Is ‘Supergirl’ A Step Backwards For Women?

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A Note From ShowVote – {After all the roaring “fracas” surrounding the ‘Supergirl’ trailer from CBS, we invited a guest contributor to break it down from a woman’s perspective.}

After years of pleading from the general public, CBS has decided to tackle something even Marvel is afraid of: a female superhero. While I tip my hat to CBS and DC Comics for entering the world of the female protagonist during what could possibly be called the 4th wave of feminism, I feel that they have fallen short in a few key areas. After watching the 6 minute 37 second long episode, uhh, I mean trailer, twice, it’s obvious there are parts of this show that could be great. The fight scenes, for instance, look well done…at least from what I could tell from the small amount of action at the tail end of the trailer. Supergirl definitely doesn’t shy away from kicking butt; they throw her right into the action and let her sort it out using her sweet alien superpowers. The show seems to give us the kick-butt sequences we’ve come to expect from any superhero movie or tv show. But I won’t give too much credit to the writers for that. I mean, you make a show about ‘Supergirl’ and she has to be “Super” at some point  or another. So basic marks for rudimentary competence there. Another bonus: Supergirl has a sense of humor as well, and not your outdated idea of “Girl” funny either. I feel they did a good job using humor to make her more accessible. It’s tasteful and just barely beneath Tina Fey levels of laugh.

So what needs to be looked at first?

Now we come to the cringing. For starters there is this exchange: her sister is on one side of the door; Supergirl is crying on the couch on the other.

Supergirl: “So what do we need to do?”

Sister: “First, you need to change.”

HAHAHA!!! HER CLOTHES ARE TOTES INNAPROPES FOR BEING A SUPERHERO, WARDROBE CHANGE GIRLFRIEND!!!!! Lord Jesus. I don’t know if it’s the writing that kills me or the delivery.  Is this a Disney movie in disguise? No one would tell a male superhero that they need to change clothes to fully realize their purpose. They just do it. Look at Matt Murdock in ‘Daredevil’! Does he get a new outfit because he wouldn’t want to be caught dead wearing last season’s fashion? NO! He gets new threads because he needs something to protect himself in the upcoming showdown with Kingpin. Clothes or wardrobe are an integral part of a character, not because of their gender, but because they mean something (aka Matt Murdock literally becoming known as the ‘Devil of Hell’s Kitchen’) or serve a practical purpose…whereas the motivating factor in ‘Supergirl’ seems to mostly be that she needs to look fly. On top of that she’s basically doing a Superman cosplay, with no originality or personality in her get-up.  So let it happen naturally. Don’t say it. “IT’S FUNNY BECA– USE  ONLY WOMEN WOULD THINK ABOUT CLOTHES FIRST, IT’S A CUTE AND FUNNY JOKE, DO YOU GET IT?!?!”  Let her be cute and funny because she wants to be, not because she’s a woman and she has to be.

Next up? Crisis issues

Every superhero goes through the expected “am I doing the right thing” crisis. It’s what makes them human and when they choose the right path it’s what makes us fall in love with them. But does Supergirl’s have to be so, for a lack of a better word, girly? About halfway through the trailer I was concerned I had somehow started watching ‘Gossip Girl’. First off, the fact that they discussed her “dating life” within the first minutes of the trailer is a disgrace to women everywhere. She needs help figuring out what to wear to a date? Some people could argue that’s how they introduce her sister/best friend and therefore they why she decides to save the plane, but I feel as if you could do all of that without her needing advice on clothes. Have her drop her sister off at the airport. Ta Da! Solved that issue for you CBS. You’re welcome.

Secondly, her way of handling being told to leave because the world doesn’t need her help is to go home and cry about it. Skip that part CBS. Leave it out of the trailer. It continues to reinforce this image of a weak, unsure, pathetic little girl you’ve so happily painted Supergirl to be.

I feel as if the writers overcorrected while trying to make her relatable. I understand why they made this mistake and thankfully it can by easily fixed. Superman is a hard character to nail down because he is inherently good. He is difficult to relate with because he is basically incorruptible, the only way to identify with him is by presenting moral dilemmas on what the greater good is…similar to what we saw Captain America deal with in ‘The Winter Soldier’. We as humans can’t understand that kind of purity because, by our nature, we are all corruptible.  So while making this show I assume someone had the brilliant idea of steering Supergirl away from that path. She can see what is right and wrong but she’s also more human and can see the gray areas in life.

But instead of making her more relatable they made her timid and unsure, qualities most traditionally associated with women. Instead of making her a strong woman with a decent job and a wonderful life who decided to hide her powers simply because she was selfish and resigned from responsibility (aka Tony Stark), they made her an underdog who needs to use her powers to get her life in order and have it all in the ‘Big City’. Superman was quiet and shy but he was also determined and a hard worker. Why does Supergirl have to be this quaking, fretful, confused girl? Why must her 1st existential crisis be brought about because she’s underpaid and under-appreciated?  Instead of humanizing her it makes her look weak and useless.

Moving on: The Skirt

The writers of this show and CBS had a chance to do something amazing here. They had the chance to show the world that no modern day woman, living in New York/Metropolis would decide that a mini skirt and knee high boots would be the best outfit to fit crime in. Look at Black Widow. Skin tight outfit to help her move, shows the world she’s still a woman (just in case her facial features, voice, or hair wouldn’t have done that) but she’s completely covered. I understand that Super Girl had a skirt in the comics, but if you decide to break away from the comics in some areas, let this be one of the areas PLEASE. Let her go out a few times, realize that each time she lands that little skirt flies up and shows the world her Super lady parts and decide that she needs pants. Just please. Not only is impractical, it’s a dated concept that is not needed in this show.

Lastly: A hopeful future

To wrap this all up with a shiny red bow, this show has potential. If the writers could move away from extremely predictable cliche issues for Supergirl and allow her to be just “Super”, that would be amazing. Let her crises come from saving the world, not from overcoming obstacle’s because she’s a woman. You’re not making her relatable by doing that, you’re reiterating that women, even if they are freaking superhero’s, will always have to fight to prove that gender isn’t everything. Who knows, if this show were able to move past the gender issue and allow a woman superhero to just be a superhero the next generation may actually be able to move forward.

‘Supergirl’ premiers on CBS this November.

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About Author

Ashley is a happy 24 year old who is graduating this summer with a BS in Communications with an emphasis in Public Relations and a minor in Journalism. What this has to do with her ability to review TV shows or movies is beyond her, but she still enjoy's telling people. Ashley loves beagles almost more than humans, open windows which let in cool breezes, pizza and her husband.

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