Representation Matters: How 'Supergirl' and one comic shop employee helped save a girl's life

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Dec 5, 2016

If anyone ever tries to tell you that television and comic books don’t have any bearing on the lives of real people, now you can tell them this story.

Over the weekend, Mary, a self-described “super duper gay” comic book shop employee from Indiana, shared a conversation she had with a young patron that went viral on Twitter. It all centered on one teenager, and a little CW show called Supergirl.

Before we get to Mary’s story, some background. This season on Supergirl the showrunners decided to take a slightly different route with the caped hero’s adopted sister. After a first season with very little info about Alex Danvers’ personal life, Season 2 launched a slow-burning story in which Alex meets Maggie Sawyer -- an openly gay police detective -- and discovers that her feelings for Maggie are more than just friendly.

The storyline has garnered intense praise from the fanbase, especially those who felt that Alex’s coming out was one of the most realistic they’d seen on television. Which brings us back to Mary and her teenage patron. 

I’ll let Mary tell the tale in her own words (compiled from a series of tweets):

"So, I want to tell you all what happened in the store today. It’s probably the single greatest moment I have ever experienced working here. 

After the usual Saturday rush, a teenage girl comes in. She looks absolutely terrified and when I greet her she jumped. She starts going up and down the new release wall and the poor thing looks completely overwhelmed. 

So, I make my way over to her and ask if I can help her find anything. She quietly admits that she was looking for Supergirl. We’re walking to the Super area when I ask if she watches the show. She smiles a bit and nods. Says Alex is her favorite. 

I mention that I’m a huge #Sanvers [Alex and Maggie] shipper and the poor thing just breaks down in tears. I’m trying to figure out what the hell I did to upset her. She’s crying and I’m freaking out. 

After a minute or so, everything clicks. I’m staring down a crying baby gay. One who was having some big issues. 

I tell her that it was hard for me when I wanted to come out too. She finally stops crying and asks me if it gets easier.  

We sit at the coffee bar and talked for a while. She tells me that after seeing it all over Tumblr she binged SG. And when she got to Alex’s coming out arc was when things hit her. 

She tells me that she’s just wanted to kill herself for so long and that she had tried but just made herself sick. But as Alex’s arc continued she said she realized that she started to see that she could be happy, that she could be loved. She didn’t want to die anymore. 

For the first time, she didn’t want to die because she got to see Alex be amazing and be queer. 

She said she came to the store hoping to find something to get her through the hiatus, so she wouldn’t fall back in depression. She had no idea gay comic characters were a thing but wanted to try. 

I tell her about Batwoman, Midnighter, and Renee Montoya. I pull out my starters which are Batwoman: Elegy, Midnighter, and Gotham Central. I also dug up a copy of the Adventures of Supergirl, just to get her through. 

She had enough cash for one and was torn on which to get. She decides on Batwoman and asks if I can hold the rest for a while.  

I was having an internal crisis at that time, because this kid was me years ago. I was barely holding off my own tears. I ended up buying the other 3 for her and I make her promise me that in 10 years she’ll help another queer kid. 

So, I’m out 60 bucks and I cried in the bathroom for an hour but it was damn worth it. 

So, @TheCWSupergirl @SupergirlStaff @chy_leigh and @florianalima the work you do means so much to us. Thank you. So, so, much."

The series of tweets was liked and retweeted thousands of times over the weekend, reaching fans and creators alike. Series stars Chyler Leigh (Alex Danvers) and Floriana Lima (Maggie Sawyer) each responded, offering words of support to Mary and her customer.

Leigh even reached out directly via DM to offer encouragement.

Comic writer Gail Simone also retweeted the story and offered the girl any of the comics she’s written that feature LGBT characters. 

Also, if she wants any copies of the Movement, Clean Room or Red Sonja, let me know and I will buy them from you to give to her. https://t.co/lyEcOHoYhR

— GAIL SIMONE (@GailSimone) December 3, 2016

 

In the face of such an outpouring of support, Mary said that she only did what she would have wanted someone to do for her at that age, and urged people to support Equality Florida.

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So, next time you’re wondering why your favorite shows, filmmakers, authors, and publishers choose to introduce LGBT or minority characters, remember ... representation matters. It can literally save a life.

If you or anyone you know is going through a crisis or suffering from depression, please seek help by reaching out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386.