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‘Supergirl’ En-genders Our Enthusiasm

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We had been looking forward to Supergirl for many weeks. As fans of Flash and previously Smallville (and I was a fan of Lois and Clark back in the day), Supergirl seemed right up our alley. Turns out it’s the perfect balance of feminist, romcom, and superhero.

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Late last week, we caught up with the pilot thanks to Amazon Prime offering it for free. It worked as intended. When episode 2 was available to stream earlier this week, we ponied up the $30 for the season. Folks, that right there is saying a lot.

What we love: the sincere do-gooder characteristic so entrenched in classic Superman narratives. Kara Danvers becomes Supergirl because she feels she’s not living up to her potential, that working as a thankless assistant to a powerful woman, Cat Grant, isn’t the route to changing the world she thought it would be. When her adoptive sister, Alex, is endangered on a failing plane, Kara gets the push she needs to test the heroic possibilities. It exhilarates her. She feels like she’s really done something valuable. And it was fun.

Alex, however, is concerned that she’s now “outed” herself as a superhero, an alien, like her cousin. Kara is disappointed her closest friend isn’t sharing her joy. Turns out Alex has very particular reasons for wanting Kara to stay “normal.” This relationship, between these two women, is at the heart of the show. The two care deeply for each other, and both act in protective ways, attempting to trust and respect the other at the same time. They are both competitive and supportive, as sisters are.

The other big woman-woman relationship is between Kara and her boss, Cat Grant, played by Calista Flockhart. Grant is full of self-assurance, power, and pride. She has a flexible attitude towards feminism because she’s worked hard and succeeded. She believes other women should do the same, including the fumbling new hero Supergirl. It is an attitude of privilege and arrogance. But it also creates a gleeful tension between the two characters. Flockhart is on fire in this role.

Balancing things out are the romantic comedy aspects of Kara’s relationships with James Olsen and Winn. Some people criticised the trailer that came out during the summer, concerned that the romcom cliches would be too heavy. I’m eating them up. They are quirky, awkward, and sweet.

I adore the overt feminist angle the show is offering, although I admit it’s a little simplistic at the moment. Still, I imagine pre-teen and teenaged girls everywhere watching Supergirl and seeing her positivity, strength, and ability to bounce back from mistakes, and I can’t help but smile. I’m glad she’s here, being a role model of female superheroism. She’s not a sexy dominatrix like Black Widow, nor is she simply masculinity in a woman’s body like Katniss Everdeen. She’s feminine, tough as nails, flawed, and well-meaning. And she believes in the strength of working with her friends and family rather than keeping them at a distance in the name of protection.

While I’m still waiting for the villains to come into their own and feel more than monsters-of-the-week, I’m satisfied by the superheroics and special effects.

What I would really like to see develop is diversity in the female cast. Let’s not let Supergirl be a White feminist flagship. Let’s get some intersectionality up in here already.

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Author: Erin Perry

I'm a high school English teacher specializing in AP Literature and Film Analysis. I'm interested in most things geeky, including superheroes, vampires, zombies, teen culture, postmodern philosophy, pop culture analysis, and combinations of the aforementioned. Follow me on Twitter @eriuperry.

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