Supergirl, and nuance

Admittedly, I haven’t read the comics that inspired this CBS series, so I don’t know what is “true to the comics”, or what is “CBS doing its thing”. What I’m writing about here has a handful of spoilers regarding things that have happened in episodes up to this time (Season 1, Episode 8), so if you haven’t seen it, you may not want to click ‘Read More’…

So, throughout the series, Kara has taken Clark’s “mild mannered reporter” trend to the next level. Mild-mannered is one thing, but she’s frequently clumsy and “adorkable”. Supergirl, on the other hand, has a whole lot more poise and confidence. Kara is frequently seen being all nervous around her boss Cat Grant, the CEO of National City’s largest media conglomerate with a personality clearly inspired by Miranda Priestly, and gets doe-eyed around her crush and confidant Jimmy Olsen. (side note: “National City” has to be the laziest fictitious city name ever created)

The show has a number of references to things associated with modern feminism: in one episode, Cat makes a comment to Kara about needing to work twice as hard for half the recognition, because she’s a woman. In another, there was a discussion regarding expectations being a double standard. In the most recent episode, the ‘bad guy’ in the episode is a board member, with maybe 20 lines in the whole episode, who Cat describes as “the walking personification of white male privilege”, and those are just the references I can recall off the top of my head. Now, before my comment section blows up, I’ll make it known that I’m not saying that the series is wrong for this slant, but I am indicating that it’s present. On the contrary, I’ve got no problem with a series that depicts Supergirl’s challenges in the world, both being ‘super’, and being a girl. I’m perfectly fine with the exploration of both of these themes.

What I do find interesting is this: It takes a solid amount of confidence to fly Cat to the bluffs where the first interview is conducted, and while Kara is a bit nervous, she still retains control of the situation, despite the fact that if Cat doesn’t like what Supergirl has to say, Kara is having a bad day at work tomorrow. When Cat offers to be the bait to take down LiveWire, Kara again is able to keep it together. Void of her powers in one episode, she talks down an armed robber. Later in that episode, Cat makes an accusation that Supergirl abandoned National City, which Kara expertly deflects (interrupting her mid-sentence, might I add). Again, these are just the examples off the top of my head of Kara being resolute and confident when she’s wearing her cape, while that level of resolution and confidence seems to be absent when the cape is.

Kara is no less bulletproof when she’s wearing business casual attire. Kara is just as capable of flying, just as able to throw a punch, and just as beholden to her burden as a Kryptonian on earth when she’s in fetching Cat’s coffee and cobb salad. She’s shown no personal reason to stay at that particular job (e.g. she’s made no statement about wanting to be a reporter herself), and something tells me that she could request living wages from the DEO – she’s certainly got the clout to get a paycheck from Uncle Sam, and let’s face it – she’s presently the only one who’s working for that organization on a volunteer basis. While her secret gives her the ability to live a double life, everyone she cares about seems to know her secret and be complicit, while those characters find themselves in need of being saved by Supergirl on a regular basis – even if she went full-time Supergirl, her friends and family would be in basically the same place they are now. This raises the question: what gives Kara the confidence to speak to Cat with candor when she’s Supergirl, but not when she’s Kara?

The clothes. That’s about the only thing I can attribute it to. Supergirl can go toe to toe with Cat Grant because she’s wearing her Spandex suit and the cape. Whether it’s intentional or not, I’m hard pressed to come up with anything else that can explain why Kara can be confident, especially with Cat, as Supergirl, but not as Kara.


This saddens me.


For a show that seems to intend to extol the virtues of progressivism and female equality, what gives Kara her confidence is her clothes, rather than her training, her mind, her near-invulnerability, and her selfless concern for the citizens of National City.

I do hope that the series does a better job of addressing this as time goes on; I haven’t heard anything regarding the series’ renewal. Until then, I will remain disappointed that the writers of this series have done injustice to their cause in such a subtle way.


Then again, maybe they’re looking for an advertising deal from Nordstrom.

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