A few days ago, presidential hopeful Jeb Bush spoke at a forum in Las Vegas, Nevada, where he was asked a softball question about his favorite Marvel character. Bush mentioned CBS’s “Supergirl,” stating “She looked pretty hot…I don’t know which channel it’s on, but I’m looking forward to that.” (Sexism aside, Bush seems to not know the difference between Marvel and DC– but I digress).
Bush must have been disappointed, then, with the pilot of “Supergirl.” Traditionally, the character’s badassery tends to come with a side of male gaze; most renderings of “Supergirl” are oversexualized, playing into male fantasies of hot women who also kick ass. Although sexualized women can be empowering to some, it poses a problem when that sexualization exists solely for the eyes of male viewers.
In fact, last night’s airing of “Supergirl”caused many men on social media to voice their concerns that the show panders to women for the sake of ratings. The truth is that”Supergirl” just isn’t bothering to pander to men, which is one of its strongest traits. The show is unabashed in its girl power; the series engages with much of the superhero content that preceded it, and speaks clearly and consistently.
girls who find #Supergirl 'empowering' were probably inspired to go to culinary school after seeing a Carls Jr. commercial
— Matt Oswalt (@MattOswaltVA) October 27, 2015
I'm at the theaters to watch the Martian. They just played a commercial for #Supergirl It looks utterly disappointing in the most sexist way
— Ϻark Eggleston (@_P_D_X_) October 18, 2015
— Spider-man Bot (@TheSpiderManbot) October 17, 2015
Kara was sent to Earth to watch over her baby cousin (who would later become Superman), but was held up for some time and ended up on the planet years after his arrival. She gets a job as an assistant to a classic HBIC character (played by Calista Flockhart, who gives us her best “Devil Wears Prada”) while grappling with her still unused powers.
The show evidently has fun with the superhero element within the story, echoing the work of “Supergirl”’s developer Greg Berlanti, who also developed “Arrow” and “The Flash.” To many,”Supergirl”’s lighthearted take on superpowers is a breath of fresh air from the now-default gritty reboots of classic superheroes.
Unlike “Arrow” and “The Flash,” however, “Supergirl’”s storylines are all wrapped around one unifying concept: feminism. Kara deals with both subtle and overt sexism that she faces being a female superhero, at one point even touching upon the idea that women tear one another down because of the patriarchy. The showrunners are aware of the political and cultural implications of everything onscreen, such as Kara’s issues with the prototype of her costume, or defeating an openly misogynist adversary.
Despite being questionable at times– Kara questioning the term “girl” in her superhero name is asked “What do you think is so bad about ‘girl’? If you perceive ‘Supergirl’ as anything less than excellent, isn’t the real problem you?”– this sort of feminist subtext is consistent throughout the pilot, signifying that”Supergirl” knows what it’s about. Sure, the last two acts felt a bit bloated and the pilot was only a little more than simply fine, but it’s a charming, smart show with a sharp feminist angle that can’t be ignored.
A few months ahead of Wonder Woman’s first appearance in a major film and only one month before the release of Netflix’s “Jessica Jones,” “Supergirl” is the first in a (hopefully) long line of superhero entertainment that creates a permanent space for women heroes.