Supergirl is no Kryptonian rom com, but it’s full of goofy charm

26 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Rise of the comic-book hero.

Last spring, SNL aired a spoof of Avengers: Age of Ultron that roundly mocked how Marvel — and, by extension, much of Hollywood — might approach stories about female superheroes.When Supergirl finally takes flight Monday night, its heroine Kara Zor-El will have already endured months of derision for everything from GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush’s boneheaded “she’s pretty hot” comment to her show’s early resemblance to a girly girl-parodying SNL skit. The sight of a Kryptonian bustling through crowded streets carrying coffee for her Miranda Priestly-lite boss, apologizing frantically to grumpy Earthlings for bumping into them, was a sign of clichéd inferiority, we were told. (Though, it’s worth noting, no one leveled this claim at Barry Allen in CW’s The Flash, who is introduced as an adult onscreen in almost the exact same way.) But Supergirl, to its infinite credit, never shies away from its charming, bubbly protagonist’s hyper-femininity, even in a culture that still, somehow, perceives girlish women as intellectually inferior and frequently condescends to and underestimates them. So it didn’t help at all when the first trailer for CBS’s Supergirl seemed to indicate that the show would make all the same limiting assumptions about what audiences wanted from the property.

ABC delivers “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” a series that is a spinoff from “The Avengers” movies, and its summer counterpart, “Marvel’s Agent Carter.” Fox counters with “Gotham,” a prequel story to the Batman saga. In fact, the show makes a spectacle out of directly answering accusations of anti-feminism, in everything from its choice of villain to Kara’s costume to a pointed meta exchange between Kara (Melissa Benoist) and her boss, high-powered media magnate Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart). “I don’t want to minimize the importance of this,” Kara says after learning that Cat has branded her alter ego Supergirl. “A female superhero! NBC offers its homegrown superstory, “Heroes: Reborn.” And that’s not counting two series based on comic books sans superpowers, the CW’s “iZombie” and the 600-pound gorilla of Sunday nights, “The Walking Dead.” This is not the first time we’ve seen superheroes in primetime.

Shouldn’t she be called Superwoman? … If we call her Supergirl, something less than what she is, doesn’t that make us guilty of being anti-feminist?” Cat, sporting stilettos, a form-fitting dress and a killer blowout, answers, “What do you think is so bad about ‘girl?’ I’m a girl. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (8 p.m., CW) – Despite a childhood fear of hosting parties and a lack of social connections in West Covina, Rebecca plans a housewarming party. Supergirl, which premieres tonight, opens by intentionally checking off each of those “chick-flick” beats in the first 10 minutes — and then proceeds to turn the tropes upside-down. I’ll Have What Phil’s Having (10 p.m., UNC-TV) – Phil travels to Barcelona, where he has a world-class breakfast of foie-gras and eggs, participates in a tapas crawl and visits a vermouth bar. Our pop culture universe is dominated by two phenomena: superhero movies and TV shows, and female singers belting out bubblegum feminist self-esteem anthems.

So if you perceive Supergirl as anything less than excellent, isn’t the real problem you?” The dialogue is almost painfully on the nose, but then again, it needs to be. Going a step further and asserting that said woman-in-a-cape can fly in bright, sunny skies with a smile on her face (a superhero actually enjoying her gifts?!), wear cute skirts to work, and go on dates—all while wielding enough power to shoot heat rays from her eyes and stop a speeding big rig with a single punch? Kara (played by Melissa Benoist) is no longer content to be thought of as “his cousin”. (Superman is only ever referred to as “him” or “my cousin”; the sole glimpse we get of him are a pair of red boots shooting into the sky).

Supergirl stars Melissa Benoist as Kara Zor-El, the older cousin of Superman who, in a more modern take on the character, was originally tasked with watching over him moments before Krypton’s destruction. Executive produced by Greg Berlanti (Arrow, The Flash), Andrew Kreisberg, and Ali Adler, picks up with 13-year-old Kara the moment she blasts off the planet Krypton to look after her baby cousin Kal-El on Earth. But after Krypton explodes, her spacecraft is sent careening into the Phantom Zone, where she’s kept in suspended animation for 24 years — just enough time for Kal-El to emerge as the Man of Steel. Her mother, a scientist named Alura (Laura Benanti), bids her a tearful goodbye and perishes, but her memory looms large over the rest of the episode.

