Shouldn’t Supergirl be Above Sexist Storylines and Tropes?

Melissa Benoist

The other day I posted something about Supergirl on Twitter that I want to share here in hopes of expanding conversation about it. Fans expect a lot from this superhero, and I’m not sure we’re getting it.

Yes, I have thoughts on the direction of the entire season 3 of Supergirl. This season Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) has faced a series of opponents collectively called Worldkillers. They regularly knock her down and beat her up, leaving her groaning in pain and unable to get up and fight. WTF?

The only reason a superhero from the planet Krypton should be so weak and vulnerable is because she’s a woman. That other Kryptonian who flies around saving people isn’t weak and vulnerable. But a woman is? I don’t care if they found a way to justify her vulnerability in the story line – it shouldn’t have happened in the first place.

It feels like they had a conversation in the writers room in which they decided that because Supergirl is, you know, a girl, she wouldn’t be as strong as her super cousin over in Metropolis. Because he’s a man.

That may not have happened, but that’s what I keep thinking week after week as this season of unSuper Supergirl rolls by.

Supergirl isn’t weak. Stop writing her that way.To make it even worse, the worldkillers who are bringing Supergirl to her knees this season are all women!

Women fighting women. Come on, really?

I want the creators of Supergirl – Ali Adler, Greg Berlanti, and Andrew Kreisberg – to raise their heads and say, “Supergirl is a super hero! Period. No sexist nonsense allowed in our show.”

There are plenty of villains to choose from in the world of superheroes. Why bring in 3 women who are stronger than the one and only female superhero on television now? Supergirl isn’t weak. Stop writing her that way.

Something else is bugging me

Katie McGrath in Supergirl

My other beef with this season is about Lena Luthor (Katie McGrath). Supergirl and Lena are having a fight. GIRL FIGHT! Another trope!

Kara isn’t fighting with Lena. Lena’s mad at Kara’s super secret identity. And the super secret identity and Kara are both mystified about a solution. Cripes, a super hero who can’t even untangle her own interpersonal relationships. A loser, apparently.

Supergirl should not be portrayed as a loser.

GIRL FIGHT! Another trope!Last season and early in season 3, the sexual chemistry between Kara and Lena was so off the charts that I think it scared the writers. They already had a gay character. (Right now she’s out of action babysitting.) The gay bit is handled, right? No need to let Kara and Lena be more than friends.

Maybe viewers were so eager for more LGBTQ content that they read more into Lena and Kara than they were meant to. Maybe viewers don’t know how to interpret friendship and friend love between two people of the same sex. I don’t think that’s the case, however.

It’s especially hard to buy the “we’re just friends” idea when Lena is supposed to be romantically attached to James Olsen (Mehcad Brooks), and her interactions with him contain NONE of the sizzle and sexual overtones she and Kara had.

So they concocted this girl fight to put distance between two characters they were determined not to let go anywhere near lesbianing.

Women fighting women. Come on, really?

And one more thing

Chris Wood in Supergirl

Why is Mon-El (Chris Wood) helping Supergirl, teaching Supergirl, and rescuing Supergirl? Why does she need a man to do those things for her? Isn’t she the one who taught him how to be a hero when he first came to Earth?

Is Supergirl a freaking super hero or isn’t she? Somehow season 3 is fuzzy on this issue and it should not be. I’m a big fan. I watch every episode. But, Supergirl, you are not making it easy.

If any of this has been bothering you, too, I’d love to discuss it more in the comments.

31 thoughts on “Shouldn’t Supergirl be Above Sexist Storylines and Tropes?”

  1. Yes she should be. Also, I’m never watching this show — clearly. (Not that I really watch any shows but this would make me hurt my TV and while I really don’t use my TV, I don’t want to hurt it.)

    UGH.

  2. And what about the fact that SuperGirl DEFEATED Superman and he claimed her the Champion of Earth? Yet she needs Mon-El to run to her rescue? And by trying to shove SuperGirl with a married Mon-El is disgusting. Do NOT portray women like that, especially the champion of earth.

