Supergirl

SupergirlI really didn’t expect to like it at all, but I have to say that the CBS show Supergirl has really won me over. To be honest, they engaged me with the first episode, and they’ve engaged and charmed me ever since. They’ve found the necessary secret ingredient for telling stories about an invulnerable flying alien who wears red, yellow, and blue underwear: plenty of whimsy, sheer joy, and don’t forget the love.

Full disclosure, when I was in grade school, Supergirl in the comics was my first long-time crush. The kid in me is still head-over-heels. Some of my earliest sexy images involved Supergirl’s landings (which would cause her skirt to flip up). Yeah, I had it bad!

So maybe I’m just smitten, but thumbs up on the show!

The problem with Superman, or Supergirl, is that the whole this is utterly preposterous. The flying, the invulnerability, and the heat and x-ray vision are bad enough, but super breath? It’s as silly as thinking light sabers can repel blaster fire. It’s a fairy tale!

Supergirl-1So, at the least, it must be treated with appropriate whimsy. Superman works best when tongue is inserted somewhat in cheek.

Likewise Supergirl and Star Wars. Taking them too seriously ruins them — they can’t stand up to that kind of light.

This is exactly why the last two Superman movies were so awful and exactly why the Christopher Reeve versions are viewed with such fondness.

I never watched Smallville, so I have no idea how well it fit into the ethos I’m describing here. (My complete lack of interest in Smallville was one reason I didn’t expect to like Supergirl.)

You might argue that, unlike Smallville, Supergirl is more contemporary to the timeline (Superman is fully established in the reality). That’s true, and I’m not a big fan of the revisionism that goes on in, say Gotham, but I never watched Lois & Clark, either.

They’ve got the whimsy working in Supergirl, and it really makes all the difference.

Supergirl-2They’ve also got the sense of joy that has to underlie being able to fly. Being Superman or Supergirl involves that whole ‘awesome power, awesome responsibility’ thing, but it also involves being able to fly!

And there is an abundance of love, family and romantic. Given our current fascination with grunge and bad behavior, it’s refreshing.

The show gets pretty high marks for thoughtfulness and deconstruction. The episode I just watched made a point I’ve been hammering on repeatedly here: When you act from the gut, without thinking, bad things can (and often do) happen.

Ever since the 1980s (The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen are two of the seminal works), storytellers have deconstructed the idea of superheroes. What does having beings with power imply? What effect would that have on society? What would it be like to really have super powers?

There’s a nice background flavor of that deconstruction ethos in Supergirl. The implications of power are not ignored.

Supergirl-3They’ve also scored a hit in casting Melissa Benoist, and she carries the role very well. She even really looks like Supergirl!

As a bonus, in the “Perry White” analog role, there is Calista Flockhart as Cat Grant. I never watched Ally McBeal, but I’m enjoying Flockhart in this role (everyone seems to be having a good time, which is so important).

Benoist rocks the role, and she’s a beauty to boot, but I gotta mention Chyler Leigh in the Alex Danvers role (Supergirl’s adoptive human sister). She’s more “my type” (as they say) than the blonde Benoist.

And, bonus, they’ve introduced J’onn J’onzz (the Martian Manhunter, member of the JLA), played by David Harewood. (We’ve also see the Red Tornado!)

And Jimmy Olsen (sorry, James Olsen), intrepid Superman photographer and friend, has moved to National City and works with Supergirl now (Superman sent him to look out for his cousin).

The stories are pretty well written (for a TV show), and they’ve done a very good job handling the existence of an established Superman — something I really wondered how they’d address when I heard about the show.

The big problem is: who do you cast? And how do you show him without stealing Supergirl’s thunder?

Supergirl-4

My first big crush!

You solve that by having him be very busy (which you’d expect) and by not ever really showing his face (they been using bright back lighting to mask it).

He’s a beloved distant cousin who’s there if you really need him, but otherwise lets you do your thing.

My bottom line: total thumbs up, sheer fun, no complaints.

They’ve even managed to not go overboard on the violence and murder considering it is an action show involving superheroes.


Update 1/11/2016 13:31 CST:

I forgot to mention one other aspect of the show! Supergirl (the show) is decidedly both feminine and feminist. It’s got “girl power” for sure (another reason I favor the show).

The lead, obviously, is female (and literally super). There is also her adoptive sister and mother, Alex and Eliza Danvers (played by Chyler Leigh and Helen Slater, respectively — and by the way guess what movie role Helen Slater once played; it’s sort of like how Lou Ferrigno gets cameos in the Hulk movies).

Also, as I mentioned, Calista Flockhart plays Cat Grant.

On top of that, Laura Benanti appears in a dual role as Supergirl’s Krypton birth-mother, Alura Zor-El, and as the twin-sister aunt, Astra In-Ze (who escaped dying on Krypton because sister Alura jailed her off-planet for “ecological terrorism”).

The men are mostly in secondary roles. (Which may bother some male viewers, I suppose — get over it; it’s how women have always felt reading fiction. We can even translate that vague feeling of exclusion to what people of color feel all the time in a largely white society.)

The strongest male is probably the Hank Henshaw character (who is secretly J’onn J’onzz). He’s been rescued by Supergirl and Alex Danvers once already.

