Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Melissa Benoist's Supergirl is a fabulous role model

Presidential candidate Jeb Bush had it right about Melissa Benoist's Supergirl.

Yup, she is "pretty hot."

But Kara Danvers (born Kara Zor-El on Krypton) isn't hot just because she's adorable and Benoist has a smile that puts an exclamation point on the her cutie-patootie look.

Danvers is hot because she's relatable and has the struggles of many of us. She is a hard working young woman and like many of us, she's underappreciated in her job and struggles to find her way in the world.

So just like the waitress says: "It's real nice for my daughter to have someone to look up to."

As Supergirl says in her voice-over narration, there's room for more than one hero.

Metropolis has its Superman. And National City — much to the delight of Danvers' boss, Catco media mogul Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart in full-on diva mode) — has his cousin, Supergirl.

A girl-friend of mine and fellow full-on nerd, Rebecca Hobson Zaranko, said on Facebook that characters such as Batgirl and Supergirl do nothing more than ride the coat-tails of their male counterparts. It's a valid point — and there's some truth to it.

But it's important for women and girls to have their heroes — male or female, original or not.

Too many comic book artists do an extreme injustice to all women by drawing them with overly large breasts and ridiculously great figures. That's not worthy of being a role mode or is even an ideal way to look at the female figure; it's pure degrading sexism.

The great female characters are the ones that embody characteristics worth emulating.

This version of Supergirl is a great role model.

First of all, the creative team gets a great big CCC attaboy/attagirl for the way Danvers rejects the belly-baring costume she first tries on. ("I wouldn't even wear this to the beach," she tells her co-worker, played by Jeremy Jordan, whose character Winn Schott is stuck in the friend-zone.)

DC Comics has done more than its fair to unfairly sexualize Supergirl with her increasingly skimpy costumes over each incarnation. The costume worn by Benoist isn't just flattering; it shows off well on-screen and IMHO captures the best spirit of the original version worn by Supergirl.

Danvers isn't always going to get it right.

We fans unfairly expect our superheroes to always nail it each time out, but in the trend of more "realistic" handling of the live-action cape-and-cowl crowd, it's refreshing to see Supergirl isn't perfect from the start. She and her heroics are a work in progress — as it should be. ("See if you try to save a plane for the first time and see if you don't make a mess," Danvers angrily gripes at the TV over the coverage of her first heroic outing.)

But Danvers knows what she's supposed to do with her powers. Yes, it's the borderline cliche of Peter Parker's burden of knowing "with great power comes great responsibility," but the sentiment rings true on "Supergirl." ("I've always felt the need to to help people and tonight I got my chance," Danvers tells her adoptive sister.)

Danvers has a great support system — her sister, Mehcad Brooks' very likable James "Jimmy" Olsen (another co-worker who gives Danvers the "pow!" moment that Schott tells her she should have in a potential relationship) and of course, the nerdy Schott. (Brooks does a great job of letting the audience know that it's no coincidence Olsen has moved from Metropolis by the looks he gives Benoist's character. Olsen knows more than he initially lets on and is looking out for Danvers as much as "the big guy" is.)

And let's not forget Supergirl's cousin, who is technically younger than her in Kryptonian years, but aged on Earth while Danvers'/Kara Zor-El's ship was stuck in the Phantom Zone. Superman doesn't need caring for as Kara's birth parents expected, but he's definitely looking out for his cousin.

Kudos to the "Supergirl" creative team for including Superman's presence without letting the references to the Man of Steel or glimpses of him overshadow the star of this series.

(Also, the casting of Danvers' Earth parents, Helen Slater and Dean Cain, is nothing short of stunt-casting, but for this fan, it feels right. I can't wait to see more from her Earth parents and what wisdom they have for their adoptive daughter as her Supergirl journey continues. … And if you don't know Cain and Slater's connection to the live-action "Superman" universe, shame on you! Look them up!)

"The challenge of the series will be to highlight the character differences between the two," another friend Vince Thompson said on Facebook, referring to Supergirl and Superman. "Hopefully the series is more than a cash grab running on the hype of 'Arrow' and 'The Flash.'"

This is another good point.

It's important for the female variations of superheroes to differentiate themselves from the original, male versions. As "Supergirl" progresses, it will be interesting to see Danvers master her powers, assert herself as Grant's assistant and prove she's not just an alien or Superman's cousin. I have no doubt the creative team and Benoist will bring a can-do/girl power attitude or philosophy to the character.

Since "Supergirl" is masterminded by Greg Berlanti, the creative force behind the consistently intriguing CW series "Arrow" and "The Flash," it should be a great and fascinating voyage "up, up and away" for this series and the character. "Supergirl" has promise, but unlike the darker, more intense shows about the archer and speedster, this CBS is series is solid, family fun — perfect for its 8 p.m. time slot.

Grade: A 


No comments:

Post a Comment