Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Why the World Needs Supergirl

Recently, there's been a surplus of superhero movies and TV shows taking over our screens. For some of us, this isn't anything new; it's just become something bigger. Marvel is chugging out movie after movie while supporting four "TV" shows (two on TV, two on Netflix). DC is starting to get its act together mainly in the launch of three CW shows, one Fox show, a handful of "in development" shows, and the latest superhero addition: Supergirl.

I've expressed my excitement--my fangirling--for the new CBS show Supergirl earlier this year, but it took me a week to work up the nerve to actually view the pilot episode that premiered on October 26th. I wasn't able to watch it live the night it aired, and upon the episode's end my Twitter feed was assaulted with opinions that set me on edge, causing fear to keep me from watching the show I'd been anticipating since I first caught wind of its development. Someone said the show was decent enough, or at least better than the 1984 movie in the way of special effects. But then, it was said Supergirl was an unnecessary hero for a TV show, that perhaps the producers should have picked a better heroine for a live-action show, someone like Wonder Woman (with no regard to how copyrights between movies and TV shows work).

The comments caught me off guard. I desperately wanted to watch the show without other people's opinions clouding my head. I had hope this show would be fantastic. I feared it was true--that Supergirl was unnecessary, that she would be nothing compared to Wonder Woman. That her back story would meld too much into a Superman spin-off, that the show would be too similar to Smallville, that Supergirl, who doesn't do much in the comics except her epic moment of dying to save Kal-El, won't live up to the standards of the live-action, superhero worlds.

But as I finally found the courage to find out for myself, I realized something vital: Supergirl is necessary for the TV--and superhero--worlds. She isn't the Supergirl killed off in the comics because of "continuity errors." She isn't a carbon copy of her cousin. She isn't just a "spin-off superhero." She's her own hero, her own person. And I think the world desperately needs Supergirl to succeed.

Any origin story episode for a superhero show will have flaws or even predictability. There are only so many ways writers can spin any origin story that's been done over and over. But the important part of the pilot episode of CBS' Supergirl isn't in her origin story: it's in her character.

Kara Danvers (the last name of her adopted family) is a relatable young lady. She's pretty, she's smart, but she's super dorky and adorable. She knows how to deal, for the most part, with her boss, Cat, but she's also not afraid to speak up for what she believes in. She fangirls over Jimmy--James--Olsen. She tells her friend, Winn, her secret so someone will be excited for her (seriously, these two and their adorkableness are killing my fangirl heart already). She's a sister, a daughter, an assistant to a powerfully rich woman. And she doesn't think the world needs another superhero with a cape; they've got Superman.

From the first moment, Kara is portrayed as strong and brave. She doesn't hesitate to say goodbye to her world to help protect her baby cousin. She doesn't hesitate to integrate herself into the Danvers family, to lie low while she figures out her purpose. She's still learning, but she ultimately aims to do what is right.

Jimmy--James--Olsen says from the beginning of Supergirl's appearance that if she is at all related to him (Superman), then she has come forward with one goal in mind: to save people. Supergirl has no political agenda, no personal vendetta, and no one making her do this. She's stepping out into the light of the caped crusaders' world in order to simply save people.

Kara isn't the brooding type either. She doesn't sit in a dark cave to make peace with her inner demons. She wasn't stuck on an island for five years becoming something else than her true self. She doesn't even have the entire weight of the world (or Metropolis skyline) on her shoulders to save (at least not yet). As much as I love superhero movies and shows, I've grown tired of the dark, grim tones that have been taking over the screens. Angsty heroes will only keep me going for so long. Even The Avengers has grown darker--and frankly, more frightening--with the looming threat of Civil War. Between Gotham and Arrow and now the latest season of The Flash, the superhero world is looking kind of gloomy. Supergirl--Kara--is a ray of light, of hope, among the darkness.

Her spirit, her courage and excitement at this new thrilling opportunity, bursts from the screen. Everything in the show is full of bright, bold colors. There's a joyful tone to the show that isn't found in most other superhero story arcs. She's not hiding in the shadows like Daredevil; she doesn't have to. She can be free to soar among the clouds, her bright red cape fluttering out behind her. And she's more than willing to work with the government's Department of Extra-Normal Operations. That's definitely not something you see everyday in the comic book world.

Kara makes her own decisions--to be a hero, to fight, to work with people who don't believe in her. She's her own person. She's her own lead.

For the first time in TV (and movie) history, a female superhero gets her own show. She's not part of a team or reduced to a secondary character. This is her moment, her show, her spotlight. With the exception of Agent Carter, who is not superpowered (just awesome), every other female superhero on screen is a side character or one of the team members. Sure, they're pretty kick-butt and strong, and they display a wide variety of ladies, but they're still not the solo lead. Supergirl might discuss Superman, even interact with his origin story, but he's not the focus. (Heck, you don't even see his face in the show!) This show is wholly about Kara Danvers, about Supergirl.

And she's awesome. She doesn't wear the ridiculous comic book costume either (though, she does try it on). She wears something cute but still appropriate for kicking butts and taking names (and she rocks those colors and that cape). One of the first villains she encounters catches her off guard and throws her to the ground. He says, "On my planet, females bow before males." But Kara doesn't grovel, despite the pain she might be in; she gets up and boldly says, "This isn't your planet." When she saves a plane from crashing into National City, a waitress in a restaurant comments that there's finally a female hero, that it's nice her daughter finally has someone to look up to.

This, more than any other reason, is why the world needs Supergirl: a female lead in a show younger girls can watch. Someone--a superhero someone--girls can look up to, to be a role model, to learn how to stand up for yourself and to be brave and beautiful, no matter what.

In an interview with the actress who plays Kara, Melissa Benoist, she was asked who she wants to reach with this show. She responded with everybody, but mainly, she wants to be a good role model for young girls.

Maybe Supergirl isn't as big of a hero or as strong as Wonder Woman. Maybe she's still considered unnecessary. But in a world where superheroes are usually brooding men with dark pasts, I think it's refreshing to meet a hero who is the opposite. Fun, bold, and strong, I think Supergirl is necessary for the world.

What do you think of Supergirl?


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