As regular readers will know, I’m a big fan of Supergirl – or, at least, of my own interpretations of her. I know little of her from the comic books, and mostly my concept of her is derived from the Superman / Supergirl films and the Smallville TV series.
Kara is a second survivor of Krypton, but whereas her cousin Kal was only a baby when Krypton was lost, she was a girl. Krypton was her home, with friends and family, with history and culture. Everything she knows and loves was destroyed, and she is utterly alone – except for her cousin who travels separately, and who ends up growing up without any Kryptonian influence. On Earth, Kal may represent family, but he is not a link to her lost past.
The new TV series baffles me. I’m currently eight episodes in, and I like the way Melissa Benoist plays Kara / Supergirl, and it’s great to have Ally McBeal’s Calista Flockhart as Cat Grant, and it’s great simply to have a serious portrayal of a female superhero, but…
There are so many buts.
- It’s profoundly illogical. Every episode I find myself scratching my head in several places, wondering why the hell Character A did this or Character B did that. For example, why does Superman leave her with the Danvers where she is almost immediately in peril? Could she not have stayed with him, her only family? Or with someone less likely to be under observation by a hostile Earth military? Or, in the episode Human For A Day, at the moment of James’s greatest peril, Kara takes a moment to change clothes, despite everyone there knowing who she is.
- In the episode Red Faced, the core of Kara’s anger is that she’s different. Huh? This is a girl who lost everything. If there is a core to her anger, it should be that she was sent away, that she was saved – no matter how illogical that may seem. Imagine how much more potent that episode could have been, Supergirl triumphing at the end over Red Tornado, only to collapse to her knees sobbing helplessly, Kara finally releasing a decade of pent-up guilt and grief.
- This is a show that glories in ‘girl power’ – which I certainly love to see, but girl power isn’t necessarily feminist. Supergirl wants to be seen as feminist, so waves the girl-power flag and spouts pseudo-feminist cliches every chance it gets. Right from the start, with the naming of Supergirl, Cat Grant explains there’s nothing inferior about ‘girl’ – and, yet, Cat Grant is exerting ownership over Supergirl in doing so. She’s a ruthless media mogul and quite capable of being disingenuous about her rationale. But it also reflects the script writers’ official justification of the name, and as such it shows how little they really care about feminism. Cat Grant is not the only one to treat Supergirl as a child. It is soon revealed that Kara’s adopted mother and sister have been lying to her for years, that James Olsen has been lying to her, all because Kara needs to be shielded from the truth. I could go on, but it’s said so much better in Supergirl Is Not Feminist and Supergirl’s Fauxminism.
- And then there’s all the romance. I have nothing against romance in moderation, and I thought Smallville’s triangle with Clark, Chloe and Lana worked out well, but there all these characters were properly fleshed out and given lives and motivations. They were active, interesting characters. James Olsen, in Supergirl, seems to exists solely as a person who can’t stop making eyes at the smitten Kara even while embracing his beautiful girlfriend. He is completely uninteresting; if only he spent more time as an investigative journalist and less time hanging around the office distracting Kara… Winn, at least, is getting some character development, but it’s hardly surprising that the most interesting relationship in the series is between Kara and Cat. But that’s not enough, is it? Now we have Melissa Benoist’s real-life husband appearing as yet another love interest as Cat Grant’s son – a doubly-thick layer of chocolate cream icing over the sweet sponge interior of Supergirl. It’s all too much too fast.
- Too much too fast… I haven’t got there yet, but Alex’s inexplicable clumsiness lets Maxwell Lord see Alex and Kara-as-Supergirl cuddling up and sharing pizza? Immediately after teasing us with Cat Grant’s epiphany? Soon the only person in the world who won’t know that Kara is Supergirl will be Cat Grant – the one person who, arguably, needs to know. The secret identity is fundamentally important to all superheroes, with odd exceptions like Tony Stark / Iron Man, so it’s bizarre how they keep giving it away in Supergirl.
To some extent, all the soap opera romance and lazy plotting is a consequence of Kara’s job as personal assistant to Cat Grant, a job that keeps her pretty much tied down at the office. I really don’t understand how it’s at all possible to do both that and fly around as Supergirl. Cat would lose patience with Kara’s frequent unexplained absences so often that she would certainly fire Kara and get someone more reliable. Again, I haven’t seen it yet, but Cat’s worries over Kara being Supergirl are completely valid, and really Kara ought to be looking for a job that allows her more flexibility. There’s a reason why Clark Kent is a reporter, after all. However, as long as Kara is tied to the office, the scriptwriters have to invent personal drama to create tension in the office.
All in all, it makes me nostalgic for Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman…