There are a million think-pieces floating around the internet on whether or not the current influx of superhero movies and TV shows is a fad. I would argue the opposite, and that the form is forcibly making its way into the commonplace among genre filmmaking and television in general. The truth is that superheroes are important. They might not impact you, a 30-year-old white male sitting behind a desk as you read this, but they influence people, specifically children, now more than ever because of the genre exploding onto all entertainment media. To be honest, this isn’t about the genre impacting adults at all. It’s about the next generation of children growing up to pursue their own dreams and goals.
On CW’s The Flash, Oliver Queen tells Barry Allen on his first day as a superhero, “You can do better because you can inspire people in a way I never could.” While this conversation is between a white thirty-something-superhero and a white twenty-something-superhero, the moral remains the same. Every generation should have the opportunity to be inspired before they go out into the world and share their own inspirations. Superheroes are a big part of that. Yes, superheroes are for children, but that shouldn’t be a bad thing. We love throwing around phrases like, “Children are the future,” so wouldn’t we need an understanding of things that could possibly shape our future? Men and women in capes are going to be around for a while, and we need to make them count.
Supergirl is hardly the first superhero show, and it’s not even the first program based on a female caped crusader. So why is this superhero show so important? It all goes back to the simple truth of superheroes being more important than we realize. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about the meat and potatoes of Kara Zor-El’s debut.
Supergirl is the next step in Greg Berlanti’s plan to take over the television world with superhero programming. Two episodes in, and it’s already by far his most important. This isn’t the brooding, angst-filled Green Arrow we’ve come to see over the course of three seasons. It’s almost in the same world as the good natured and enthusiastic Scarlet Speedster, but retains its own sense of identity.
Supergirl is first and foremost a show about Kara Zor-El, a girl who comes to Earth with a pre-determined mission: To protect her younger cousin, Kal-El. Once the mission is compromised and she lands on Earth to find her cousin no longer in need of protecting, because he’s a grown-ass Superman instead of the toddler she once knew, her mission is over before it began. Without any preordained purpose to fulfill, she finds herself hiding in plain sight as a normal person working in National City, which is clearly a shinier, less smelly version of Downtown LA, and following the instructions of her friends and family to stay true to herself. Her foster family, the Danvers, welcome her with open arms, but her sister often feels the need to remind her that she should be living a normal human life.
One day, Kara sees the plane her sister is on falling out of the sky, and without hesitation she leaps into action and becomes a hero. On the one hand, it’s nice to have a member of the house of El not need to be conflicted about whether or not they should save lives. On the other, it’s a reinstatement of the classic Superman mythos to protect others at any cost. It’s an applause-worthy moment, followed by Kara watching news reports and fangirling over her own heroic actions. Her sense of self-worth and joyous attitude that will leave you with a warm fuzzy feeling inside, and just as The Flash has Barry excited about evolving his super-speed perks, Supergirl has Kara and the people of National City actively cheering on the notion of a positive female role model for young girls.
And Kara doesn’t want to fall prey to the trappings of gender stereotype, so when Kara discovers her super-heroic identity has been labeled “Supergirl” by her boss, a Devil Wears Prada style media conglomerate, the gender discussion is brought into the cold light of day. That’s when her boss, played by Calista Flockhart, shuts down negativity toward gender associated identities by saying the following: “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?”
Which brings us to the real beauty of Supergirl: It’s a show for girls. Not everything needs to fixate on how to appeal to a male demographic. This is a women centric show about a powerful character who is also a woman. It’s not about breaking new ground, but celebrating what makes its titular character so wonderful and worth loving. You don’t have to like Supergirl. You just have to understand why she’s starring in the most important new show of the fall TV season.
Featured Image: CBS