Thoughts on Supergirl

Supergirl premiered a couple days ago, and as with many of the comic book shows, I'd like to commit some thoughts to, er, paper. The 10-minute trailer released last summer (spring?) was a thing of beauty, and felt like a rebuttal to Man of Steel. Everything I thought was wrong with MoS, was addressed and reversed in that trailer. But how would the full 45-minute narrative fare? Well, not too badly. Perpend...

1. Supergirl definitely follows the formula set by Arrow and the Flash, but that's both good and bad news. While on the one hand, we might be annoyed that every hero needs a whole team of friends who know their secret identity and help with the crime-solving - that's TV 101, you want a cast people care about - on the other, the show wants to explore an entire corner of the DCU, specifically the Superman-related universe you just know the movies, with their Lex-Zod obsession, never will. If they're not doing Brainiac in the movies, what are the chances we'd ever see the likes of Metallo, Toy-Man or the Parasite? Well, they could show up in Supergirl, and I'll talk about some of the references to comics characters in due course.

2. Melissa Benoist is terrific as Kara Zor-El/Danvers/Supergirl. Unlike Clark Kent's awkward goofiness, her similar attitude doesn't feel like a put-on. She really is that girl who doesn't quite feel right in her skin. Supergirl is the costume, the brave face she puts on so she can make a difference. But even as the lowly office assistant who gets abused on a daily basis by her boss (and Calista Flockhart as Cat Grant almost steals the show), she's thinking about the welfare of others, people's jobs, etc. It's awesome and exactly the kind of inspirational superhero we need her to be. Love the little mannerisms that show she's unsure of herself, and they eye rolls when Cat mispronounces Kara. Benoist is clearly having fun, and we're along for the ride.

3. This looks like a different Krypton from the Donnerverse's and the Snyderverse's. That's fine. All new continuity where Superman's been around for years before Supergirl shows up, and playing coy as to what he looks like so that we can imagine anyone in the role. I hope they keep the Man of Steel at arm's length (though perhaps never wanting to say his name is going a bit far - is it a rights issue?), as he feels like a Superdick manipulating his cousin in a rather Silver Age way. Jimmy may be a love interest for Supergirl, but Superman's kind of spoiled it by telling him her secrets before the show even starts.

4. Oh my God, are those Helen Slater, the original Supergirl, and Dean "Superman" Cain as the Danvers!? Squee! Very fun casting!

5. Okay, let's talk about some of the comic book references. Just like The Flash's pilot, there are tons and most offer clues about future storylines. And so the boss at the D.E.O. is Hank Henshaw, destined to become the Cyborg-Superman (uh-oh). Supergirl's best friend Winn Schott shares a last name with the Toy-Man, and part of a first name too. Is Winn really Winslow, or just related to him? There's a fun montage where Supergirl tries on some outfits, with many design features her comic book self has worn. The Fort Rozz escapees include a purple guy who I first thought could be the Parasite, but on the rewind looked more like Despero. Fort Rozz itself IS from the comics, but you'd have to remember the Krypton Chronicles mini-series to recall that Kryptonian prison (I guess it played a part in the New Krypton storyline too?). It's apparently the villain-creating engine for the series (kind of like the Island on Arrow and the incident on the Flash). Oh and there's Vartox...

6. If this was Vartox, it was Vartox in name alone. I mean, they kept his sexism, but he's a brute for Supergirl to fight and has none of the seductive charm of his Sean Conneryesque comic book self. I'd have liked it much better of they'd kept him for later and used him like they did with Power Girl, as a relic from the a less enlightened time trying to find a super-powered mate. He's wasted here, or at least his name is. And what's with the axe? Is he the Persuader? Ooohhhhh, please have the Legion show up in this series!

7. The one character I can't stand however is Kara's adoptive sister Alex. Probably because despite the non-Snyderousness of it all, she's the Pa Kent character who doesn't want her sister to be a hero because people won't accept her. Then it turns out she's a D.E.O. agent, making me not care at all for that whole organization and its pseudo-Batcave, what with Alex seeking approval from her boss in such an obvious way. Ugh.

8. National City?! That's an odd one. First of all, it's not actually one of DC's fictional cities. Supergirl once made her home in Midvale, which would have been correct. Sure, National is the name of one of the companies that evolved into DC Comics, but it doesn't sound like a real place, and it's like Supergirl was ever published by "National Comics". Since they aren't using Argo City as a Kryptonian colony (or maybe they will), why not simply call her Earth-bound base of operations Argo City?

