Author: Blythe Wiedemann
In the past few years, superhero television adaptations have skyrocketed with the popularity of shows like Arrow and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. And it’s absolutely incredible for the world of nerd culture and comic book fans. Though, not all are true to the comics themselves, they’ve helped develop a new and accessible continuity for casual fans as well as diehards. They have also managed to open new doors for shows like Agent Carter, Gotham, and Flash. All of which have been picked up for second seasons.
It’s no secret that while Marvel runs the movie world; DC runs the world of television. And they have a whole new line-up for fans to squeal over with Supergirl and D.C.’s Legends of Tomorrow. There are even more and more hints for what to expect from the Teen Titans’ live action show. But this is to focus on Supergirl and why everyone should not only be excited for this show but to hope for its success.
As a little girl, there weren’t many shows on television that featured dynamic female characters in interesting worlds and settings. For me, I had Buffy the Vampire Slayer but not many people in my age group were actually old enough to watch it. Then we had the attempt at a Birds of Prey show; however, that was promptly canceled due to the lack of proper funding and the lack of decent marketing. But in the present day, we have the chance for little nerdy (and not nerdy) girls to see themselves on the screen. The first look at Supergirl shows a typically feminine girl (Melissa Benoist) that has a decent job in media (with a fictional company called CatCo) and that also happens to have superpowers and fights crime. Stopping there, that’s incredible. She’s got a job and is making her own way in the world and she is even shown stopping a plane from crashing. This is showing that any girl can be a superhero and not just those who “aren’t like the other girls.” This doesn’t have any of the common themes of a “strong female character” that harps on other girls for being into things that are deemed typically feminine within our society. This is fantastic for young women to see and to look up to. In many ways, her character parallels Anne Hathaway’s in The Devil Wears Prada or Reese Witherspoon’s infamous Elle Woods in Legally Blonde. Both of whom are intelligent women who are feminine and hardworking and excellent role models.
Now, the problem with this trailer for the release of the show is that it follows many gendered marketing techniques that we see almost exclusively for romantic comedies or anything deemed a chick flick. It’s cute, lighthearted, colorful, and the main character has a couple ditsy, awkward, and “adorkable” moments. There is nothing wrong with characterizing her as a “girly girl” who can fight crime. Going back to Buffy, the show featured a prominent female character that was prom queen and wanted to be a cheerleader but she also slayed demons, saved the world, and got the guy. That is an acceptable and realistic characterization because no girl falls into one category or the other, despite what a lot of society would have us believe. The problem with this is that it will lose the show viewers. Marketing it in such a niched way that doesn’t typically attract comic book lovers will make the show come across as uninspired, idiotic, and vapid. I hate to say it but that is what happens when something is made for women. SNL had an excellent parody Black Widow trailer that highlights this when Scarlett Johansson hosted. The Supergirl trailer has many similarities to a comedy sketch made to showcase the misogyny and sexism within gendered marketing for female superheroes.
If this show fails because of this then it could start a trend for other female superhero television shows. When one fails, they all fail. That’s why we need this show and Agent Carter to do well. Honestly, Supergirl could be fantastic but it may never get a chance past the first season if the marketing persists in the way it does. There is nothing inherently wrong with a female superhero that is feminine, cutesy, and badass. I think we should all give this show a fighting chance to prevail. If it sucks then it sucks but we need to give it an opportunity to grow and show its true potential. To quote Calista Flockhart’s character, Cat Grant, in the first look trailer “I’m a girl, and your boss, and powerful and rich and hot and smart. So if you perceive Supergirl as anything less than excellent, isn’t the real problem you?”