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May 2015

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Melissa Benoist as Kara Zor-El/ Supergirl

 

Anyone who is anyone has seen, or at least heard of CBS’s “Supergirl” TV show which will arrive this Autumn. When I first heard that the former “Glee” star, Melissa Benoist would be playing the titular Supergirl, I had high hopes. She managed to portray a vulnerable, yet strong character, Marley Rose, who suffered from an eating disorder and low self-esteem. Jokingly, I also thought perhaps Supergirl could also break out into song. Stranger things have happened.

But then I finally saw the trailer and I was so very disappointed. I am not well-versed in Supergirl’s story. Truth be told, the entire House of El put me off, including Supergirl’s alternate reality version, Power Girl, made popular by her infamous “boob window” which sparks many debates. They are just too powerful, and generally my definition of Mary-Sue/Gary-Stu like characters. But that’s not to say they can’t be revamped a bit. I quite enjoyed “Man of Steel” and the problems Superman had to face to protect Earth from Zod, being as he was the only other Kryptonian he knew.

But back to Supergirl. If you haven’t already seen the aforementioned trailer, here it is below:

 

The trailer starts in the most cliched way imaginable. An origin tale. Kara’s origin is pretty much the same as Superman’s, and she too was shipped off to earth in a space pod before the eventual destruction of Krypton. Why didn’t her parents build a larger pod for all three of them to escape? I guess we’ll never know.

Years later and Kara is living a “normal” life as the assistant to a CEO of a media company. It’s all a bit “The Devil Wears Prada”, accentuated by Kara doing the long walk through the city to get coffee for her boss. The dull grey on her surroundings really makes her pink pencil skirt pop and it is my firm belief that this is just one of the subtle ways the trailer goes about reminding the audience that this show is a show for girls, about a girl. The very first problem we are introduced to is boy trouble, with a colleague asking Kara on a date. Later in the trailer, he wonders why she doesn’t seem all that into him and asks if she is gay. If I had been in her position I would have told him to hold up just a minute. I can’t abide by guys who think that the only reason a woman isn’t interested in them is if they are gay. Kara should have set him straight. It’s perfectly fine for the show to raise this sort of social issue, but only if the culprit is going to be called out on their bullsh*t and corrected. But Kara politely tells him that she isn’t gay, as if she has no right to be offended by the question.

Then there are just basic plot points like the plane crash. Why was this plane headed towards the city? In the even of an emergency, the pilots would have been directed towards the nearest river or something. It shouldn’t be circling the city. Could you imagine the calamities?

Another issue here is the infantilisation of Supergirl. Just the name on it’s own riles me up. Whilst in the comics she appears to be younger than Superman, it has been mentioned that she left Krypton as a child, but not as a baby, and she is in fact the older cousin. In regards to the TV, Kara does bring up that she believes that Supergirl should be called “Superwoman”, and I have to commend her for that. This however does not stop her from flying around in a red skirt, as opposed to a full body jump suit, or even trousers just in general. I don’t want to slut shame a fellow woman but the short skirt is reminscent of school skirts, which brings me back to the infantilisation part. Another problem I have is that when Kara does address the “Superwoman” title, her boss tells her that she thinks “Supergirl” is a great name and that if she doesn’t like it, then she is the one with the problem. A friend of mine described this as “internalised misogyny”. Men are often celebrated for their masculinity and are often encouraged into “manhood”. Women have a very different problem, where femininity is infantilised, and as the article by Allen O’Brien I’ve linked states is “a phenomenon in which which our society systemically equates femininity with things like vulnerability, submission, uncertainty, and childhood.”

Even the music sounds like it is for a cliched rom-com. Compare it to the trailers of male superheroes like Green Lantern and Flash and you will see what I mean. Green Lantern has a far more epic soundtrack, “Entrapment” by Groove Addicts. Of course I don’t expect the soundtrack to a TV show to be anywhere as awesome as Guardians of the Galaxy, but even the Flash–which followed a similar extended trailer structure to Supergirl– had a far more epic tone. He was shown kicking serious ass for more than just the final moments of the trailer. He had far humbler beginnings, whereas honestly, Kara had far longer to hone her superpower skills.

Even towards the end of the trailer when she is standing up to the head of the operations for the extra-normal division and kicking ass, the music sounds cheesy, singing “this is my fight…”, as though we need confirmation that Supergirl is powerful. It plays off of the rom-com, coming of age vibe, as though she is a teenager emerging from her chrysalis. In my opinion it is another subtle way of infantilising her. When they tried to shut her down, preventing her from helping them, Supergirl basically went off in a sulk and cried. She cried. There’s nothing wrong with tears, dear, but you’re a Kryptonian. They couldn’t have stopped if they tried. The tone was all wrong. She should have been outraged. The angst was not needed. It was very “Mean Girls”. They wouldn’t let her sit at the popular table.

You can't sit with us GIF

So the summation of my opinion of the Supergirl trailer is that it is a false empowerment of female superheroes. I have every intention to watch the pilot episode and keep up with the news in the hopes that Kara Zor-El grows as a character, but I have little hope that she will.