So, I noticed a lot of anger and angst over the new Supergirl trailer for CBS. Most of it seems to be angry because the trailer has some superficial resemblance to the parody trailer SNL recently showed lampooning Marvel’s inability to make a movie with a female superhero or, theoretically, connect with female viewers.
So I went looking for the trailer. To be honest, I didn’t think the hoopla was warranted, as the images I saw comparing the two trailers seemed incredibly cherry-picked and out of context. So I set it aside and came back to it a few hours later, when I could devote some more attention to it.
And I still think the complaints are unfair.
Mind you–if you are a woman and you think the trailer looks awful, well, fair enough. I can’t speak for anyone but myself. But in my opinion, here’s what’s wrong with the criticisms I’m seeing (mostly, by the way, from men).
1. It looks like a ripoff of The Devil Wears Prada.
Well, ok. But TDWP wasn’t the first time we saw a show or movie in which the female lead’s boss is a diva. And it won’t be the last. It’s a trope for a reason, people. I don’t think CBS using the trope means they think that’s the way to connect with women, I think it just means it’s a well-worn trope. Which brings me to …
2. It’s too trope-y.
Well, you know, tropes as the term has come to be known–which isn’t the actual meaning, but hey, language changes, so we’ll move on–that is, commonly recurring literary and rhetorical devices, motifs or clichés in creative works, are what we in the literature teaching game also call archetypes. The way you get an archetype, or trope, is that it recurs often in literature. And they recur because, and here’s the kicker, people like them.
Now, people don’t like it when tropes are over-relied on, but without some tropes, a lot of stories just wouldn’t exist. Hell, the prevalence of tropes suggests they’re kind of important. Look at the lists on tvtropes.org. There are a lot of patterns people use over and over in storytelling. If they’re used badly, that’s not so great. But if they’re used well, then they’re excellent.
The truth is, we don’t yet know if Supergirl will use them well or not. But from what I saw in the trailer, I suspect they’re going to be OK. They appear to lampshade, or call attention to the trope, in several places. They also might be subverting some of the tropes. For example, one criticism a friend had is that it looks like Kara/Supergirl will be trying to be normal while the world won’t let her. I don’t think that’s going to happen–we see her in the trailer bemoaning being “normal” as not all she thought it was. As I understand it, part of the show is showing her movement from “I want to be a normal girl” to “I’m not normal, and that’s OK,” which, to be honest, I would love to see. For example, when she sees the news asking who the “mystery flying woman” is, she isn’t upset that her secret is in danger, she’s excited about it. When her sister says “You’re out there now, Kara. Everyone will know, and you can’t take that back!” Kara responds with an incredulous “I don’t want to.” Good for her.
3. Kara with Agency
A friend of mine said ” I want her to have agency and make choices that matter to her own story.” I don’t think you’re going to have to worry about that; it looks to me like that’s where she’s going. She reveals herself to a guy she barely knows, she takes to the streets before she’s even sure she has the same abilities as her famous cousin, and she asserts herself when others tell her to stop. I’m pretty sure Kara will have all the agency she needs and deserves–which is a ton.
Yes, there’s an asshole from the government who tells her to “go back to getting someone’s coffee.” I’m pretty sure he’s going to be getting his comeuppance, and if he isn’t, I’m going to be right there with all the other people protesting.
4. The SNL Comparison
Oh, c’mon. Are you fucking kidding me? Oh, that guy cocked his head at the same angle as Ultron in the parody! They must be the same!
This is the Internet Outrage Machine at it’s worst. Ignore it. Watch the show. If it sucks, walk away. If it’s good, keep it.
Me, I just hope it’s suitable for my daughter, because dammit, she deserves a superhero show she can watch with a woman in the title role. And Captain Marvel is too damn far away.