Tag Archive: supergirl


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CW’s Female Problem

Three years ago, CBS announced they were creating a Greg Berlanti led Supergirl Show. I, among many others, were elated at the news. Still, many were unhappy that they chose Supergirl, throwing all manner of sexist insults at the show before it even had a teaser. I wrote a little op-ed about why we needed Supergirl, and I still stand by that op-ed (which ended up being almost 100% accurate, by the way). But after the first season of Supergirl, it was picked up by the CW to join the other Berlanti DC television series Arrow, Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow. I was worried, since that would lead to a smaller viewership, but it would also lead to more flexibility in the roles. Once going on the CW, Supergirl’s episodes became more culturally relevant, adding positive LGBT+ representation, as well as dealing with sensitive subjects like immigration and feminism. However, they also lost a few of their bigger name people. Calista Flockhart, who played Cat Grant in the show, was a powerhouse of feminism and female power. She returned for only a few episodes, as the CW couldn’t afford her as a series regular. Peter Facinelli, who portrayed Maxwell Lord, the series’ Lex Luthor stand-in, also was lost into the abyss, never even mentioned again.

However, this opened the door for some great female characters. We were introduced to Katie McGrath’s Lena Luthor, Lex Luthor’s adoptive sister, and throughout season two the audience was left guessing whether she would follow in her family’s footsteps or become an ally to Supergirl. We got to see Sharon Leal’s M’gann M’orzz, or Miss Martian. We got to see Dana Delaney’s Maggie Sawyer, love interest to Kara’s Sister, Alex. We even got some great villains along the way, too numerous to recount here.

Most of these characters were done well. They had fulfilling story arcs and felt like real characters. In the current season, we were introduced to Samantha Arias (Odette Annable), a seemingly original character. We are introduced to her separate from the main cast, and we see that she has just moved to National City for a new, high pressure job. She is a single mother and works very hard to take care of her daughter and deal with her high demand job. It is revealed in the season 3 premier that she had some sort of superpowers, and she spends the first half of the season exploring their lengths. We also learn after a few episodes that her new job is acting CEO of L Corp while Lena is acting CEO of Cat Co.

Samantha quickly becomes friends with Lena, Kara, and Alex. They have an amazing friendship that you just love to see portrayed on a television. Rarely ever talking about men – dealing with real life problems – open and accepting of each other’s differences, etc. Samantha is my favorite character on the show, because she seems like a real snapshot of a struggling mother thrust into a job she wasn’t really prepared for.

Before I continue with Samantha, I need to talk about the CW’s Flash. The character of Caitlin Snow, played by Danielle Panabaker, over the course of the previous two seasons, had become the villain Killer Frost. Up until this point, Caitlin was my favorite character. Caitlin’s story arc was characterized by struggle to control her negative emotions, and struggle to deal effectively with her feelings.

Trajectory

Caitlin was the good character that was always struggling. All her love interests ended up getting killed or being the villain in disguise. She had some pretty severe PTSD from all of her experiences. She struggled regularly. For whatever reasons, the showrunners decided to have that struggle overcome her. After a stupid time-changing plot point, Caitlin was losing control of her (new and unexplained) ice powers. She ended up joining with the season’s villain and turning on her team. In the end, she aided them, and went off to figure herself out.

At the start of the next season, Caitlin has regained herself, but whenever she is angry or scared, she can lose control and become Killer Frost. I mention this because both Caitlin and Samantha share a similar story arc, and a similar fate in the DC Television universe. For whatever reason, secondary female characters with powers become villains (or get killed off).

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I don’t care if they become villains. What I care about it how and why. Caitlin is the perfect example of the kind, loving, sensitive woman who is also a bit of a badass. She ends up becoming a villain because of how good and kind she is. She becomes tired of being walked all over by everyone else. She wants to take control of her life. That’s a totally reasonable and something many women feel. However, most women do not become murderous ice queens when they reach this point. In fact, CW shows have men who experience similar struggle and end up becoming heroes who, surprisingly, do not struggle between good and evil (I’m looking at you Jimmy Olsen). Caitlin’s story arc seems to tell the viewers that those qualities are bad because they led her to become a villain. Either that they were bad qualities, or that they are too weak to cancel out her inherent badness. It’s a common trope in DC comics (and any comic, really) for a woman’s power’s to be triggered by her emotions, and to reflect her emotions. Presently in the show, Caitlin uses her ice powers for good, but she can still lose control as Killer Frost, as Killer Frost is actually a separate personality. There is even a scene in the four part crossover event, Crisis on Earth X, when Caitlin transforms and Killer Frost says something along the lines of “Where does she get this stuff?” or “I can’t believe she wears this.” I tried to find a clip, but I couldn’t. The point being, they are two completely different personalities. Which doesn’t really help the whole plight of women who are trying to prove that their emotions don’t turn them into irrational monsters.