When she finally makes it to Earth, stripped of her original purpose, Kara sets out to do what any normal, Midwestern girl from space would do: try to make it in the big city as a personal assistant. She spends 24 years there before being miraculously dislodged and sent back on her way to Earth—along with a floating space prison full of the galaxy’s deadliest criminals. Here, in the tradition of other Greg Berlanti superhero shows like Arrow and The Flash, Supergirl tries to have fun with its characters, and above all is invested in making you feel the wonder and amazement they feel when they see a woman fly. Back on Earth, we’re introduced to Kara’s adoptive family, the Danvers, her co-worker/confidante Winn Schott (Jeremy Jordan), and the new, impossibly handsome Jimmy Olsen—er, sorry, James Olson (Mehcad Brooks), Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer and Metropolis-to-National City transplant. Comic book series, too, have found a new maturity, focusing on characters and their struggle to come to terms with their powers — and less on the powers themselves. “Smallville,” the series about Superboy that ran for 10 years on what is now the CW, gets the credit as the archetype.

We watch her choose a costume with the help of Winn who, naturally, has a hopeless crush on Kara. (In one of the episode’s most pointed and funny moments, Kara tries coming out to Winn as a superbeing, only to have him interrupt her and scream, “Oh my god, you’re a lesbian! Successful superhero movies usually built their first act around the character’s “origin story.” With “Smallville,” the origin story was the entire story.

There’s plenty for those who loathe liberties being taken with their favourite made-up characters to bemoan, principally cool, black, hunky reporter James “Don’t call me Jimmy” Olsen. Where’s my cape?”) in favor of long sleeves and a miniskirt—a more sensible ensemble representative of Kara’s personality and Supergirl’s history.

In contrast with the darker, more brooding “Arrow” and “Flash,” “Supergirl” is a brightly lit ode to empowerment — one that owes a debt to director Richard Donner’s “Superman” films of the 1970s and ’80s. “I grew up really worshiping the Donner films and their magic and their wonder and their joy and their fun,” Berlanti said. “When we went in last year to talk to Warner Bros. and DC and they mentioned the possibility of us working on a show like ‘Supergirl,’ our real hope was to bring just a smidgeon of that magic that those films had.” That puts much of the onus for the show’s success on its star, Melissa Benoist, a 27-year-old actress previously known best for her work as Marly Rose on a season of “Glee.” “She was the first person we saw,” executive producer Ali Adler said, “and we looked at each other and were blown away, and we were like, ‘We have to get a diamond ring for that girl.'” • “The Adventures of Superman”; 1952-58 syndicated; George Reeves did double duty as Superman and Clark Kent, aided by Jack Larson as Jimmy Olsen and Noel Neill or Phyllis Coates (Season 1) as Lois Lane. But this show is silly, so much so that it’s hard not to roll your eyes or groan at the action onscreen. (Some slipshod CG here and there doesn’t help either.) Whether or not that’s a strength or a weakness, however, is something that will be decided by fans. Leaving him out of the series entirely is a smart choice—otherwise every episode would be plagued by anticipation for a cameo from the Big Guy—but evoking his name, photograph, backstory, and cape over and over creates a big S-shaped hole in the story.

For instance, during a montage of Kara developing her costume, the scene shifts to her walking through a hail of bullets to the tune of Carl Carlton’s “She’s a Bad Mama Jama.” It’s as ridiculous as it sounds, and my eyes rolled right out of my head, but I couldn’t help but be swayed by the moment’s hyper-earnest charm. Not every show can sell its campy side so deftly, but Benoist and her supporting cast, all so full of determined smiles and a willingness to chew a little scenery, make it work throughout. The producers considered recasting the role but ultimately decided to end production • “Superboy”; 1988-92 syndicated; It may not have had the cultural impact of the other shows in this list, but “Superboy” nonetheless lasted four seasons, although in some ways it was three different series. The pilot suffers from a number of other flaws—CBS ominously provided critics with only the pilot—involving sometimes-clunky dialogue, cheesy special effects (Kara’s heat vision so strongly resembles the possessed schoolboys in “Total Eclipse of the Heart” that I had to laugh), and an irritating reliance on Kara’s lack of self-confidence to raise the dramatic stakes.

Kara’s foster sister Alex (Chyler Leigh) is quickly revealed to be an engineer for the Department of Extra-Normal Operations, a government agency devoted to tracking down superpowered aliens. And, 40 years after Lynda Carter first took up the mantle of Wonder Woman—and one month before Marvel premieres its own first superheroine-led title, Jessica Jones—broadcast TV has been graced by the image of a 24-year-old woman, striding forward confidently as bullets bounce off her chest.

The story begins with Clark in love with Lois but Lois in love with Superman, but as the series progressed Lois learned the truth about Superman’s identity. The show was cancelled after four seasons with some story lines still unresolved. • “Smallville”; 2001-11 the WB, the CW; The foundation of the modern comic-book TV series, “Smallville” was a show where Clark Kent was the hero, and the cape was rarely donned. Kristin Kreuk played love interest Lana Lang and Michael Rosenbaum was Lex Luthor. • Various animated series Superman, Superboy, Supergirl, Krypto the Super Dog and others have turned up in several animated series, ranging from “The New Adventures of Superman” in 1966 to “Justice League Unlimited” 40 years later.

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