9. The consensus seems to be that the show was good, but for some pacing issues, and I have to agree with that consensus. Superman's origin is so well-known that I can take the glossing over the parts of Supergirl's that are essentially the same. But the first half - by far the most interesting half, with the introduction of Kara's like at Catco, and her first steps into herodom - seemed to fly back all too fast. And then there was a fight, some exposition, and then another fight, and then an epilogue... It didn't seem to ramp up to a climax, nor did Vartox amount to much except to show how the D.E.O. will help Supergirl fight her adversaries week in and week out.

10. Haha, it's not an "S", but it's not "Hope" either. It's the El family crest, no hokey explanation necessary.

11. Heat vision is blue?

So those were some of my thoughts watching the pilot. I think DC's got another TV hit on its hands, and it's a real shame Supergirl doesn't have a title in print at the moment. Real lack of foresight (or of faith in the show) from DiDio and friends. But what did you think?

40 comments:

Anonymous said...

Loved it. It's been way too long since anyone in movies or comics has given us a Kryptonian who has the essentials right: doing good for good's sake, and being a relatable person.

Melissa Benoist is fantastic as both Kara and Supergirl. She plays them so differently, the pair of glasses actually works.

Of all the startling transformations Jimmy Olsen's been through, this is the strangest yet: a smokin' hot black guy. Just imagine if this had been a Silver Age story. "B-but Superman, why are you destroying that water fountain with your heat vision?" "Because you're not allowed to drink from there any longer Jimmy ... now that you're colored!" Jokes aside, I like Jimmy and I like his chemistry with Kara, so full approval.

It's a little disappointing that Vartox wasn't more like the comics; if you need an arbitrary nobody for Supergirl to fight in her first outing, make it a no-name space lizard man or something.

As for the aniconic representation of Superman -- where we don't see him (except for glimpses at most) and most of it is people telling us about him -- he's the best Superman we've had in a while too. He inspires people, he does the right thing, he sees to it that Kara has a confidante. DC has forgotten that Superman should be the guy people look up to, but "Supergirl" hasn't.

Overall I'm very enthusiastic; this is the one superhero show that's going to hold my attention, I think.

Andrew Gilbertson said...

Definitely dug it. Not particularly keen on seeing a woman brutalized, so hoping that there is a little less of the mauling fisticuffs moving forward (this is sci-fi; battles and challenges can come in so many other forms)- but yeah, that first flight and rescue scene was everything that's been missing from Superman adaptation since, ironically, Superman Returns. Kryptonian-based hero shows should be about hope, and rescue, and optimism... and now that the flash has gone a little darker, it's especially nice to see a return to the more joyous style of superhero. Greatly looking forward to the next episode!

Brendoon said...

I'm Looking forward to seeing it when it comes to New Zealand on Sunday, both fingers crossed.

I have misgivings because of its timeslot tho: it's directly opposite Doctor Who!
Our relatively small viewing public will watch the Doctor AND record him for a rewatch. Here we also we have trouble recording from the "+1" version of Supergirl's channel because in NZ we skimped on the time codes: our digital recorders think both channels are the same and refuse to record the alternate showing if something's recording opposite the earlier showing. It means only a manual recording will work. I'm not sure how sponsors feel about their ads being fast forwarded later on a recording rather than being ignored during the broadcast, but it may affect sponsorship and therefore the viability of Supergirl.

Seeing Jimmy in the Trailer puzzled me: why give some new guy his name? geeky freckled red heads are more underrepresented in the media than any "minority" I know. In fact recently I put a redheaded kid in a painting and I was asked to replace her with a token Pacific Islander! There are way more Islanders in our city than redheads. Isn't it the virtue to promote minorities?

And the shaved head? Surprise!! I saw Silver aged Jimmy with a bald head wig once but that was a gag. Jimmy was never cool or good lookin' was he? Or grown up. Sure it's an adventurous change of stereotypes and I'll get over it as soon as I see him, but Jimmy was REAL in my eyes... wasn't he? He's historical. It's like having Tom Cruise portray my Grandad, it would be a misrepresentation of facts.

