On -isms: Empowering Super Girls

By | Thursday, October 13, 2016 Leave a Comment
Supergirl debuted its second season on the CW earlier this week, and I've seen more than a few people praise the show for any number of things. Including getting Superman "right." What I haven't seen, though -- and this may just be a limitation of my own reading trends -- is what an incredibly powerful feminist message the first episode contained.

Yes, the show is all about Supergirl and the fundamental premise is about female empowerment, but this episode really did so at several levels that I didn't expect. (Admittedly, while I've seen several episodes before, I'm not a regular viewer.)

First, you've got Supergirl joined by Martian Manhunter as they try to keep what turns out to be a Kryptonian rocket from crashing into things. Manhunter is given the job of protecting citizens, while Supergirl takes center stage with the rocket itself. But it is her show, after all, so that's kind of a gimme.

Then you have Superman show up and he immediately helps Supergirl in saving the shuttle from crashing. Again, Supergirl takes point on this, arriving on scene first and, while not exactly directing Superman's actions, is a little more commanding of the situation. It remains a fairly even team play, but then she lovingly embarrasses him in front of some citizens afterwards with her "I used to change his diapers" line.

The initial investigation into the crash places Lena Luthor, Lex Luthor's sister, as a prime suspect. But we learn that Lena is not only in charge now of Luthor Corp, but she's in the process of redesigning it into a more positive company.

The next bit of superheroism is saving Lena Luthor from a series of drone attacks. Again, Supergirl takes the primary task of saving Luthor, while Superman is relegated to finding the other drones menacing nameless citizens. Supergirl takes a primary lead here, telling her Superman what to do.

Kara spends much of the episode in something of a personal crossroads, unsure of what direction to take with different aspects of her life. Not surprisingly, she does get some advice from her cousin, Superman, but it's really Cat Grant's suggestion that really pushes her in the direction she needs to go.

Then, during the climactic fight scene, Supergirl and Superman join to prevent a building from collapsing. While Superman holds it in place, it's Supergirl who does the work to restablize the structure. She later is given top billing in the news headlines.

But during the same sequence, the would-be assassin is attacked by Kara's sister, Alex. She holds her own for most of the fight, but when the assassin finally gets the upper hand, it's Lena who shoots him, saving Alex.

Throughout the entire episode, we have instance after instance of showing women as emotionally strong, powerful characters. Not just Supergirl, but virtually the entire female cast. Which is impressive enough in television as it is, but this is also all in the shadow of having Superman throughout the story. He is literally the most powerful being on the planet, so it's hard for anyone to be able to shine on their own. High kudos to the crew on this episode for doing this right on every level. The show was heavily marketed as bringing Superman to the small screen again, but it was much more about how Superman isn't really all that because of all these kick-ass women that were already there.
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