Another Super Rant – What the ’El?

While it’s great to have a prominent and positive lesbian relationship in Supergirl, I can’t help feeling the message is: “Kara is (and always will be) 100% straight, but we’ll let you have the sister.” This insistence on Kara’s straightness was found even in the pilot episode where Kara stated, “I’m not gay,” i.e., not merely not-a-lesbian, she’s not-gay. There was no actual need to say either except to stamp down on possibilities.

In a long-running series, there’s never a good excuse to stamp down on possibilities. With Supergirl, the only absolute is how kind-hearted she is. She doesn’t have to be perfect, she’s allowed to make mistakes, but she’s fundamentally pure of spirit – because she’s not merely a superhero, she’s Supergirl, with powers almost beyond limit. The real purpose of red kryptonite stories is to highlight just how terrifying her powers can be in the wrong hands.

There’s no reason why Supergirl should be straight, except to pander to a homophobic viewership. “Supergirl is a good girl,” they want to say. “She’s only interested in men – and then only in the context of a romantic relationship.” (In a whispered aside: “She certainly won’t be making out with Batgirl on the rooftops at night.”) “She may be a superhero,” they continue, “but she’s still a girl, so there has to be romance in her life!”

And since the only thing that sells better than sex is romance, of course there’s romance. With James, with Adam, with James again, until abruptly not with James but instead with Mon-El. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the James-Kara romance, but only because the whole James-Kara-Lucy triangle was a heavy-handed distraction and it was never clear that James served any purpose beyond ‘love interest’…

But to be dumped unceremoniously just to make way for some new guy who has yet to do anything of worth? Once again the hand of ‘God’ (i.e., the television network) is at work. Not only must Supergirl be straight, but there needs to be a cute white guy centre-stage. And never mind that Mon-El is the antithesis of everything the show stands for – or stood for, anyway – Kara will love him no matter whether it makes any sense or not.

Is it the Twilight effect? Who cares about responsible fiction when we ‘know’ that all women are secretly Bellas lusting after Edwards? Or worse, Anastasias lusting after Christians? Why alienate a lucrative misogynist fanbase with Cat Grant’s vocal feminism? Or worse, a female superhero who can see through a cute white guy’s shallow veneer of morality, and who doesn’t actually need a man to take care of her?

What bothers me more than anything is, not only has Mon-El been positioned centre-stage, Kara is hanging on by her fingernails – and this is supposed to be her story! Season 2 started with Kara setting out to discover herself, and instead she has been getting progressively more lost. Her career (chosen with such passion and determination) floundered in its infancy, and her romance is forced and utterly out-of-character.

Season 1 was fun for all its logical inconsistencies and general daftness, because at its heart was Cat Grant. A constant reminder that a woman can be powerful without having alien superpowers – and without the need for male support, romantic or otherwise. Someone that Kara/Supergirl could measure herself against. Now, in Season 2, she has no one. Or worse, she has Mon-El, the very opposite of Cat Grant.

Season 2 is not fun. I approach each episode now with a feeling of dread. I feel like I’m hurting myself by watching it. Had Mon-El joined the story in an organic and incidental role, I wouldn’t have minded him at all. But he is a major and unwelcome intrusion, signposted as romantic and heroic, and yet conflicting wholly with the ethos of feminism and female strength that the series established in Season 1.

Even the latest shipping war echoes this, with “Give Kara her show back!” on one side and “Karamel is endgame!” on the other, the latter group framing the former as ‘haters’.

I’m not really into shipping – I have my own Supergirl alternative universe that mostly predates the television series – but I love how playful and positive the Supercat (Cat Grant + Supergirl) and Supercorp (Lena Luthor + Supergirl) fan fictions are. I haven’t seen ‘haters’, only a lot of people like myself who are genuinely frustrated with the way Supergirl’s character development is deteriorating along with the original spirit of the series.

But why are we even talking ‘endgame’? Why does Supergirl have to have some grand romantic arc? Superman and Lois Lane are a canon pairing, but Supergirl is free. Why not leave the door completely open? A polyamorous, panromantic Supergirl, for example, who can’t help falling in love, often with several people at once, and who is constantly frustrated with their desire to limit her.

About Frank

A Sci-Fi & Fantasy author and lyrical poet with a mild obsession for vampires, succubi, goddesses and Supergirl.
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