I think Man of Steel, while a bit grim is at least fairly solid. I'm looking forward to seeing Superman as "the guy people look up to" as anonymous said in his comment. Back in the seventies as a kid I found Marvel's soap opera approach with classic X-men put me off, while I can -just- handle the new angst ridden Barry Allen it seems dangerously "Marvellous," these ain't the guys I looked up to in my childhood. Superheroes in my day were heroic, they had overcome everything including bad character which is why they were role models. Personal issues are a required part of Spidey cos he was one of US, but he was meant to be the exception.
Supergirl and Wonder Woman were allowed romantic entanglements cos' they were "mostly for girls." The guys (like Barry Allen) were either already married and approaching thirty or they were staunchly immune to the wiles of gals. (as a ten year old that was a thing to be admired. MAN, they were so cool!) Ha, and Hawk girl was NOBODY's main squeeze, she was Hawk Man's wife, good and solid.

Maybe I'm misremembering 'em (like Beast Boy and Cyborg remembered Clowns as "cool" in Teen Titans Go. But aside from not recognising Jimmy, I don't think it'll affect Supergirl. I used to sneakily read the "girl's comics": "putting up with" the romancey stuff was expected, cos that's what girl stuff was like.

Siskoid said...

I'm on record as not minding diversity casting, so this decision does not phase me and I embrace it.

LiamKav said...

I agree. You could argue that redheads are under-represented on TV, but as the police haven't got a habit of pulling weapons on gingers, it's not really equivalent. Aspirational minority casting works a lot better with discriminated against minorities.

And surely Jimmy was meant to be a bit cool? He went on awesome adventures, got to hang out with Superman, and I'm sure there are some who would say that bow-ties are cool.

Siskoid said...

Good point, Liam. I've spent a lot of "ink" writing about Jimmy Olsen, and he's only a nerd from a modern point of view. He was popular and had fan clubs (in-story) in the Silver Age, for example. Women swooned, the day was saved, etc. And then in the Bronze Age? A Kirby hero! I mean, come on! Look at Jimmy in All-Star Superman for a modern equivalent; Morrison updated him to stress this point.

Brendoon said...

True!
You are all so right about that, Jimmy wasn't a "square" by the day's standards at all. I was failing to translate that: all that silver age stuff was retro when I read it in the 70's and I read it as a 70's kid not as a 50's one.

Funnily enough the 50's seemed SO LONG AGO at the time, in fact it was today's equivalent of the 90's, less than a blink.

Brendoon said...

Having said that, I guess I'll find out on Sunday whether he's the same Jimmy I've known all my life, a futile hope, of course. Not even Marc McClure or Jack Larsen seemed like the real Jimmy, and I believe you mentioned he came before the comic? No, it must have been Jackie Kelk's Jimmy on the 40's radio show, right? He wasn't a ginge either, now we mention it.

All of the 40's radio shows are available as a podcast thru botar.us, Supe's origin was a bit incomplete in the first few episodes: a young boy named "Jimmy Olsen" gives him the Superman label and invents the Clark Kent secret identity, recommending he gets a job at the Daily Planet! Even the Radio show had a reboot, I think it was only a few episodes in. That's quicker than the spidey and Hulk movie re-re-reboots which seemed quick.

Andrew said...

Haven't seen it yet, but my plan is to stream it from the CBS site this weekend if it's up. Pretty much everything I've read about says it's not perfect, but it's fun, so I'm looking forward to it.

As far as my sight-mostly-unseen thoughts on Jimmy are, they basically boil down to "this is going to make stunt-casting previous Jimmys a bit awkward," "I'm really surprised they were allowed to use him given what we've heard about Dawn of Justice," and "why no love for Ron Troupe?"

American Hawkman said...

I'm a lot more annoyed by Vartox being the Persuader than I am by Jimmy Olsen being black. (Jimmy Olsen being cool kind of annoys me, but not because he's black.)

Siskoid said...

Lucy Lane in inbound, so I'm hoping that'll create some Jimmyesque awkwardness.

ShadowWing Tronix said...

"She plays them so differently, the pair of glasses actually works."

The secret to a good Clark Kent portrayal as well.

I enjoyed the show. It was just fun without being all dark and grim and junk. I was more bothered that "James" didn't act like Jimmy but while I support more diversity I do want the characters to look and act like the characters I came to see. Plus we're going for the "hot people date hot people" cliche. I liked Winn, though. And word is there is an actor chosen to play Toyman so Winn isn't turning evil (hopefully) anytime soon.

Anonymous said...

I expect Jimmy Olsen to be a certain way when he's with Superman. When he's out of Superman's orbit, I feel like there can be more latitude.

