CW’s Supergirl is not just terrible at playing politics but at being subtle as well. First, it showed an image of Supergirl literally holding a flag in a hypocritical attempt to preach unity. Now, it presents the white male conservative-esque leader of an “Earth First” movement as the bad guy. I’ve seen DNC ads less partisan than this episode.
The October 28 episode “Man of Steel” dives into the backstory of the latest supervillain Ben Lockwood aka Agent Liberty (Sam Witwer). Currently in the show, he heads the new terrorist “Earth First” movement, which is far too obviously referencing Trump’s “America First” approach. Throughout the episode, we track Ben’s experiences through various past moments in the series that give rise to his evil plans. How Trump supporters resemble a fictional group attacking the White House and innocent people is beyond me, but this episode is really trying its best to make that connection.
Take, for example, one of the episode’s flashbacks. After the introduction of a revolutionary alien metal, a steel factory is forced to downsize, including one run by Ben’s father, Peter (Xander Berkeley). As a result, the majority white human workforce attacks alien truck drivers from the competing factory.
I’ll give the episode this, if this scene was meant to resemble an Antifa protest in Portland, it clearly succeeded. Unfortunately, the show has clearly defined aliens as equal to minorities or illegal immigrants, so the perpetrators, of course, are the unstable older white workers.
From that moment on, Ben slowly becomes more and more anti-alien after witnessing much destruction and loss. Comparatively, he also becomes more and more bigoted to the point of openly degrading an alien student in his university classes. It’s at this point when the immigrant parallels become more overt, as does the stereotypical right-wing prejudice of his two-dimensional character.
Ben: Nativist. Term often used in a derogatory fashion to describe those who fear the other. Question for you. What's wrong with those who wish to protect their homes from the outsiders?
Alien student: Well, America is a country of immigrants.
Ben: Yes, but that's always been controversial. You see, in 1775, Benjamin Franklin himself writes of his own fears of immigrants whom he warned, "The immigrant will never adopt our language or customs any more than he could acquire our complexion."
Alien student: Franklin was talking about German immigrants back when America was still a British colony. I don't see how it applies to anything.
Ben: I can see why this point of view would be problematic, especially since we are talking about human immigrants. Human immigrants, who, for the past 200 years, made America great no matter what their complexion. But now, we welcome immigrants not only from outside our borders, but from beyond our atmosphere. So, let me just ask you... How does the human worker compete? Anyone? How does the human worker compete against an alien who could lift two tons of steel over its head without even breaking a sweat. How does the human worker compete against an alien that can fly goods from one coast to the other, leaving our trucks to rust away in the sand.
Human student: Sorry, Professor, what page are we on?
Ben: Ben Franklin's fears have come to pass. The modern immigrant cannot assimilate and it's not a question of desire, not a question of culture, it is a question of biology. And from that context... from that context, I should be proud if you were to call me a nativist.
Alien student: This isn't nativism. It's xenophobia.
Ben: I can't say I'm surprised to hear that from someone with your complexion.
If you needed any further confirmation on evilness of Ben’s attitudes, the very next scene has him being confronted by the university’s dean on his behavior. Like the right-wing caricature he is, he complains about “Millennials” with their "safe spaces" being too sensitive to deal with his material to cover his bigotry. Being the bastion of diverse thought, the university dean fires him to stop the spread of prejudice.
Dean Warren: We've had another complaint about your class, Ben.
Ben: Uh-oh. Millennials.
Dean Warren: Still. It sounds like your lectures are extreme.
Ben: Well, history is extreme, truth is extreme. The classroom isn't a safe space where everyone gets to hear a fairy tale version of the facts. And if students can't handle perspectives that are different than their own, then I don't know. Maybe they don't belong here.
Dean Warren: The tenure board would disagree.
Ben: What are you saying?
Dean Warren: You've been warned multiple times about the rhetoric in your class. Now, we think you should take a leave of absence without pay.
Ben: You know what my family is going through. I can't lose this job.
Dean Warren: You're passing on your own prejudice to our students, Ben. We're a university, a diverse one. Look, I'm sorry. I've always liked you, but you brought this on yourself.
Nearly every scene with this character is some warped perspective of what liberals think is happening in the country. They somehow truly believe groups of people are going around physically attacking minorities and that only bigots harp on snowflake millennials. Meanwhile, the plight of Trump supporters being silenced or even assaulted for their beliefs or skin color are ignored. After all, someone has to play the bad guy.
To top it all off, Ben ultimately becomes motivated to start his “Earth First” movement inspired by the words of…Winston Churchill. That’s right. At his father’s funeral, he becomes inspired by the late British Prime Minister's quote: “Never give in. Never give in. Never, in nothing, great or small, except in considerations of honor and good sense. Never yield to force, or the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy that confronts you.” Once again, the man who helped lead Britain through World War II is treated as a source of racism. If anyone can point to me where “never give in” implies bigotry, feel free to show me.
The worst part of it all is that this is the series trying to be sympathetic. The previous episode was all about attempting to unite the divided populace, yet they keep using the most stereotypical depictions of people on the right. Then they have the gall to turn those stereotypical depictions into the "bad guy" and pretend it represents reality. Somehow, their unity effort is worse than when they were completely one-sided, and we’re only three episodes in.