    This season is so far off the mark. I’ve stopped watching it entirely, James and Lena? Does everyone HAVE to be matched up? Why is Lena not valid enough to stand on her own?

    So gross. I used to adore this show, now…pfft.

  3. i disagree with the characterization of Supergirl as “weak” – she isnt as strong as the Worldkillers but that hardly makes her weak. Supergirl has been on earth for a shorter period of time than Superman so she should in theory be less powerful than he as she has had less exposure to the Sun’s energy (which gives both Kryptonians and Daxamites (Mon El) their powers). yet there was an episode last season in which Supergirl beat Superman down, so she is arguably stronger than him. Superman does indeed find enemies with which he needs assistance, and typically that help comes from people less powerful than he (sch as Batman). but i think to your larger point, i think there are difficulties bringing comic book characters to life in television and movies. there will be some difficulty in keeping the show interesting if Kara is stronger than everyone she meets. that is a persistent problem in the Superman comic books. i suspect the writers decided it would be worse to have male opponents be stronger than to have stronger female opponents.

    I agree that the chemistry between Lena and Kara was powerful. i thought for sure the writers were going for a relationship which would have been a monumental storyline when one considers the Luthor/Superman relationship. while i see chemistry with Lena and Jimmy, it isnt as powerful as that between the two women.

    With Mon El and Supergirl, true she taught him how to use his powers and then why he should use them for good. but he has been in the future for some time now (in the show’s timeline) and has had an opportunity to work with that era’s greatest heroes, the Legion of Superheroes. i THINK he is supposed to have learned things about the use of powers and these enemies in particular that Kara doesnt know yet.

    i watch the show through the prism of my experience with comics – i’ve been reading since the mid 60s. i am glad they dont portray Supergirl as she was portrayed through much of her history. even now (her most recent book was just cancelled), she is shown as a less experienced hero than her brother, and somewhat less powerful. but like him, she almost always takes care of business on her own. i think maybe the writers want to show her as being more collaborative, but they fail if they dont make her the star of her own show.

    1. Thanks for commenting. It’s always interesting to get the perspective of someone who knows these stories from the comics. It’s a different set of background info and expectations from the characters. Not just the heroes but the villains, too.

      It raises my feminist hackles when there are so few women on television playing super heroes and they don’t get to be as heroic as the male superheroes.

      1. i too am disappointed in how often she seems overwhelmed and it seems to me that while every hero has to overcome or s/he hasnt really done anything heroic, the male heroes of the Arrowverse dont seem to be overpowered by their enemies as often. and as powerful or accomplished as they are, the Flash and Green Arrow are not in the same league as Supergirl.

  4. The fact that the lead actress’ publicist threatened me almost immediately with legal jargon indicating that I was engaging in defamation by claiming some members of the cast acted in a homophobic way regarding the possibility of Supercorp being canon really does demonstrate the attitude that people involved with this show have towards lesbians and LGBT fans in general. It’s disappointing that after the disaster at Comic Con their instinct was to “no-homo” the plot as much as possible rather than just continuing on with a strong and beautiful friendship between two women.

      1. Yikes, don’t listen to that story. That wasn’t what homophobia is. The actors said a ship between two women wasn’t going to happen in an overly dramatic (though pretty cringe-y) way for humor, responding to the massive enthusiasm of people who are fans of something they’re not actually doing on the show. Essentially, “They’re only friends!” Some level of frustration there, perhaps, but not homophobia. And she’s now going around calling these people homophobes/lesbophobes, which is defamation, but the email she received and posted was not threatening in any manner. It was educating.

        Lena and Kara have been set up like a republican and a democrat as friends from the very beginning (as described in early press about their friendship). This was to distance people from shipping them. If anything, it’s them further playing into a pre-existing dynamic people have shown interest in (a three episode arc on this friendship!). But they were always going to have this tension (remember Lena creating a device that detects aliens, which Kara was strongly opposed to?), but the point of the plot is them navigating these tensions in order to come back together, both having learned something.

        Just the fact that women are fighting isn’t a bad thing unless it somehow suggests that all women fight. And not only does the show constantly show women supporting other women, but Kara’s relationships with Lena and the worldkillers, while featuring struggles, also have been grounded in hope. Hope that Kara and Lena can find a way back together, hope that Kara can help the worldkillers.