Next is Jimmy (James) Olsen, who mostly tags along. And who also had to be rescued.

The tech guy wannabe Supergirl’s boyfriend is the comic relief and necessary hacker guy nerd geek.

And there’s an asshole Army General (Lois Lane’s dad).

Definitely, decidedly, deliciously feminine (and feminist)!

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

11 responses to “Supergirl

  • ~ Sadie ~

    Haven’t seen this one, WS. Have to check it out – it looked like it might be something good to watch with the grandkids, but wasn’t sure.
    On another note – Happy New Year!! 🙂

  • SelfAwarePatterns

    I generally haven’t been able to get into superhero TV shows. (My 12 year old self would have been horrified to read that statement.) Heroes, Arrow, Daredevil, etc, just haven’t drawn me in. I think as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate stories by regular people who have to figure out on their own how to get through their situation. Not that I don’t enjoy the superhero movies. I just don’t seem to want to watch ten hours of it.

    But I’ve heard a lot of good things about both this series and the new Flash series. Might have to check them out.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      I know what you mean. There is a side of comics that is fable and fairy tale. They all deal with broad topics in sweeping ways, in part because they’re meant for kids. It’s interesting, though, how such stories appear in many cultures.

      (For example, in China, it’s wuxia — martial arts superheroes often possessed of superhuman powers… blind swordsmen (hello Star Wars and characters that can fly. (Remo Williams is an American version of those.))

      I’ve checked out a few episodes of Arrow and Flash but didn’t stick with them. They were okay, but oriented towards a younger audience. (And I was never a huge Green Arrow or Flash fan; they were always supporting characters to me.)

      Supergirl (and Heroes), perhaps in virtue of being on mainstream networks, seem oriented towards a more general audience.

      I did watch the first Heroes series, and I’m following the Heroes Reborn reboot… There’s a lot to like in the series, especially the first couple of seasons of the original. But there’s a lot that drives me crazy, too. The portentous BS narrations by Molander always made me roll my eyebrows — they tend to be utter nonsense.

      The thing about Heroes is that a lot of the things one might criticize in a normal narrative are comic book conventions. The way the villains always seem to know what the good guys are up to, and always seem to show up at the worst time, for example. Or just the heavy reliance on coincidence common to comic books (and fables and fairy tales).

      Once you accept the comic book melodrama and preposterous plotting, Heroes works okay and the better parts of it shine through. I’d recommend the first two seasons of the original as definitely worth a look. From there on, it’s a matter of taste. (Well, it’s all a matter of taste, actually!)

      I will say that Supergirl has a light, airy feel (that I like) compared to what (little) I saw of Arrow or Flash. And Heroes is downright dark. On par, but different from, Gotham, maybe.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I actually did watch the first season of the original Heroes. I definitely agree that it followed comic book story conventions. (Wasn’t Stan Lee involved with it back then?) I found it just entertaining enough to keep watching. But when the start of the second season basically undid everything that was resolved in the climax of the first season, I lost interest.

        A lot of people seem to be enjoying Daredevil and Jessica Jones. I watched the pilot of Daredevil, but I was never much of a Daredevil fan. I just found the slum setting it dwells in too depressing. I’ve avoided Jessica Jones for the same reason.

        On Supergirl, light and airy might work. I’ll take a look at the pilot episode when it’s available in a format I can catch it.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        If you like the pilot, I think you’ll like the series. That first episode — despite my skepticism — engaged me enough to keep watching. So far, I’m glad I did.

        Likewise, I was never a Daredevil fan — for me it was not buying his abilities, sound just doesn’t work that way. And the Ben Affleck movie still ranks as worst superhero movie I’ve seen… with Elektra as a close second. Odd in how the characters are related.

        Jessica Jones is part of a very new generation that I know nothing about (I’m still not really up on Teen Titans, let alone something like Gen 13).

  • behind a smile

    I love this show as well! I am glad we share a common interest!

  • Lady from Manila

    I remember watching “Supergirl” with Helen Slater as the action heroine and liking it. Faye Dunaway played the villain in the movie. I also read Jeb Bush had said the current Supergirl was hot. 🙂

    One day I hope to sit down and finally watch all the good movies and TV shows you’ve given the thumbs up here on your blog.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Heh, you have a lot of catching up to do! 🙂

      Your liking of the Supergirl movie wasn’t widely shared. It has a 7% on Rotten Tomatoes (although audiences, who are generally more forgiving, gave it 26%), and it won a couple of Razzie awards (one for Dunaway, one for O’Toole). I’ve never managed to get all the way through it, myself.

  • Wyrd Smythe

    As an update, the show didn’t last on CBS, but was picked up by The CW to go along with their Flash series (the main character had already made a cross-over guest appearance).

    I won’t be following the show there, though. I’d grown tired of it. The stories weren’t really grabbing me anymore. In part, I think I’m beyond the whole superhero thing. Maybe 50+ years is enough.

    I’ve realized I’m beyond Star Trek as well. No interest in the new TV series. Again, maybe 50+ years is enough to be a serious fan of a thing that isn’t even real.

    It’s really not a value judgement at all. Just… 50 years is a long time! Definitely time to “be there, do that, buy the tee-shirt.” Many times over.

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