Tag: opinion

That new Supergirl show might not be for you -- and that's okay

Contributed by
May 15, 2015, 5:55 PM EDT (Updated)

Two days ago, the whopping six-and-a-half-minute extended trailer for CBS's new Supergirl show debuted, and gosh howdy, did some people out there not think much. Perhaps you were one of those people. Perhaps you saw the show and thought "too girly" or, more pointedly, that this trailer felt awfully similar in tone and style to the fake Black Widow trailer Saturday Night Live aired a few weeks ago.

And, yes, both that fake trailer and this real one involved a girl with super powers wearing a cardigan and doubting herself. But is that, on its own, intrinsically a bad thing for a show starring a super-powered lady?

If that lady is Natasha Romanov, then yes, absolutely. Widow isn't a sweet girl just trying to make it in the big city -- she's a hardened assassin with a dark past who's just trying to do her best to balance out the mistakes she's made. Natasha wears a lot of black and, with no amount of infrequency, she kills people. Throw a pink sweater over that and have her fetch a Streep-esque boss lady's coffee and that's comedy.

But Kara Zor-El is not Natasha Romanov. Yes, she comes from a long-dead planet, but the rest of her life is not all black latex and murder. And while there have been plenty of different incarnations of Supergirl, there have been more than a few who are, in fact, pretty girly. And, no, that isn't automatically a bad thing. It just might not be something some people can relate with or want to watch.

We've seen those feelings expressed in myriad ways. Let's break them down, one by one.

It's too much like (insert female-led sitcom/movie here)

Calista Flockhart starred in a little show called Ally McBeal. Apparently some of you remember it. She plays a lawyer, but most of the show is about sexy relationship stuff. There's a unisex bathroom at the office. Things happen in it. So, yes, Ally McBeal was quite the nighttime soap opera, but here's the thing: A lot of people loved it, many of them women.

Comparisons have also been drawn to Don't Trust the B- and Legally Blonde, and since Calista Flockhart is playing Kara's mean boss lady, Cat Grant, the inevitable link with The Devil Wears Prada has also been made. Folks, all these works of fiction I've just named? People love them. Legally Blonde and The Devil Wears Prada were popular in theaters and remain popular now. Don't Trust the B- is one of those cult favorites that's a touchstone for lots of women and queer folks of every stripe. If this new Supergirl show is anything like one or all of the above works, that's a good thing for a lot of people. And if one of those people is not you? That's okay!

She's too goofy

Yes, Kara sometimes wears glasses and is silly. That's a page straight out of Christopher Reeve's Clark Kent book. It's been a while, sure, but isn't Reeve's incarnation of Superman still considered to be one of the, if not the, best adaptation of Kal-El? Yes, since then we've had the much more recent Man of Steel version that is a much darker take on both the character and the story, but that's not the only game in town. Do you like Man of Steel Superman? Great! There's this new Batman v Superman movie coming out. And a Justice League movie after that. And who-knows-what-else that will all be in that style. Supergirl isn't that. That doesn't make one better than the other -- they're just very different stylistic takes on the House of El. Plenty of room in the ocean, plenty of fish in the sea.

But I wanted a dark take on a female comic-book hero

Hey, remember we talked about Black Widow at the top and how ridiculous putting her in a cardigan is? That's because she's a darker take on a female comic hero. She doesn't have her own movie (yet), but she's been in a lot of movies already and she's still going to be in at least three more that we know of. Also on the Marvel front, Agent Peggy Carter will be back next season with her own show, and while I wouldn't necessarily call her the darkest dark, I don't think anyone would use the word "girl" to describe her. Plus, there are a host of tough-as-nails women on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Meanwhile, on The CW, we've got both Black Canary and (spoiler alert) now Speedy on Arrow. What I'm saying is, dark takes on female comic heroes we got. Light-hearted fun lady supes? Not so much until this coming fall.

Why is Jimmy Olsen black?

This is but one incarnation of Jimmy Olsen. No one can unmake all the times when he was a redheaded white dude, and no one wants to. But, ultimately, Olsen's being white is not so intrinsic to his character that a black version can't work on this one show. And, yeah, coming from a place of creating more diversity on television, there are plenty of people who will be into this change.

What we've seen so far is but a glimpse. Who knows what kind of show we'll ultimately get? Maybe it'll be great, maybe it'll be an embarrassment that doesn't even last a full season. But for right now, just because it's not dark enough, because it's kinda girly, because it doesn't thus far seem to appeal to the same demographic that a lot of other comic-book shows are already aiming for, that doesn't make it bad. It just means it won't be for everyone.

And, say it with me, that is okay.