        Let women fight, let women help each other, let them learn from each other. Let them do it all. Limiting them to only ever supporting each other not only makes for terribly boring storytelling, it’s also a poor representation of the rich range of relationships between women.

        And Supergirl being defeated by anyone ever is sexist because it’s her being weaker than a man, but her only having been defeated by women is sexist too? Supergirl can’t win every fight all the time, there would be no room for a story. The worldkillers were specifically engineered to be stronger than her so that she has to solve her problems another way. She can’t always rely on being physically stronger. She has to use her head and her heart. Which I think is a positive message.

        Also, you can see that a big lesson that other (male) heroes in the DCTV world have to learn over and over is to ask for help from their teammates. Meanwhile in Supergirl, the motto is “Stronger Together.” The fact that Supergirl asks for help and learns from those around her is considered a strength. Mon-El teaching Kara one skill (while Kara is still very clearly stronger than him) is not anti-feminist. Mon-El does not save Kara the most (Alex does it all the time, just did it in Trinity), and Supergirl is not likely saved more than the heroes on other DCTV shows are. These types of characters are always in danger.

        Supergirl has been proven to be stronger than Superman, and you can bet your ass the worldkillers would destroy him easily. And the other DCTV (male) heroes are defeated all the time.

        “Cripes, a super hero who can’t even untangle her own interpersonal relationships. A loser, apparently.”

        One, every hero everywhere struggles with interpersonal relationships. This is where the story lives. The struggles of interpersonal relationships. Otherwise it’d just be them fighting monsters and winning over and over again with no plot. Superman in particular is a story build on the interpersonal. There’s a reason Lois and Clark are the most iconic superhero couple. Clark struggled to juggle his two identities with Lois, just as Kara is with Lena.

        Two, the fact that you consider someone struggling to figure out how to salvage a relationship while still doing the right thing makes Supergirl a loser is… strange and unempathetic. We’re supposed to sympathize with her and root for her, not judge her. Her fighting for her friendship is meant to be admirable.

        So as far as that’s concerned, to borrow Cat Grant’s words, “So if you perceive œSupergirl as anything less than excellent, isn’t the real problem you?”

        1. Thank you for this excellent comment. You are the voice of reason, something we need more of in this world. I speak as a fan who wants an emotional payoff from Supergirl that I’m not getting right now, and I’m frustrated.

  5. Honestly, the more I see/read about this season, the happier I get that I quit when they announced they were bringing Mon-el back for season three. Sounds like not much has changed from the disaster of season two, except they’ve decided to tear apart the best relationship (romantic or not) that they had for no-homo reasons. Have they given any reason that Kara is suddenly so freaked out about Kryptonite other than Lena is a Luthor? I know she had no problem with it when the DEO injected a liquid version into Aunt Astra to torture her. She had no problem with it when she and Alex were in the training room and they used it to dull her powers. Kara was fine with the DEO having it even after Alex put a kryptonite machete through Astra’s back. They even managed to not inform her about a theft of a shipment for months and Kara was pretty zen about it. When Lena was accused of using Kryptonite to help Lillian and Metallo, Kara never even asked if Lena actually had any. But now, when Lena is using it to combat the Worldkillers, Kara is freaked out enough to turn on her best friend?

    1. You sure know a lot about the argument over kryptonite for someone who isn’t watching the show. But that is the basis of the lack of trust between Supergirl and Lena – Supergirl asked James to find out if Lena was hiding any kryptonite.

  6. SG became a shit show. I stopped watching at the end of season 2. The CW is awful and any criticism it gets at this point is deserved. Disappointing.

  7. Hi Virginia

    Because this storyline is the most easy for the writters, they don’t have imagination and they are lazy, is more easy to show a superhero being weak than strong, she not need a men for support her, but is fine if they put one, she need a partner who support her and show her respect and love more than anything, just like Lena does it.

