By Stephanie Wang
CN: mention of slavery
From being an unprecedented TV show focused on a female superhero and with a diverse cast, tackling issues such as xenophobia, sexism, and homophobia, season 2 of Supergirl, particularly the latter half, has morphed beyond recognition.
The cast’s behaviour at the San Diego Comic Con this past weekend mocking an LGBT ship and fans’ interpretations of the show, as well as glamorising a planet known for its slavery, has cemented the problem facing the CW’s Supergirl right now. From replacing a kind, African American love-interest (James Olsen) with a disrespectful and abusive former slave owner (Mon-El), cutting out and reducing the roles of its POC cast members, and featuring clearly unhealthy relationships, Supergirl has lost its roots as a show celebrating diversity and girl power. Now, what first attracted fans to Supergirl is the very thing that is pushing them away from the show.
If the message of Supergirl was to show us exactly what an unhealthy relationship looked like—refusing to listen to what your partner wants, guilt-tripping someone into returning your feelings, and demeaning your partner constantly—then it has succeeded. Despite several signs of a manipulative relationship, cast members, showrunners, and even the media have touted this relationship between Kara Danvers (alter ego Supergirl) and Mon-El as healthy, normal, and cute. Chris Woods, the actor that plays Mon-El, has even said that what he loves so much about his character’s relationship with Supergirl is that he gives her such a hard time. Even worse, showrunners have said that the only reason why they split up James and Kara was because they’re both “so noble and heroic.” Apparently, putting her with a “flawed” character like a misogynistic slave-owner that would give her a lot of “trouble” would be more “dramatically rich.”
It shouldn’t be Kara’s responsibility to make Mon-El a better man and certainly a show as “feminist” as Supergirl should get that. For a show which originally had themes of independence and girl power, Kara saying that having Mon-El is “enough” and completes her, as well as focusing so heavily on Mon-El in to the point that it seemed like the show was centered around him, just seems contradictory.
Interestingly enough, what showrunners laud as heroic and forgettable seems to differ by gender. Despite Mon-El’s past slave-owning roots, he’s viewed as a hero even though he does practically nothing unless it benefits his own selfish interests. Contrarily, Lena Luthor, who hails from an anti-alien family but has always saved the day and done good, is constantly treated with suspicion and hatred and never given the credit she deserves. Supergirl’s intention seems to be to provide an example of women not getting what they deserve and men being recognised for virtually nothing.
But perhaps the final nail in the coffin is the fact that Supergirl’s cast has no qualms in demeaning and making fun of its fanbase. Supergirl, naturally, has a pretty large LGBT fanbase with the coming out of Kara’s sister, Alex Danvers, and her relationship with a Latina cop, Maggie Sawyer. And with LGBT youth commonly feeling their sexuality isn’t valid and searching for representation absent in mainstream media, for the cast to make a joke at their sake is rather despicable. It seems pretty obvious that it’s generally not a good idea to alienate the fanbase that is providing your paycheck, but maybe not to the cast of Supergirl.
While season 2 wasn’t all bad—the introduction of Lena Luthor, Cat Grant’s return in the season finale, and the epic fight scene between Supergirl and Superman—there were just too many missteps and hopefully Supergirl’s show runners learn from them in time for season 3.