My head-canon on this is, Jimmy Olsen started out in Metropolis as an insecure nerd, but knowing Superman helped him find himself and he learned to be confident. That has everything to do with why he felt like exploring a new city.

Also, he snuck into that machine Superman uses whenever he wants to turn Lois black.

Siskoid said...

Tronix: Well that's good to hear. I guess he's this show's Tommy Merlyn.

Anon: He had a lot of latitude in his own series for sure. Superman was always in space or something, and that gave him a lot of agency. Well, until the last page of any given story where Superman flew in to save his bacon. I guess that's Supergirl's job now!

JeffJedi said...



If this is all grown up Jimmy who's been around Superman for at least 10 years or so I guess it works. I guess he would know Clark is Superman at this point and he works out and got confidence. Still I was unspoiled and had to roll my eyes when he turned out to be Jimmy. I will think of him as James Oleson and give him a chance.

The sister is annoying to me too. I would have rather seen a Lois and Clark kind of thing where the parents gave her advice now and then. I will have to see how the team thing goes.

As for Supergirl/Kara herself she seems to be the best part of the show. I hope the villians will get better, I wanted the badguy to be Steppenwolf when i saw the Axe.

Siskoid said...

Oh man! He does look like Steppenwolf!

F. Douglas Wall said...

While a commenter above had an issue with the idea of bad guys brutalizing a woman, I actually applaud the decision to let her get physical. She has every power that Superman has, including invulnerability. She can keep up with the big boys, so I see no problem with letting her take a punch every now and again. And even though her first villain was a misogynist (which felt a little heavy-handed), it was not a story about her being beaten and abused by this guy. It was about her ability to give as good as she got.

I agree that the whole "backup team over the earpiece" device is starting to feel artificial and forced in superhero shows. On the one hand, I do understand that these shows are typically based around a solo hero rather than a hero team, so the earpiece gives the hero a way to explain things to the audience through their conversation with homebase. But on the other hand, it's becoming an overused device. Arrow, Flash, and now Supergirl use it.

Siskoid said...

Very much agree with your first point of F.D.W.! Perhaps veterans of terrible comics are having fridging flashbacks where female heroes must apparently all have rape, near-rape, or domestic battery in their backgrounds. So the fear of Supergirl being victimized in such a way in the name of "drama" is very real. Hopefully, the show will continue to be about positive girl power, and not veer into those seamier directions.

Anonymous said...

I would not mind if Supergirl used one of them kryptonite bracelets to block her powers and take some karate lessons with the DEO. In fact I kind of like the idea that she had the good sense to do this but her unnamed cousin (Bryon?) never did.

Brendoon said...

First Ad Break....

James is convincing enough and I'm surprised!
Haha "Jimmy only to my mom and to the big guy, he's kinda set in his ways." Supes could totally get on with Captain America.

How come the guy in the next desk to Kara looks identical to Barry Allen????

Brendoon said...

How long has the yellow "s" on the cape been "out"?
I know they dropped it on Man of Steel, but did they drop it earlier?
Of course, the DC universe in my mind got out of sync with the "real" DC-verse about 30 years ago!
In my mind Barry Allen still keeps his suit in his wedding ring and supes keeps his Kent suit in a pocket in his cape...
I must be getting old. So outta touch.

Brendoon said...

And she hasn't been called "Linda Danvers" and lived in Midvale since pre CRISIS??
I AM thirty years out of date.

Brendoon said...

Considering I sorta camp out pre-crisis and a "lil" bit later with the JLI (Booster Gold and Beetle days. Say whut, how can there be a NEW new beetle now?)

...am I just being nostalgic and pinning an attribute on the daytime animations that's not really there...

...or would you say Timm's Justice League Animated stuff and most of the Brave and the Bold 'toons are *mostly* (though not all) classic *pre crisis versions* of most DC heroes
(sure, in the case of Beetle, Gold and Lantern, more the post crisis, late eighties versions when the league were good n' funny!).

I missed (and never caught up on) whole years after superman had died and all his weird clones appeared, and I've mostly ignored the whole new-52 stuff... I'm not into reinventing stuff when it was already good, sure I know it can get stale and ya gotta do something... (what was wrong with calling WW's home "Paradise Island"?? Themyscira still seems to be an Island full of Amazons. That ain't no reboot)

BUT, soothe my insecurity if you will, please, and tell me that most of the animated 'toons ARE in fact depictions of the real heroes as I always remember them, pre-crisis, and that they generally ignore what's really happening in the comics. Am I imagining that?