This brings me back to Samantha. After Killer Frost, I was very jaded about how awesome Sam was, because as I saw her powers developing, I saw her mirroring Caitlin’s story arc. Overworked single mother with little support suddenly gains powers and becomes evil. It’s clockwork. I was waiting for that inevitable moment. I had hope that perhaps Samantha would be a counter to Caitlin – that she would actively chose to use her powers for good.

And while Samantha never descended into the depths of rage and fury, what happened to her was, if not worse, just as bad.

It was revealed in episode 7 that Samantha was a “Worldkiller” called Reign, which is one of Supergirl’s archenemies. This was a secret kept by the creators until then – nobody knew what Samantha’s purpose was. I was, needless to say, immediately disappointed. However, there was still hope. I hoped that, perhaps, Samantha’s strong ethics and well-developed character would have the will to overcome this revelation. The episode even ended on an unclear note. We were left waiting until the mid-season finale if she succumbed to her role or overcame it.

Supergirl

So now, instead of having a woman who succumbs to her weaknesses, we have a woman who becomes a monster and can’t do anything about it. She says she will fight it, but then is almost immediately overcome by it. When she learns she is Kryptonian, she wishes to become a hero like Supergirl. She is given no autonomy and no ability to control herself. Her entire characterization before this point now feels wasted. Why show her as such a strong, confident, kind woman if that is going to mean nothing? We see her give Supergirl a massive thrashing with none of Samantha’s actual character or personality.

I understand why the writers did this. It’s to create a sense of anticipation. Supergirl does not know that Reign is Samantha. Samantha doesn’t even know that she is Reign. I am assuming the idea is that their friendship will overcome Reign, but I am sort of tired of this trope. Why are none of these women strong enough to overcome this wickedness to begin with? Why can’t these women control themselves?

The fans are also an important element. Many fans were more than elated when Caitlin finally became Killer Frost (as her character in the comics is, in one iteration, Killer Frost). Many of these people were the ones who identified with Caitlin strongly, and wanted to see her take control of her life. This is not a fault on them. It’s also just a matter of just pleasing the fans. However, they could have empowered Caitlin in a way that didn’t immediately destroy all her previous characterization, or send a message that her qualities were not valuable. In any Comic Book iteration, there is a delicate balancing act between the source material and what makes sense for the show. The show tries to frame Caitlin’s transformation as somehow empowering, but it really just says that smart, kind, talented women are not valuable unless they can duke it out with the boys in the same way.

I have such an issue with this because of the way it represents women overall. Women are constantly trying to convince men that they are not made into irrational ice queens by their emotions. They are constantly trying to prove to men that they are not easily manipulated. They are trying to prove to men that they do not become irrational and emotional in positions of power. These stories actively fight against those ideals.

I’m tried of watching strong women fail. Society tries to convince women that no mater how strong they are, they will not do what they want. They will not control their emotions, they will not be successful, they will not resolve their inner turmoil. Why can we not see a strong woman who is being forced to be a “worldkiller” successfully say no? Why does a woman have to have some personal stake in something before she can get control? Making only once character capable of doing this while all others are failing is not hopeful.

What would have been better is if Samantha struggled against Reign, and then used Supergirl’s inspiration (a common theme of the show) to overcome Reign’s control. That would honestly be more entertaining that watching them fight for two minutes. There would be much more character and plot development if they did that. I’m not asking for much, I’m just asking for female characters who are good and strong to remain that way and don’t abandon hours of character development for the sake of shock.

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Image result for wonder woman 2017

When CBS has first announced their decision to run with a Supergirl TV show, I was – needless to say – very excited. As a hardcore DC fanboy and an even harder-core Superman fanboy, I was excited. But the feminist in me was also excited. Supergirl would mark another step toward female superhero domination. And for the feminist hoping to see some great female storylines, Supergirl delivered. Before I knew how great Supergirl would actually be, though, I penned a little opinion piece called “Why the world Needs Supergirl,” which was, of course, a play on the article written by Lois Lane in the 2006 Superman Returns “Why the World Needs Superman.”

When wonder woman was announced, I was, of course, excited – but nervous, too. DC had been making some odd creative choices with their holy trinity in the cinematic universe, and I wasn’t totally sure if I would like their interpretation of Wonder Woman. I was much happier when I learned that a woman would be directing the film, and that Christopher Nolan was not going near it. Zack Snyder is a producer, which is concerning, but Geoff Johns and Allan Heinberg are writing the script. They are two big names in comics whom I have faith will be writing a great Wonder Woman. Johns, due to his great work on Smallville and also for his overall great job as CCO for DC; and Heinberg for his experience with the character.

