I just started watching Supergirl on Netflix, and while I am aware I’m behind, I felt that I needed to acknowledge the show’s importance, particularly to female audience members.
As I watched the first episode, I found myself getting emotional but I couldn’t figure out why. I’m not going to lie, the show is pretty cheesy and is very similar to other shows of its genre, like Arrow and The Flash. But when I finally saw Supergirl in her costume flying through the air, it hit me: I’ve never seen a superhero television show with a female lead.
Jessica Jones has a female lead, of course, but Supergirl feels different and is on an actual network, unlike Netflix. While Jessica Jones is dark and socially relevant, Supergirl is shown in the same cheesy, hopeful light that male hero television shows have. She is treated the same exact way as Green Arrow and Flash are. The tropes are the same, including the damsel roles. Except rather than the beautiful girl being the damsel, it’s the beautiful man. In one episode, James is taken hostage and handcuffed helplessly while Supergirl fights to free him and save the day.
While watching this show the little girl came out in me, and I imagined what it would have been like to grow up watching this show. To know that female superheroes are just as capable and deserving as male superheroes. My first glimpse into the life of a female superhero was weirdly enough in the 1960’s Batman show. My dad watched it as a kid and showed it to me as a kid too. Yvonne Craig’s Batgirl meant everything to me, although I was too young to fully understand why. She showed me that girls can kick ass too.
But Supergirl does that in a more prominent way, by being the star of her own TV show. She isn’t just there as a sidekick, or as a love interest. She’s the hero. And not just as Supergirl, but as her “secret identity” Kara Danvers as well. Even in her office job she’s intelligent, cheerful, and does not put up with people’s crap, while also seeing the good in everyone. She is well rounded and well developed, and her boss is a fierce and intelligent woman as well.
Although Supergirl is more of an important, impactful show than fantastic one, it is still enjoyable. Targeting a show of this stature at a female lead instead of a male one is a big risk, but for many women and young girls out there it is a necessary one. It’s sometimes a bit too chick-flicky for my taste, but it is better than having no female led superhero television shows at all.