I bought a new52 book with a batman/superman crossover between two alternate worlds (volume 1, Cross World) because the reviews lauded the writing. Except it was actually badly written and more than difficult to follow the narrative... (the style removed the narrator completely, text boxes were instead used for thought bubbles) I had to work it out but in doing so was excluded from being immersed into the story. It was unpleasant. Is this how the youngsters write comics today? A comic still needs its "but meanwhile, back in town..." narrative to work.Is it worth looking at the new 52 again?
I'm afraid to, that book cost between $30 and $40.

(TV adaptations are fine, TV drama is TV drama, I'm not poking at Flash, Arrow or Supergirl.)

In summary, am I wrong in thinking the animated 'toons prove that everybody likes the DC verse the way it always USED to be rather than what's REALLY happening in the comics?
I just wanna know am I REALLY outdated or do other folks feel that way?

Siskoid said...

Welcome to the blogosphere, Brandoon!

You'll find your thoughts echoed through much of this site and those linked at the bottom. The discerning fan of a certain age will frequently tout such positions, and not wrongly. The cartoons ARE getting the characters better than a lot of comic book iterations, retelling and streamlining origins in a way that feels satisfying where the comics, the New52 ESPECIALLY, are just spinning their wheels and corrupting their properties.

I personally wouldn't recommend any New52 comics that feature mainstream heroes. Even the good ones (Morrison's Action Comics for example) don't really end satisfyingly. Synder's Batman stuff has a good reputation, but I think every arc lasts way too long. The DC Dark stuff in the New52 is among the better stuff, but even there, DC has tended to cancel books before their time, interfere with creative teams... Getting into any book over there these days is a risky proposition. Look up the label "Flushpoint" on this blog for a lot of New52 talk, including reviews of every #1 in the first wave.

Brendoon said...

Phew! That's a relief.
Opinions are funny things. I'm never sure if I'm observing a fact or just expressing a personal prejudice.

Brendoon said...

Just thoughta sumpn'....

Having her as Kara Danvers has two BAD THINGS attached...
1: too similar to "Carol Danvers" the secret ID of Ms Marvel that female imposter of that male imposter who called himself Captain Marvel who bats for the other team. (Gay? No I mean he's not the big red cheese and didn't battle Nazis in WW2 because he hadn't even been invented yet.)
2: The essential "LL" initials essential to all of Supes's female associates are missing (apart from Ma Kent.) She WAS Linda Lee (later Linda Lee Danvers) to join the ranks with Lois Lane, Lucy Lane, Lana Lang, Lori Lemaris and probably some others I don't know about.

Hey, gotta have rules, man! It's the nature of the universe, physics and all that.

Siskoid said...

1. Well, while I've never been a Mar-Vell fan, and the whole Captain Marvel/Shazam situation is regrettable, Carol Danvers as Cap is a good idea, and I'm very happy to see the character go to the big screen.

2. Good point!

LiamKav said...

Lots of little reponses, two weeks late:

1. Regarding having her as Kara rather than Linda- I agree with this. With Superman, he grew up with the name "Clark" and only came across "Kal-El" when he was older. Kara had already been called that for 13 years of her life. She's woken up on a strange planet where her baby cousin is all grown-up and been left with a new adoptive family. Adding in "oh, and we're changing your name" is just needlessly cruel, especially when "Kara" is a perfectly fine name.

Also, the "LL" thing is a Superman thing. It's for his arch-villain, his girlfriend, his other girlfriend, his, er, mermaid... They've got a tricky job of defining Kara without making her a mirror of Superman, so separating them that way I don't see as a problem.

LiamKav said...

2. "BUT, soothe my insecurity if you will, please, and tell me that most of the animated 'toons ARE in fact depictions of the real heroes as I always remember them, pre-crisis, and that they generally ignore what's really happening in the comics. Am I imagining that? In summary, am I wrong in thinking the animated 'toons prove that everybody likes the DC verse the way it always USED to be rather than what's REALLY happening in the comics?"