When Batman vs. Superman came out (which I loved, so shut it), I cannot tell you how exciting it was to watch Wonder Woman fight Doomsday. Her theme music sounding in the moment she is first shown in her armor and bracers is one of the most powerful feminist images in modern history. I remember bringing the extended edition to watch with my parents and seeing how excited my mother got when Wonder Woman appeared in battle was one of the most exciting moments in recent memory. She probably didn’t even realize it, but I watched her body language change from “slightly interested” to “heavily invested” in what was happening as Wonder Woman entered the scene.

And then they released a trailer. It was good, but it didn’t give much away. But then they released another trailer, and OH MY GOODNESS did that trailer give me so many feels. I have never seen a movie trailer that literally gave me hope for the future. After watching that trailer for the third or fourth time, I sat back and said to myself, “This movie may literally change the world.”

It sounds exaggerated and extreme, but after thinking about it more, I am even more certain that this movie has the potential to be a massive catalyst for change, in a way that no modern female-led movie has before. Below are the reasons why:

 

This can open the door for female-led superhero movies, as well as more female led movies overall.

Superhero movie goers are all too aware of the lack of female leads in superhero movies. Marvel fans have been begging for a Black Widow movie since the first Avengers film and so far there are no plans for it. It is difficult to get original movies with female leads to be created unless they are rom-coms.

I foresee wonder woman bringing in large scores of women. I foresee Wonder Woman being successful and therefore teaching the movie producers that action and superhero movies are – in fact – marketable to women. This, in turn, will result in more action movies with female leads, and will most likely result in more female roles in action movies – outside of the roles we are already accustomed to. This in turn, will lead to a larger female cinematic audience, which will hopefully result in more women involved in the production and creative levels.

 

Wonder Woman will be a feminist dream!

Maybe dream is a bit of an oversell, but I believe, based on my knowledge of wonder woman and my knowledge of this movie, that they will have strong feminist themes in the movie. And, if it is anything like the comics, this movie will not hide its feminism in undertones like Frozen and Tangled did, requiring the viewer to be very critical to learn the basic message. It will be in your face and quite possibly patronizing at times. We’ve already seen some feminism in the trailers, particularly in the scene where Etta Candy explains who she is to Diana, and Diana says it’s like a slave.

I’m very confident in the theming of this film, mostly due to the scene in the newest trailer of Diana climbing out of the trenches and walking into No-Man’s land, deflecting bullets off of her bracers. This woman, walking out into a land the men feared to enter. If that doesn’t set your little feminist heart alight, then I don’t know what will.

I just think of the message that she will be sending to young girls and women everywhere about their own power and determination to succeed. I just think about women and a mainstream message about women working side by side, hand in hand with men, each building each other up.

 

This will reinvigorate the DC Cinematic Universe

I think it is safe to assume that DC is expecting there to be a large Wonder Woman demand after this movie comes out. I think that, if they are smart, they are already planning to make Wonder Woman a key player in the future DC Cinematic Universe. They would be wise to give her a lot of screen time to appease the desire for Wonder Woman that will exist if the movie does well.

This will reinvigorate the salty fanboys who can’t get over the very logical and literary “Martha” scene. It will draw new fans in who have been waiting for a female headed superhero flick. It will give the DCCU the momentum it needs to propel forward.

 

If Wonder Woman fails, so does hope of female lead superhero movies.

If wonder woman does not succeed in the box office, or in our hearts, we may be looking at the last superhero film lead by a woman in a while. If it is determined that “female superheroes don’t sell” then the field will stick to that assumption. Studios will not be as willing to make a movie with a female superhero as the star. Marvel is already apprehensive about giving Black Widow a movie and she’s got as high off a following as the other Avengers. DC, fortunately, has faith in Wonder Woman, but if that faith is not rewarded, we may not see another female superhero in the titular role for a while.

If Wonder Woman succeeds, we can probably expect to see more female DCCU superheroes.

We already have confirmation that Supergirl was on the crashed Kryptonian ship that Superman finds in the arctic. We just don’t have her in universe. We have a large group of people who are obsessed with Catwoman and Poison Ivy comics. We have people straight up demanding a solo Harley Quinn movie. If Wonder Woman succeeds, we will get more of this. They may not get their own movies, but they will become important. We will be more likely to see Supergirl in a movie with Henry Cavil if Wonder Woman succeeds. Harley Quinn will be more likely to get her own movie if Wonder Woman succeeds.

If Wonder Woman succeeds, the DCCU will become much more queer.

