CW’s Supergirl is a female character worthy of being looked up to.
Looking across the TV landscape, and the culture more broadly, it is easy to despair. How did we ever get to this point? The jaw-dropping news headlines; the constant drip-drip-drip of hyper-sexualized pop music that slowly but surely erodes whatever is left of decency and decorum; the sleazy reality shows that seek to break first one taboo, and then another; the “critically-acclaimed” premium cable dramas that double as fodder for online porn sites… Was there ever a time when the outlook was this bleak?
Yet here and there we do still see a glimmer of hope.
Last year, CBS picked-up a primetime series based on DC Comics’ Supergirl, and it was a breath of fresh air. This year it moved to the CW network where it stands in stark contrast to other well-known, female-targeted CW shows.
Gossip Girl, for example, highlighted petty, materialistic, manipulative, back-biting, predatory female characters who thought nothing of using their sexuality to get what they wanted. Such characters deserve to be picked-apart by critics for the terrible example they set for young viewers — but they never are, and these shows become critical darlings.
With Supergirl, we have not merely a female lead for young girls to look up to, but a female lead worthy of looking up to.
From the first episode, audiences discovered that Supergirl was not going to be like the skin-tight-latex-bodysuit-clad female superheroes that have come to dominate the big screen: Kara/Supergirl (played by Melissa Benoist) rejects, outright, efforts to sexualize her superhero alter-ego. She turns down a skin-tight, midriff-bearing costume in favor of a modest silhouette, high neck, mid-length skirt over tights, a cape and knee-high boots. Julie Miller, writing for Vanity Fair noted, “Benoist’s Supergirl will hopefully prove that you don’t have to flash T&A or be vacuum-packed into a latex pantsuit to fight crime as a female.”
In an interview last year for Entertainment Weekly, Benoist said,
“I want to do right. Of course this is a broad statement, but I want to do right by women. I want to portray someone they can relate to and look up to that’s not a trite or a shallow depiction. I want her to be complicated and flawed. I guess I just want all women to feel like they could be Kara and Superwoman as well. I don’t want it to be campy. I want it to be grounded and human. That goes for anybody. It doesn’t matter what sex. It doesn’t matter if it’s women or men I inspire, I just want to inspire people in general to realize their strengths and their potential, and that you can do the things that you feel like are impossible to accomplish.”
This is an all-too-rare, but deeply refreshing attitude coming from someone in the entertainment industry. And such courage deserves recognition and praise.
Can Supergirl turn-back time, or single-handedly change the trajectory of the entertainment culture? Doubtful. But when a ray of sunshine finally manages to break through the storm clouds, it gives you hope that eventually the clouds will part — and soon, more light will begin to break-through.