We all want kids to like the things we liked. It validates us. I love that I can get my nephews to watch Transformers, same as I did when I was a kid. That said, you should never be blind to the fact that nostalgia can be a terribly deceiving thing. (Seriously, most 80s cartoons are awful compared to what came later). There are lots of bad things in the New52, but that's not because new things are bad, it's because their current writing policies are bad. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with having characters change. Otherwise we'd have a grey Hulk that changed at night, a Batman who was essentially a Shadow rip-off and nothing more. You say that you prefer pre-crisis, which is fine, but even that's not one homogenous whole. 50s sci-fi Batman is different from 60s colourful villians Batman is different from 70s global adventurer Batman.

My ideal DC universe is around Zero Hour. Superman and Lois are married. Criminals aren't sure if Batman is an urban legend or real. Wally West is the Flash (Wally West is the best Flash). Tim Drake is Robin. (Tim Drake is the best Robin, unless Dick is Batman in which case Damien is the best Robin).

The Timm led DCAU was at least as much a post-crisis world as pre-crisis. Lex was an evil businessman. Clark wasn't a bumbling cowardly fool. James Gordon was a competent policeman who would have been enough in any city but Gotham. Catwoman hovered on the line of good and evil. Wally West was the Flash. Batman and Superman's relationship was way more post-crisis tense than pre-crisis Biggest Chums Ever.

There was pre-crisis stuff. Lois didn't know who Superman was. However, she had agency, and in the world of Superman The Animated Series she would have found out Clark was Superman sooner rather than later. Dick was Robin, but he was wearing Tim's costume. And later on they introduced a Tim who was really Jason Todd for confusing reasons.

The genius of those cartoons was that they took the iconic bits of every character, streamlined them and modernised them while keeping them iconic. Batman was part Year One, part globetrotter, had the colourful rogue's gallery of Batman '66, with the Joker in particular being an amazing fusion of every version of the character they'd ever been (and Gorshin's Riddler from Batman '66). Lois and Clark's relationship was basically the same as that of the Lois And Clark TV series, which is very much a post-crisis take on things. And Wally was the Flash because, as we've established, Wally was the best Flash.

In (not so short), the cartoons are great. Most of the modern comics are terrible, but for Dan Dido related problems, not problems of newness. I like Snyder's Batman, but I can see why others wouldn't. If you want to see if Marvel or DC can still make good new characters and good new comics, I'd recommend trying 2014's Ms Marvel volume 1 (No Normal). Old fashioned superheroics done in a modern way.

LiamKav said...

3. "Not particularly keen on seeing a woman brutalized, so hoping that there is a little less of the mauling fisticuffs moving forward (this is sci-fi; battles and challenges can come in so many other forms)"

Couldn't disagree more. She wasn't brutalized... she was in a standard superhero fight. I hate women in refrigerators and similar tropes, but not having Kara get into fist fights because of not wanting to see women get beat up is a patronising view to take... it's like in the 60s Batman show where Batgirl was only allowed to kick, not punch. She is Superman's equal, and should be treated as such.

4. Supergirl and Wonder Woman were allowed romantic entanglements cos' they were "mostly for girls." The guys (like Barry Allen) were either already married and approaching thirty or they were staunchly immune to the wiles of gals.
This is something I hate in the bits of Flash that I've seen, and it goes back to the really quite sexiest view of women that comics used to have, and that's that girls spoil boys fun. Lois wanted to "trap" Superman into marriage, and that was an obstacle to be avoided. If we are daring to imagine a world where kids read comics, I'd much rather they read one where Lois Lane is an awesome journalist who dives head-first into danger because she wants to get at the truth, rather than one where Superman (our hero) constantly lies to her in order to avoid getting cooties.

Seriously, all boys should be reading Squirrel Girl. And all girls. And squirrels.

Andrew Gilbertson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew Gilbertson said...

EDITED for clarity.

It's patronizing not to want to see a woman hit? Well... then, I guess I'm patronizing. I'd like to hope it's a mark of general decency, though, rather than something viewed as sexist. I don't think equality should mean being comfortable with seeing a woman beaten- even if she hits back.

And yeah- it makes female superheroes a tricky proposition. Maybe that's part of why the history has been so rocky; the desire for a strong female character butting up against what I think is an innate and laudable human instinct to detest violence against women makes for tricky waters to navigate.

That's one of the nice things about a Kryptonian-based superhero, though... the challenges don't *have* to be fistfights- in fact, ideally, there would be very few villains with whom that would be a viable mode of conflict. Out of 5 Superman movies pre-MoS, only 2 of the 5 involved a direct, physical confrontation (arguablly, depending on how you view that weird little scuffle with the computer in 3). Superman- or Supergirl- should have a few main villains that can go toe-to-toe with them in the brute strength department, but that shouldn't be the way their average villains engage them. (For one thing, that makes the universe filled with Superman/Supergirl-level-strength characters a bit insane.) So, I would think that a lessening of physical violence in exchange for more creative forms of challenge is something compatible with the Kryptonian hero format to begin with.