Wonder Woman is not only a feminist icon, but a queer icon. DC’s current cinematic universe like to take a lot of direction from the Earth One comics. As I explain in my Wonder Woman: Earth One review, Wonder Woman: Earth One is incredibly queer. If the Universe continues to take creative freedoms from the Earth One stories, expect to see a LOT of queer characters in the future, at least in Wonder Woman titles. If there isn’t a queer character in the movie, I’d actually be surprised, even with its WW1 timestamp. Wonder woman is both a feminist icon and a queer icon.

 

Well, I have rambled on enough about Wonder Woman. Please take the time to view the trailer if you haven’t already (or if you have, too!), and buy some Wonder Woman comics! She’s great!

supergirl

It’s finally here. Supergirl has seen the silver screen, or at least a taste of it. She’s been picked up by CBS with a “series confirmation.” If this does not make your feminist heart swell up with extreme excitement, you need to think about this a little more. I’m going to go over all of the reasons why this is amazing:

She is Female.

Take a moment and think about all of the superhero movies you have seen in the recent fifteen years. Hell, think of any superhero movie or television show. Aside from the entirely abysmal Catwoman movie (which ended up being about makeup?), and the less than magnificent Elektra, the gender palettes have been entirely monochromatic, at least where protagonists are concerned. We have Superman, Batman, Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk, Captain America, Green Lantern, Spiderman, Fantastic 4, X-Men, Daredevil, Smallville, Arrow, Gotham, The Flash, Ant-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, and the rest are all spearheaded by a male lead. He’s the most important one in the movie/show. There are women present, but they are not in charge. They are there, essentially, to serve the protagonists (as any secondary character is). This isn’t a problem, except that the women never take larger roles. Check out Anita Sarkeesian’s YouTube channel if you don’t understand what I mean. There are plenty of other blogs, vlogs, and documentaries about female tropes in media, like MissRepresentation. you can find a bunch of different ones. Women’s roles are never center stage. They are always there to support the male protagonist. Having a show where the Superhero is female, and therefore the one who is in charge, the one who is making decisions and being important, is good. Not to say that female characters in these other shows are useless. Chloe Sullivan and Lois Lane in Smallville are often the ones pushing the story forward, while Clark is trying to keep up. But it’s not their story. It’s his.

This will be entirely Kara’s story. If they were going to stick to the comics, she’d have a lot of interaction with her cousin, but the show can have that be distant. He can be like a mentor to her who gives her advice, because essentially he’s got his own stuff to do. The release referred to Superman as her “famous cousin,” which means he is established in this world. It would even be funny if people mistook her for superman sometimes, or asked for her instead of Superman sometimes. Or, if on occasion, he asked for her help, and she just zipped over and solved his problem faster than he could have and then goes home.

She’s not Superman.

Some people will roll their eyes because they think Supergirl is Female Superman. She isn’t. She has similar powers, but varied powers. The main difference is that Kara (Supergirl) grew up on Krypton. She experienced Kryptonian culture and technology. She experienced the destruction of her planet. She experienced the deaths of all the people she ever cared for. You think Batman’s back story is tragic? Get over it. All of her worst fears were realized. In many of the stories, she left Krypton wanting one thing: to find her cousin. And then she got to Earth and it took years to find him. Depending on the iteration you refer to, she has a few different origins. Most of them have her end up in some sort of cryogenic stasis until Cal-El is at least older than her, so when she awakens, she’s looking for her little cousin, and cannot find him, and some man claims that he is the little boy she’s looking for. Crazy stuff, right? What an emotional roller coaster! Another thing about her is that, since she grew up Kryptonian, she identifies as Kryptonian. Therefore, she has full access to all of her Kryptonian abilities. Superman, on the other hand, is limited because he does not Identify as Kryptonian. He identifies as Human. The more he accepts that he isn’t a human, the more powerful he becomes. Kara doesn’t have that issue. Kara doesn’t have any identity issues. Her issue is that she’s a proud Kryptonian and she is trying to find a way to show that.

The Superfamily is All About Culture

As I mentioned, Supergirl is trying to find a way to express Kryptonian heritage in a human world. This is such an important issue. Our country is highly focused on race and culture right now. Supergirl wants to show off everything she can do as a Kryptonian, but its difficult because that makes her not human. That separates her, and it makes her an outcast. Even when she uses her abilities for good, she’s still different. We need a show about someone trying to adjust to our culture. We need a show about culture shock, and how it affects you. We need a show about how amazing it is to learn about and accept another culture, even if you don’t identify with it. This is very important.

There are some things that could go wrong, but this has the potential to be amazing! We’ll have a female lead with most likely female co-leads. This will open the door for other female Superheroes. This could open the eyes of Hollywood and let them know that a well written female protagonist can sell. Please, take some time to support Supergirl if CBS finally airs it. She deserves it. Women deserve it.

supermangirl