is everything I hoped it would be! Good tv shows with strong female leads are so few and far between that it’s always a win when we get a new one, and it’s double the win that it’s a superhero show – a genre that is dominated by male characters and male audiences. And when Marvel seems so reluctant to put a girl in the spotlight, this wins DC a lot of points in my book.

    Hopefully it’ll show people that audiences aren’t just confused or bored by female leads (not that we haven’t given them every shred of evidence possible already) and make other studios more eager to get in on this crazy new trend!

    As for the girl/woman debate: a word like that is only degrading if you give it the power to be. Obviously some people think of “girl” as a negative word, but why should it be? We are girls, we know girls, we love girls, and we were raised by girls. Why put them down by thinking of that as a bad thing?

    Love you girl!

    Liked by 1 person

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