Separately- at the very least, more recent comics with Lois, Mary Jane, and other superhero spouses have successfully and quite correctly portrayed love interests as partners, as the hero's strengths, and as equally capable (minus feats only superpowers can achieve, of course)- at least, before said marriages were unceremoniously retconned away for idiotic reasons. :-(

LiamKav said...

"It's patronizing not to want to see a woman hit?"

It's all about context. I'm frequently uncomfortable with how the women are treated in Game of Thrones, despite generally liking the show. It's horrible that in every situation where a woman is by herself in that show I'm sat there thinking "please don't be threatened with rape".

However, this isn't Game of Thrones. This is Supergirl - a superhero fantasy show, staring a superhero who has the dual task of inspiring everyone while also specifically inspiring girls who haven't always had someone to look up to. Having her avoid fistfights that she's perfectly capable of taking part in would send the message that she isn't the equal of a man and that, ultimately, she needs protecting. That is not a good message.

I've only seen the first episode, but until it specifically became a plot point right at the end, at no point was I thinking of the fights as "man vs woman". I was thinking of them as "Supergirl vs someone with an axe."

I'm also pretty sure that Supergirl, Batgirl, Spider-Gwen, Ms Marvel, Storm, and many many many other superheroines wouldn't look upon that sort of attitude as "decent". They'd look upon it as (and I can't think of a better word), patronising.

Andrew Gilbertson said...

...Which just goes to show how screwed up the world is getting. For me, no context is needed beyond 'woman getting punched. That is wrong, period.' If Supergirl, Batgirl, Spider-Gwen, Ms Marvel, or Storm have a problem with that... I'll just have to remind them that they're fictional characters. :-) And that while inspiring little girls is good, inspiring them by violence is not the answer.

It's not a question of 'being the equal of a man' (when it comes to brute strength fist-fighting, I don't think the average male and female are equal, by dint of biology, so 'take guys on in fist-fights' isn't a very good message, while 'take guys on in fist-fights if you are an alien with super-strength' is a meaningless message; either way, I don't think anything positive is being taught by a Supergirl fist-fight, and especially not anything positive that couldn't be thought by having her overcome a problem with intelligence, determination, perseverance, or anything else more laudable than violence)- it's a question of what exactly is being role-modeled. (And what we're teaching young boys, at the same time, about violence towards women).

Siskoid said...

This element is just superhero action fantasy stuff. I don't think boys punching boys is any kind of solution to anything either, and yet, it seems acceptable in action-oriented fantasy.

LiamKav said...

Exactly what Siskoid said. fist fights are part of the language of superheroics. If you are going to object to Supergirl getting into puching matches because it sets a bad example to little girls, then you should also object to Arrow, Flash, and Marvel's entire movie output for the past decade on the idea that they are setting bad examples to little boys. Otherwise it's just sexism by concern.

" I don't think the average male and female are equal, by dint of biology

No, they're not. Doesn't mean that there's no point in having a male and female face each other. When Ronda Rousey called out Mayweather, the internet was awash with people who were insistent that no matter how good she was, even the "average man" would be able to beat her. Which is bullplop of the highest order.

The fastest people in the world are usually black, but in DC the Fastest Man Alive is white. I bet not many people are arguing that.

And you can have a hero that gets into fist fights without wanting to get into fist fights yourself. Batman is awesome, but I don't want to spend my evenings hanging out on rooftops and getting into fights at the Gotham Museum's Historical Umbrella Display. You can be inspired without copying.

"...Which just goes to show how screwed up the world is getting. For me, no context is needed beyond 'woman getting punched. That is wrong, period.'

While things aren't as good as they can be, woman almost certainly have it better nowadays than they did decades ago. I'm not sure how Batgirl being allowed to punch someone on TV shows "how screwed up the world is getting".

Andrew Gilbertson said...

I don't think it's the best example to little boys, no. But I also think that hitting a woman is, by its nature, different, and worse. If that's sexism, then I'll wear it proudly. Again, I'd call it 'basic human decency, the lack of which in any person terrifies me.' And that's where 'how screwed up the world is getting' comes in; not that Batgirl is allowed to punch someone on TV, but your last statement in the prior post- that objecting to seeing women get hit is 'patronizing.' That is just... a completely screwed up point of view. It may be the one our culture has right now, but... it's really screwed up.

