A Big Cape to Fill

Supergirl looks to completely embrace the colorful comic experience, light-hearted adventure and enthusiasm of a young superhero finding their place in the world. Which sounds great…if we are talking about Invincible, Spider-Man or a teenaged Superman…but that isn’t the story of Supergirl.

The tale of Supergirl is the inverse of Superman. He is a corn-fed, American-raised human to his core that grows up with a secret he decides to share with the world that he fell in love with. First comes the man, and then comes the super. It’s a powerful story that resonates with fans because despite his god-like capabilities he is really one of us.

SupergirlSupergirl comes to Earth as an alien and must discover her place in the world. The heroics come easy; it’s the day to day life that she finds difficult and a struggle. This is also a story that contains emotional resonance as the adventure for self-discovery and finding a sense of value amongst strangers can be extremely difficult…

But not for CBS’s Kara Zor-El. She has close knit circle of friends, loving foster-sister (?), doting co-workers, potential super-model love interest (Jimmy’s been to the gym!) and military advisors who are all rooting for her. This isn’t the story of Supergirl. This is the story of a female version of Superman. Viewers don’t just want a carbon copy of their male heroes to be cast by females; they want unique powerful versions of the characters to be portrayed.

This show is not veering down a new path, but is treading familiar ground that we have already seen in the Superman films. The main character is a nerdy bystander who decides that her powers can be used to save humanity despite a lifetime of hiding. Her debut appearance includes saving a plane from crashing, which was an overused Superman-trope when Superman Returns pulled the same stunt.

Instead of creating a new experience for Kara, CBS is leaning heavily upon the Superman knowledge that viewers posses. Half of the trailer is references to ‘my cousin’ (which was frustrating on its own level…we all know your cousin is Superman, Clark Kent or Kal-El…just say his name). This approach casts a large shadow over Kara’s actions that make her seem like she is simply following the path already laid out before her instead of choosing her own life.

Of course, with the way movie rights work everything I stated could have been the initial pitch meeting. Just like how Arrow is basically Batman, Supergirl could have been created to be the tv version of Superman.

But fans and creators should want more. Supergirl is a strong, capable hero that has a rich comic-book history and place within the DC mythos. She is more than just Superman in a skirt; she is a unique hero with her own past, experiences and challenges. I hope the initial trailer is just to grab attention and draw upon the familiar for the casual fan and that we see Kara grow more into a character that is more than just a pretty Clark Kent-lite.


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