As I write, CBS has not yet renewed Supergirl for a second season. News releases indicate that the ratings were a bit low, though that does not necessarily mean the show will not return. Cancelling Supergirl, however, would be a huge disappointment because the show does work the entertainment industry desperately needs.
Feminism on the Small Screen
Supergirl is great because it obviously features a female superhero (and we’re still waiting for a female to get her own lead movie, despite the domination of superhero films at the box office). However, the show does more than throw a female at audiences, give her powers, and call her “strong.” It features a wide array of women (indeed, they often outnumber the men!) meaning that it can showcase women as people rather than relying on one or two to represent their entire gender.
Furthermore, the show consistently addresses feminist issues such as women struggling to receive credit in the workplace, the struggle to balance home and work and “have it all,” the need for women to support and mentor each other, and even the question of what it means to call a woman a “girl.” These are ongoing conversations society is having and needs to have–and the show is making them more mainstream.
Supergirl’s real strength is her ability to ask for help and her reliance on her team. While Superman works alone, Supergirl realizes that she is stronger when working with others. The women in this show do not need to compete against each other for recognition or, worse, men. They support each other. They mentor each other. They respect each other–even when they dislike each other.
Frozen was supposedly the Disney movie about sisters, but Anna and Elsa barely interact with each other in the film. I think a great sister movie would have shown the two of them going on an adventure, instead of Anna teaming up with a man and his reindeer. Supergirl does what I wanted Frozen to do–puts sisters together on a team so they can save the world.
So often the media gives us a “strong female protagonist” meaning a woman in a skin-tight suit who can punch people. Supergirl does punch people, but she’s also allowed to be vulnerable, unsure, afraid, and even dead wrong. But that doesn’t undermine her value or make her weak. That just makes her a person!
Stay on the Internet long enough and you’ll find the complaints about DC’s dark world view. Supergirl breaks this pattern by giving us a heroine who’s young, perky, and full of life. Her real superpower is hope–which is less corny in practice than it sounds. The show embraces its campiness, its laughter, and its bright and bubbly protagonist to give a show that makes you feel good after you watch it.
Supergirl has so much to offer going forward. I expect it will continue to address feminist issues and I also hope that it brings on more characters of color because right now its feminism looks a little white. As the show continues to find its voice, however, I have hope that it will continue to do good work bringing important issues to the attention of viewers, and making it more common to discuss ways to promote positive change in society. After all, stories are more than entertainment; they are inspiration. Supergirl inspires me, and I hope it can inspire more of us in a second season.