By Samantha Madison – Alexandria, VA
Warning: This article contains minor spoilers for the first episode of “Supergirl.”
At first glance, one might think the new CBS series “Supergirl,” which premiered Monday night, is one of those shows that feign feminism just to please the hoards of women looking for a female role model.
But that’s not what CBS has given viewers. “Supergirl” is good, if not a little cheesy, and packs in numerous one-liners that prove the show’s writers are all about equality and empowerment. In fact, there are almost too many lines shoved into the first episode pointing out Supergirl is female and capable of kicking bad guy ass.
Melissa Benoist plays the title role of Kara Danvers who was sent to Earth at the same time as her cousin, who eventually becomes Superman. Her ship gets lost in the abyss of space for 24 years before making it to Earth. Superman sets her up with parents (played by former Superman Dean Cain and former Supergirl Helen Slater) and a sister, so Kara can grow up “normal.” The show picks up when the leading lady is 24 and working as an assistant to one of the “most powerful” women in media.
The show focuses on the daily struggles women face from the get-go when Kara talks about having the same powers as Superman, but she isn’t supposed to use them.But Kara is unhappy being reduced to a cutie with clear skin and a job fetching coffee for a demanding boss.
The action starts when Kara saves a plane her sister Alex is on, exercising her powers for the first time in more than two decades. She leaves the experience empowered and decides to start saving people and fighting crime. While she is a little rusty and untrained, she’s still as capable as Superman, which she continually has to point out to the men in the show. Let’s hope that will change as time goes on.
The subtle flip of the stereotypical gender roles when Kara and her friend Winn are working on Supergirl’s costume is a nice change. Winn, who works in IT and has a crush on Kara, designs and sews the Supergirl costume options – one scantily clad number that Kara says she wouldn’t even wear to the beach and the eventual blue and red shirt and skirt she goes with. No one made a big deal of him creating her costume – it’s considered completely normal (as it should be!). It was a little annoying, however, that instead of telling Kara she looked ready to fight crime or something similar, Winn had to say “You look really pretty without your glasses on.”
Never mind that five minutes into the show Kara is stumbling over herself while talking to James Olsen, the former “Daily Planet” reporter, because he is so attractive and famous. Though the scene is a little frustrating, it serves the purpose of showing it does show she has some average human characteristics, despite being Supergirl, so it can be slightly forgiven. And Kara makes up for it by telling James she doesn’t need anyone to fight her battles when he “saves” her from being fired.
When the name Supergirl is unveiled in the media, Kara is initially upset that she has been relegated to being “just a girl” when Superman doesn’t have to be Superboy. But when Kara’s boss refers to herself as a girl who is powerful, smart, rich and hot, the tables are turned. So if “you perceive Supergirl as anything less than excellent, isn’t the real problem you?” she says. That short speech is enough to make any viewer who disliked the name Supergirl think twice. After all, there have been numerous campaigns telling women that playing or fighting like a girl is totally acceptable, so why should Supergirl be an unacceptable name?
Toward the end of the episode, Alex finally gets on board with Kara’s desire to go out and fight crime and brings her in on a mission. The male chief of the mission told Alex that Kara wasn’t strong enough, to which Alex replied, “Why? Because she’s just a girl?” It only takes that one line to dispel any doubt that Alex supports her sister while showing the guy in charge not to doubt Kara because of her gender.
“Supergirl” is a fun time that gives everyone a chance to see women and men on an equal playing field, which is exactly the type of show networks have been missing all these years. Here’s hoping “Supergirl” continues to develop Kara as a strong female lead and the writers don’t lose her fighting spirit to love plots and gender roles.