    We need a woman not a naive girl who need support from a slave owner (in his past), he is more dangerous for Supergirl than the villains itself, he change his behaviour and is fine but he doesnt belong in this time line, he is strong with the legionaries, he have a good woman with Imra well he belong of the XXXI century.

    The chemistry between Lena & Kara is beyond imagination and the writters are so scared of this, that they only choose a girl fight, but to me is like a girlfriends fight, more than friends fight for a secret.

    I’m agree with what you explain in this article.

    1. I’m not sure I’d say the writers are lazy, but I think they took a wrong turn. They could be heading somewhere we don’t know about yet with this story. I just wish they’d chosen to go there in a different way.

  8. Supergirl as a show really pisses me off these days. I mean i know that the move to the CW was a necessary one for universe connection and stuff but the introduction of Mon-El and Kara’s subsequent reduction to the love interest ON HER OWN SHOW is frustrating to put it nicely.

    A part of me still wonders if this season has only gone this way because of Kreisberg. Yes he was fired before the season began but the season direction was settled already so they couldn’t chsnge it without an extended hiatus (which i would’ve preferred tbh).

      1. Touche. I really don’t know how they can fix things at this point, which makes me sad. I feel like that kid during the red!k Kara ep when she threw her Supergirl costume in the trash whenever i try to watch it.

          1. Agreed, i also feel like some bts changes are needed. I recognize that the showrunners & writers room have been on a bit of a revolving door but they need to bring in people who actually respect and care about Kara as a character.

            I also (foolishly i know) still hope that they can somehow bring Ali Adler back.

  9. Your questions are my own to be honest. I’d like to say Ali Adler, Greg Berlanti, and Andrew Kreisberg are not on Supergirl as much they used to at the start of the show. They “moved on” to other projects when Supergirl passed to CW control (To me it sounded more like the CW sacked them quietly) and thus the fall of the shows quality from Season 1.

    I personally believe that the justification the writers give within the plot should be stated to make a stronger case of what’s wrong in the show:

    1) Supergirl is getting her butt kicked by the World Killers because they get the jump on her all the time. The writers established on Season 2 that Supergirl is stronger than Superman but then they try to hint that Reign is stronger than Supegirl by having Reign attack Supergirl on Christmas (The episode before the season break) and then the other World Killers are supposed to be just as bad as Reign but we never really get to see them fight Supergirl or anything. To me they seemed to just be one-episode villains that needed to be there so Reing could make it to the end of the season without seeming like a whimp (and in the end Lena Luthor, a human with her brains and her money, has her trapped in a cell because otherwise people would just complain about how come Reign isn’t coming for Supergirl more often or killing more criminals) This indicates to me they didn’t actually thought this villain through and ended up needing to buy time for it to get to the season’s finale. Honest question I’d like to have an answer for: The other World Killers (that end up dead, one after just a couple episodes and little to no exploration) being non-white is racism or diversity of cast?

    2) Season 2 and bits of Season 3 have been spent on establishing Lena Luthor is not like Lex Luthor, only for her to end up giving hints that she hates Supergirl. WOT? We’ve sat and fell in love with their dynamic only for them to end up falling over in a girl fight about Kryptonite? The writers make the attempt to drive the point that Supergirl is paranoid of Kryptonite and anyone having their hands on it, but it doesn’t go home to us, instead just being an excuse that Lena herself shuts down as “Supegirl having a God Complex” And then they keep hinting that Lena’s gonna turn evil after all! Why to even bother to make Lena a relatable character if she’s going to end up being a villain? They’ve never given this much development to a villain and all their villains don’t get past a season. Lena brings entire audience points (True story, check it out: Every episode Katie McGrath is been in has had better raitings than the one she isn’t) so they’re not gonna make her a villain and if they go Smallville route and have her be a recurrent problem for Supergirl then they’re just making her a gender-bent Superman instead of her own character.

