There's going to be a lot of talk about female superheroes now that one is unabashedly taking the lead on Supergirl.As much as I love the lady heroes that populate Marvel movies and CW television shows, this is truly awesome. At New York Comic-Con, Supergirl co-creator and executive producer Ali Adler talked to reporters about where the series falls in our cultural conversation, the awesome way in which Kara is being portrayed on screen, and how at the end of the day it doesn't really matter that she's a girl, even if it's kind of the best.
In the Warner Brothers Television Takeover panel at NYCC which I attended, Adler also mentioned that the writer's room for this show at CBS is 50 percent female — which is a vast improvement on other shows and helps to bring both truth and balance, according to the showrunner. However, Supergirl and those involved in it are not presuming to suggest that Melissa Benoist is playing television's first female superhero. She's special in her own way, but coming from a long line of similar kickass ladies.
"...we’re so inspired by things like Buffy and Sydney Bristow and that was a while ago," Adler said in the roundtable. "And now we have, not quite superheroes, but some of the other CBS women Alicia and Madame Secretary, we just have a tremendous volume of powerful women and I think women are just agreeing to not be quietly powerful anymore. So it’s perfect timing that she, Supergirl Kara Zor-El, is here to put on a cape and show us all how it’s done."
You can definitely see the Buffy the Vampire Slayerinfluence in the way that Kara not only has a sense of humor, but doesn't eschew all femininity and girliness to be a hero. That's important. While there's nothing wrong with female characters who take on more masculine traits, it's good to have a balance and this show is doing an awesome job at doing just that. I also love the sentiment that women have been "quietly powerful" for so long. That's so true! We know they're out there, and now they are impossible to ignore. However, there's nothing overtly gendered in how she fights or what her super powers are. Supergirl's heat vision isn't pink and glittery, for example.
I think that this is a powerful person, and she can fight and fly and has the exact same powers as Superman. [...] she is equal parts going to save the day and kick some ass and inspire people, and it doesn’t really matter that she’s female. I think it’s sort of the conversation we have before we see it and afterwards, we’re just like "oh my God, I can’t believe that hero saved the day." And so it’s incidental that she’s in a skirt. But it’s cool that she is.
Speaking of skirts, Adler talked about how, in their show, Kara isn't sexualized or objectified in her costume. It's functional and cute. Plus, in the promotional imagery, she's not posing from behind — she's facing us and soaring in the air. The first episode does have several conversations about the implications of having a "Supergirl" saving National City, from Calista Flockhart's monologue about reclaiming the word "girl" and not letting it be anything less than, to a woman remarking that she was happy her daughter had a female superhero to look up to, and finally a misogynist alien villain who expects Kara to bow down before his manliness. However, I don't think that is going to continue now that this character has been established in the pilot. Ali Adler seems committed to telling a story that's feminist and fun without calling attention to itself, so I look forward to seeing what's next.
"It absolutely matters that she’s female," Adler said, "but in the end no one’s going to ask what bathroom do you use after you kick a villain’s ass. They just see that they’re the winner."
Images: Trae Patton/CBS; Giphy