Why the New Supergirl TV Show Just Isn't Super Enough
Since Marvel’s first Iron Man movie in 2008, the superhero craze has been going off the charts. Marvel’s most recent film, Avengers: Age of Ultron, reached $1 billion in global box offices today. The appeal has spread to everyone from OG comic fans to the casual viewer just looking for a fun adventure. However, there is a glaring problem in the industry dating back to the original comics: superheroism is a boys only club. While, Marvel and DC have both been slowly featuring more women in their cast, they’re often just side characters, romantic interests, or damsels in distress.
The most recent perpetrator of this issue is CBS’s new show Supergirl. The show, starring Whiplash actress Melissa Benoist, will follow Superman’s equally as strong younger cousin, Kara Zor-El, as she kicks ass, deals with emotional growth and works day and night to keep the city safe. At least that’s what many fans were hoping to get with the new teaser released this Wednesday. Instead what they got was a Devil Wears Prada meets Never Been Kissed view of ‘poor little Kara’ trying to make it in the big city, managing work, boys and maybe trying to understand her powers on the side. While the promo does feature Kara beating up baddies, it’s very clearly an after thought in a promo rife with ‘girl problems’ and more than one butt shot of Kara in her miniskirt costume. And we wanna know, why aren’t the superheroines treated the same as superheroes?
Supergirl isn’t the only one faced with this problem. Marvel’s Avengers franchise also deals with Black Widow, played by the actually perfect Scarlett Johansson as the only female member of the super troupe. While the superspy is still a badass and takes down bad guy after bad guy in some pretty cool ways, her story can also be bogged down at times with her romances with the Hulk and Captain America. SNL recently did a parody perfectly encapsulating the issues with the handling of these female characters, which eerily mirrors the CBS promo. Even actresses, such as ScarJo and Anne Hathaway (who portrayed Catwoman in Dark Knight Rises), cannot escape sexist questions about their workout regimes or sexy costuming. Meanwhile their male costars are asked about their acting process, and the characters’ emotional growth.
But this problem goes further back than TV. Much of the comic industry has been partaking in sexist culture since it’s inception. In 1946, when the industry was first taking off, the National Cartoonists Society excluded women for four years, until Hilda Terry, an American cartoonist, threatened the society to either change their name or honor women alongside them. Female in comics were either the incapable damsel in distress, like Lois Lane, who constantly needs rescuing by Superman, or a scantily-clad and white-washed portrayal of often feral women, like Amazonian Wonder Woman, or the first ever female comic heroine Fantomah, a blonde, white Egyptian ‘mystery woman.’ Even today, female comic book characters are grossly sexualized, such as the new Spider Woman cover that got released last year and shows her in such an awkwardly sexual position and her costume to be so unrealistically tight that fans were outraged.
All that being said, the industry has come quite a long way. With Wonder Woman getting her own feature film in 2017, along with more and more genuinely powerful women popping up in films like Guardians of the Galaxy’s strong alien assassin Gamora, played by the gorgeous Zoe Saldana (and yes that also includes Black Widow), there are now some amazing and practically costumed heroines to look up to. We just want to know, when will the girls get the same credit as the boys? Why do we still need short mini skirts and idle romances to have a starring role? Perhaps someday we can see these ladies, without their exposed rears flapping in the breeze, fighting crime without the male gaze.