    3) Mon-el got destroyed on the Internet in Season 2, reason why they sent him away. His entire character is a trope: School Jock with a sensible side.It used to work on the 90’s but since then better charcters have been written and the trope was burried but the writers dug it out and it became a Zombie that needs to be put down because he’s not even that much of a sensible guy. Supergirl herself ended up calling him a jerk in Season 3, that simple. He’s supposed to have matured because he spent 7 years in the future as a Superhero with the Legion, reason why he helps Supergirl; but to me that just feels like they needed a love triangle and they couldn’t have it between Lena and Kara because they’re afraid to have more than one gay couple per show (And even then, they didn’t planned to have Maggie around for Season 3. Floriana (Maggie’s actress) was signed on for one season and she had to rush around to give her character a satisfying ending while also being in her own personal projects. The actress had mroe commitment to the relationship than the company that makes the show!)

    Mon-El really just seems to be there in Season 3 to have an ‘equality’ subtext but it doesn’t work out because in the end Mon-El has been planted as Kara’s love interest instead of his own character, reason why even though he’s married to Imra, they’re hinting he might stay in this era with Kara. The writers don’t seem to know what to do with him so they just have him around doing things with Supergirl and give romantic tension (Reason why I believe in the rumor that Mon-El’s actor and Melissa’s IRL boyfriend, Chris Wood, asked for less screen-time. He knows he isn’t important and he’s got better things to do with his time and career)

    The person in the comments that got threathened by Melissa’s publicist is a well known case to hard core fans in Tumblr because the writers have given every hint of romance between Kara and Lena only to shut it down ‘as just friends’ and when they out cry came because the actors mocked this chemistry in the biggest show/videogame convention in the US (You can look up this incident as the SDCC Supercorp Incident, I encourage you to if you care about Lena/Kara stuff), they really just seem to be like “We already have lesbians! You can’t make everyone gay!” as if being gay was a character trait and not a part of society that has gone unadressed and/or mistreated for very long. The fact that Lena/Kara is the most supported relationship of the show proves the chemistry Lena and Kara have and that the writers have failed to match or out do with Kara’s romantic interests (Kara dated Jimmy Olsen and that made no repercussions. That relationship had so little attention from the fans that the writers were able to just snuff it out at the beggining of Season 2 and Mon-El is not even close to be likable to most of the fandom)

    I’m a Mexican from Mexico City and even I get to hear about how bad Mon-El is and how bad the SDCC incident was, that simple and that big is how the CW and cast is messing up.

    1. There is so much to your comment, I hardly know how to respond. I’ll be brief and say that the scene you mentioned where Supergirl told Mon-El to get lost because she realized what a bad situation it was for her was my favorite part of season 3. The way you described the SDCC when the cast laughed at the idea that Supercorp was a thing reminded me that I did know about it.

  10. I agree with pretty much everything you said, just a quick comic book injection though canonically the Worldkillers are all female, though only i think Reign has an actual humanoid form, all five of them are female (cant remember if Doomsday is considered one of them or a seperate entity) anyway, in comics Kara beats three of the WK’s and holds Reign to a standstill in a fight after the WK’s put the smack down on her cousin. After seeing her sisters so beaten and Supergirl bloody but still standing Reign calls a truce and leaves.

    My question, why are only 3 of the WK’s in the show, why were those three women of colour, why was the only WK Kara has stopped so far a white girl and why the hell does she need Mon-uselesses help?? They could have written this storyline so differently, they could still have the drama of a smack down fight with the WK’s but in the end Kara should be more then capable of holding them off and fighting on her own. Otherwise you are sending several terrible messages to your young female viewers.

  11. I love watching Supergirl but Season 3 in some way has been a disappointment for me! One it seems that they have made it look like she is weak and needs Mon-El to help her in everything she does! Two for me I see no chemistry between Lena and James! Three I don’t like the fighting between Supergirl and Lena it’s not necessary because they have been friends for to long! Kara should know that Lena would never hurt Supergirl in anyway shape or form! I don’t know what the writers are up to but I think that Jessica Queller and Robert Rovner are the two that are writing most of the story’s since Andrew Kreisberg was fired! Plus I heard that Floriana Lima left the show because Sanvers scenes were cut about 75% by Andrew Kreisberg! She tried to fight for her character to get better stories but no luck there, and because of the sexually hostile environment he created she was kinda forced to leave the show. So the story that was out there saying she wanted other opportunities is a lie.

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