I love Superman. My love affair with the superhero began in 1993, with the Dean Cain/Teri Hatcher vehicle, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. Look at him. Can you blame me? My adolescent heart was smitten.
This was probably the spark that ignited my nerdy fire. I learned more about the Superman mythology, mostly from my dad, who grew up reading Superman comics, among others. I scoffed when the story veered off course, and I blame the show’s ultimate demise on the moment Teri Hatcher cut off her hair.
I was also pretty certain I was going to grow up to be Lois Lane.
I jumped on the Smallville train when WB (later CW) launched that series. In my college Mass Media Comm class, I wrote my major paper about Superman – obviously. I eagerly awaited Brandon Routh in Superman Returns, and was soundly disappointed. But, Henry Cavill came along and saved the day in Man of Steel.
I enjoy superhero mythology in television and movies, so when I heard CBS was launching a Supergirl series, I was intrigued. When I heard that Dean Cain was set to have a (at the time) super-secret role in the series, I was like, “Hell yeah!”
But the more I learned about it, the less enthused I became.
For instance, Jimmy Olsen was leaving the Daily Planet to buddy up with Kara Danvers? Um, no.
And then they started showing the previews. Melissa Benoist looked super-awkward ripping open her shirt to show her “S”. She may have the nerdy Kara down, but there’s a lot to be desired from her Supergirl. The one thing I’m grateful they addressed was the fact that it’s 2015 and this new heroine was given a “girl” moniker. Because, honestly, no self-respecting hero would call herself “girl” in this day and age. Just ask UltraWoman.
Even going back to the Golden Age of Comics, Supergirl is just a watered down version of Superman with a va-jay-jay. She was introduced to up comic readership among girls. She doesn’t have her own origin story; she’s simply a tangent of Kal-El’s. And she has to co-opt Superman’s friends in order to make her story plausible.
In fairness, I’ve only watched one episode of the new series, but I am DVRing it on the off chance I feel generous (or bored) and decide to give it another shot. But the fact that throughout that episode, they referred to Superman as “Him” rather than calling him by name says a lot. Like, are you afraid if you invoke His name, audiences are going to realize this isn’t even Superman-lite?
Kara and her posse don’t live in Metropolis, but you wouldn’t know it considering the cast includes Jimmy-now-it’s-James Olsen and Cat Grant. Superman already made a nameless and faceless appearance. I can only assume Perry White is in the offing.
Look, I know superheroes aren’t a female-centric mythology. With a handful of exceptions, most female supers are offshoots of their male counterparts. Batgirl, She Hulk, Spider-Girl, even Female Thor, who apparently can’t rustle up a better name for all she’s a goddess. The only standalone female superhero who has made a lasting impression is Wonder Woman, and the struggle to get her story onscreen in the 21st century is epic. (Is it too late to request that Joss Whedon take the helm on this one?)
I think women should definitely be more fairly represented in the comic book movie and TV genres. But adding boobs and a skirt to popular male heroes, and watering down the heroics isn’t the way to do it. Twenty-first century heroines don’t deserve to be shortchanged in terms of difficult villains, high-risk situations, and the chances to demonstrate their strengths.
We’ve been kickin’ ass since way back.