Why CBS's 'Supergirl' Is Anti-Feminist, Family-Friendly Viewing

The much-anticipated premiere of CBS’s Supergirl was a breath of fresh air in TV land. Pushing back on feminist labels of women and not succumbing to traditionally sexist costuming of female superheroes, Supergirl shines. 

Supergirl Kara Zor-El (Melissa Benoist) is the cousin of Superman. She was sent to Earth to protect Superman when he was a baby named Kal-El. Kara arrived on Earth some 24 years later, after being stuck in a region of space where time doesn’t pass. Still thirteen years old when she landed on Earth, she was adopted by the Danvers – with a wink to past television roles, the Danvers are played by Dean Cain (who played Superman on tv's Lois and Clark) and Helen Slater (who played Supergirl in the film version). After keeping her super powers secret for twelve years, Kara decides the time is right to use her gifts for good.

Kara has a regular job at CatCo, a newspaper publishing company owned by Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart). She is a low level assistant to Cat. Hey, Superheroes have to eat, too.

Her costume is made by Winn (Jeremy Jordan), a co-worker at CatCo. It quickly becomes obvious that Kara is a different kind of superhero. She nixes the sexy costume first produced by Winn – very much like the costume worn by Wonder Woman, back in the day. Kara wants modest and practical to fight crime and rescue victims! Her boots are flat heeled and her cape is bulletproof and fireproof. What more does a girl need?

Kara: I'm not flying around saving people in this thing. I... I wouldn't even wear it to the beach. Where's my cape?

Win: Capes are lame. Tell your cousin I said so. Actually, never, never do that.

(Kara clears throat)

Winn: (Inhales sharply) Oh. Kara, you look really pretty without your glasses.

Kara: Winn.

Winn: So, uh... To be a superhero you need a crime. I hacked into the NCPD. There's a car chase on the 112 freeway.

Kara:  I can do a car chase! (Police siren wailing)

Winn: A cape aids with aerodynamics, I should have thought of that.

Officer on radio: West National City Bank. Reporting a 432. Sixth and Spring. Suspects are armed and dangerous.

Winn: You, uh... You're sure you're bulletproof?

Kara: Hope so.

Winn: All right, the new cape is made from a structured polymer composite. It's much sturdier than... And, uh... (Chuckles) This one has the "S." For "Super," just like your cousin.

Kara: It's not an "S". It's my family's coat of arms. The House of El.

Officer on radio: Four-alarm fire at Gates and Igle.

Winn: I'm assuming you can't catch on fire.

Yes, bulletproof and fireproof, but not Kryptonite proof!

After the superhero’s first rescue, she becomes big news. Kara's boss, Cat, wants the newspaper to profit from a photo taken of the heroine – a rare find. Cat brands her as “Supergirl.” An indignant Kara wants to be called Superwoman, not Supergirl, as “girl” isn’t the politically correct word to use of grown women. Cat schools Kara on the words.

Television: …media magnate, Cat Grant, to put a name to a face. Miss Grant dubbed National City's new female hero, "Supergirl." And if Twitter is any indicator, the name appears to be catching on.

Kara: "Supergirl"? We can't name her that!

Cat: "We" didn't.

Kara:  Right, I'm sorry. It's just, uh... I don't want to minimize the importance of this. (Stammering) A female superhero. Shouldn't she be called Superwoman?

Cat: I'm sorry, darling, I just can't hear you over the loud color of your cheap pants.

Kara: (Exhales) If we call her "Supergirl," something less than what she is, doesn't that make us guilty of being anti-feminist?

Cat: Didn't you say she was a hero? I'm the hero. I stuck a label on the side of this girl, I branded her. She will forever be linked to Catco, to the Tribune, to me. And what do you think is so bad about "Girl"? Huh? 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? And if you're so smart, Kara, could you please give me one reason why I shouldn't fire you?

James: I printed it. And it's an even higher resolution than you hoped for.

Cat: James. You are interrupting a very craftily worded termination.

James: Kara wanted to surprise you, but she has a teller friend that works at West National City Bank. -The branch that got robbed.

Kara: Right! Right, yes, I went there. You know, it took me a while to park my car in the streets. -The one-way streets are so confusing. (Chuckles) You tell it so much better.

James: (Clears throat) Kara convinced her source to allow us to use a photograph that she captured.

Cat: You got a clean image of Supergirl? Kara, if you can't take credit when you do something well, you are gonna be at the bottom of the pile forever. But, mazel tov. You bought yourself another day.

No old school feminist agenda here on this family-friendly show. The days of “I am woman hear me roar” are quieted and little girls now have a completely G-rated superhero – a girl superhero – to watch. They may even understand the real lesson – a girl can conquer the world, with a little help from her friends.

As the show was promoted on CBS This Morning, co-host Nora O’Donnell could not help herself – she had to ask about Jeb Bush’s recent remark in an interview, also on CBS – he said that Melissa Benoist was “hot.” Not taking the bait, Benoist said that she didn’t “know what to think about it.” Refreshing!  When asked about the costume, she said that a sexy costume wouldn’t do. “It’s not her.”

Indeed.

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