It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a superhero show addressing important social issues! Supergirl, currently airing Monday nights on the CW, is halfway through its sophomore season and shows no signs of slumping. Now, I’ll admit, it’s easy to dismiss a show like Supergirl, with its family-friendly aesthetic and occasionally cliché dialogue. But if you look past the quirky one-liners and the hokey CGI, Supergirl has been packing some serious punches this season, and not just the ones delivered to evil White Martians or the other super villains pitted against our plucky heroine.
Of course, the most obvious social commentary on a show called Supergirl is on feminism. Though there are far more female iconicheroes in movies and television these days, having a relatable and kickass role model like Kara Danvers (aka Supergirl) is incredibly important for women of all ages. But the show doesn’t end there with its female role models: Kara’s sister, Alex Danvers, is an extremely competent scientist. Her boss, Cat Grant, is a wildly successful journalist and CEO. Even the President of the United States is a woman played by the original Wonder Woman, Linda Carter. This last example, though amazing on its own, is even better because it is never addressed that a female president is out of the ordinary. A woman is the president, end of story.
While feminism took center stage for season one, season two has broadened its horizons. In fact, season two began with an alternative take on an issue that has become extremely timely — immigration. The current issue on the show is whether literal space aliens should be allowed to become citizens. Though they are not human beings from other countries, the issue still hits close to home. However, unlike the real world the President of the United States in Supergirl is proposing an amnesty bill, not a wall or a ban. Much of the discourse around this amnesty bill speaks of refugees from other star systems, and — according to a President I’d much rather have — of welcoming them with open arms. There are characters on the show that are against this bill who cite xenophobic reasons not unlike what is heard in the real world, yet these characters are obviously slanted as villains. With this plot-line, Supergirl spreads a message of concern for those fleeing war-torn or dangerous places, be it light-years or mere miles away.
The second aspect of season two that I have found incredibly meaningful for such a seemingly gimmicky show is the way the writers handled the coming out story of Kara’s sister, Alex. It’s not often that the portrayal of coming- out on television is not rushed or handled insensitively. Supergirl soars above this norm as Alex’s feelings for Maggie Sawyer, a detective on the Metropolis police department, develop over several episodes with the attention that such a life-changing experience deserves. This season, Alex came to terms with her own sexuality, entered a supportive relationship with Maggie, and came out to her sister and mother.
In last Monday’s episode, Alex brought Maggie to her friends’ night out, where they were expecting to meet Alex’s new boyfriend. Although surprised at first by Alex and Maggie’s relationship, Alex’s friends congratulated her for being true to herself. Though each step of this coming out journey brought Alex a fair share of anxiety, every family member and friend supported her identity, quelling her fear of accepting who she is. For LGBT+ viewers who often strongly relate to that anxiety, Alex’s story arc has become a beacon of hope as powerful as the “S” glyph on Supergirl’s chest.
Although viewers might occasionally require x-ray vision to see the subplot lines concerned with real world issues buried under the flash of superheroes, aliens, and twisted comic book villains, they remain present in Supergirl. Though I had originally believed Supergirl to be a mindless show for a younger audience, I was pleasantly surprised to find this was not the case. What is even better is that the family-friendly aspect of the show allows for young viewers to become aware of the deeper issues weaved into the show. I, for one, could have used a hero growing up that’s not only as strong as Supergirl, but also as brave as Alex Danvers.
Facing such dark forces as the patriarchy, xenophobia, and homophobia might take more than heat vision and freeze breath, but with Supergirl in the fight, we might be a little closer to the ideal of truth, justice, and the American way.