Look, I get that we're not gonna change each other's minds, here. But I also think it's kind of a double standard to look at spousal abusers who beat their girlfriends/wives as the lowest form of scum (which I sincerely hope we ALL do), but to also be comfortable with media portrayal of violence against women because they're an active participant, or their eventual victory in such violence in glorified. And while I don't think the latter is a primary causative factor on the former... I don't think it's gonna have a positive influence, either.

I don't think we have to see Melissa Benoist getting punched in the face for her to be equal to a man, or for her to be a positive role-model to girls; and I don't think being comfortable in seeing it- even in the service of a standard part of the action-adventure genre- has any sort of positive effect on the psyche or standards of the viewing audience. (And I certainly don't think every superhero comic has to be the violent beat-em-up that most shows are these days- but yes, I do hold seeing a woman being hit as different, and worse, than seeing a man get hit. I don't particularly derive enjoyment from either, but I think the former is- and of right always ought to be- far more cringeworthy.)


I get that we don't agree on that, and that it is viewed as harmless in this culture; I just don't agree. But heck, I don't agree with much in culture, media or otherwise, these days anyway. :-)

LiamKav said...

I think we do agree that violence against women is a terrible thing, I think we're just coming at it from different angles. You argue that seeing violence against women is a cause (albiet a probably minor one) of spousal abuse. I would argue that treating women as something that needs to be protected can be just as dangerous, because once you get into that attitude then you are viewing women as something lesser, and that can slip into possession (I'm pretty certain that a lot of men who hit their wives would go crazy if someone else did it. In their own heads, they are allowed to hit their partners because they own them.) So yeah, I'd argue that seeing Supergirl standing up to nasty men CAN have a positive influence on women in dark situations, showing them that they might have inner-strength that they didn't know they had.

I did do a poll of my wife, a couple of her friends and some people in the office, and pretty much all of them reacted to the use of the word "brutalised" with "it was just a normal fight!" My wife in particular said that it would have been extremely sexist to not have Supergirl get into a fight that Superman would (whilst also pointing out that she DID actually win the day by outthinking her opponent rather than outpunching them).

In reality, a women getting attacked on the street by a man is especially bad because, as you say, men tend to be stronger than women on average. However, in the superhero world, it's impicit that everyone is giving up any gender/race/physical disadvantage cards they might have. The Juggernaught is not going to leave Spider-Man alone because he's weaker than him. Magneto is not going to avoid a fight with Storm because she's a girl. And Galactus is not going to avoid eating the world because Charles Xavier is in a wheelchair.

I guess it all comes down to how much you can seperate your entertainment from real-life. If, when watching a fairly light-hearted action adventure show that features a flying alien, your thoughts go to spousal abuse, then it probably isn't for you. If it was doing realistically, or if it glorified the violence, I might have a problem with it. But it doesn't, so I don't.

I am curious as to your thoughts on women in the emergency or armed services, but I also get that this conversation probably isn't going to resolve itself, so I'm also happy to step back and let Siskoid have his blod back. :)

Siskoid said...

Now I really want to see that Galactus/Xavier story. Damn.

You show your quality, gentlemen, by not having let this discussion get out of hand. As for me, I'm content to be facetious and throw in a joke or fluff comment from time to time.

But let's not forget these are VILLAINS Supergirl fights. We're SUPPOSED to think they're assholes for physically attacking a woman, and were equally supposed to get satisfaction when she fights back and wins. In the feminist allegory, Supergirl is a stand-in for every woman who's faced hardship and fought back. To date, half her opponents have been women, and fisticuffs have ensued there as well. Again, just the nature of the genre. The day we get an episode where Kara looks beat up and evokes spousal abuse, we can talk, but for now, it's still cartoony enough not to. At least to these eyes, and it seems many female viewers as well (thanks for polling your entourage, Liam, very interesting).

LiamKav said...

I should point out that it was only 5 people, 3 of which were female (and doctors, if that makes a difference), so it's not a statistically significant figure.

Also, if I call my wife "my entourage" I'm pretty sure she will kill me.

(I was originally going to use Galactus/Squirrel Girl, but that already happened. Besides, we all know the outcome of every Squirrel Girl fight in advance.)

 

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