Female representation in the ten-year comic wave that’s hit both the big and little screen has been a big discussion in the last few years. With the exception of Marvel’s Black Widow, very few female heroes have surfaced. Where are all the kick-butt female leads jumping off the comic pages? CBS finally came through in its new television series dedicated to DC Comics’ Supergirl, cousin to the Man of Steel himself and an amazing superhero in her own right. From the moment Kara Zor-El puts on that cape, we see a fresh female superhero take the stage and the ratings.
In the pilot episode, the day after Supergirl blows her decade-long cover and saves a plane for all to see, she and her boss Cat Winters have a discussion about the term “girl” in Supergirl.
“I don’t want to minimize this,” Kara says after discovering the tabloids have dubbed her Supergirl. “A female superhero. Shouldn’t she be called Superwoman? If we call her Supergirl, something less than what she is, doesn’t it make us guilty of being antifeminist?”
Winters then asks her the million-dollar question: “What do you think is so bad about ‘girl’? If you perceive ‘Supergirl’ as anything less than excellent, isn’t the real problem you?”
That was just one of the many times the pilot took a feminist stance when it came to crediting Supergirl as a true role model. It is clear that the show is openly aware of the cultural and political stances it is making with each scene in which Kara defies the television “norm” — whether it’s scoffing at a costume that bares her stomach or asking if she has to go through endurance training because she is a woman. In one scene a passerby comments on how Supergirl is the perfect role model for her young daughter. The show’s tone reflects that too since its rating is family-friendly, allowing younger viewers to become lifelong fans. That’s what we should see more of.
Yes, Superman is frequently mentioned in the series and is a constant comparison for Kara as she enters her early superhero days, but it is clear that the two stories are different. Kara arrived on Earth at age thirteen, so she knows “who” and “what” she is in regards to Krypton. Her struggle is about finding her place on Earth and establishing her place as a female hero — something the series openly talks about. Kara’s boss comments on how women have to work twice as hard to get half the credit that men do. Kara is struck by her bluntness and proceeds to take on every task she can find, from stopping a robbery to helping a little girl’s snake named Fluffy who was stuck in a tree.
Supergirl started out strong its first week with 12.96 million views and a rating of 3.1. It received excellent reviews across the board with a 97% score from Rotten Tomatoes and a 75% score from Metacritic.
While there are a few who believe that Supergirl doesn’t properly embody the comic book character, many agree that she is a perfect role model for little girls everywhere. We can only hope that its feminist and family-friendly message will keep Supergirl flying for years to come and will cause other shows to follow its example.