Kara Danvers is your typical 20-something. She’s shy and just trying to find her footing in this big wide world. She’s unlucky when it comes to love, but never stops searching. Your usual girl next door, Kara is quite beautiful behind those thick, geeky glasses.
Under the glasses and mousy cardigans is Kara Zor-El, last daughter of Krypton. She’s strong, powerful and determined. She’s never bullied or put down, but instead revered and idolized by the people she protects and feared by those who oppose her. Nothing stops her from saving the day.
Kara Danvers is nothing like Kara Zor-El. Yet the two are one in the same; two acts in the same play. They are completely dependent on one another for survival as much as the other likes to deny it. Much like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Kara Danvers and Kara Zor-El share a body, but have two completely different egos and personalities.
I’m, of course, talking about Supergirl, the woman of steel. Supergirl has made a resurgence in popular culture after CBS aired a show bearing her name in 2015. After a rocky first season, the show was moved to the CW where season 2 aired on Oct. 10. So far, reviews have been much more positive than last season’s, and the show looks like it has a bright future.
For the uninformed, Supergirl is Superman’s cousin. She was 13 when Krypton exploded and was supposed to follow Superman to Earth so she could protect him. However, her pod got trapped in the Phantom Zone — a place where time doesn’t pass. She was stuck there for 24 years before crash landing to Earth. Adopted by the Danvers family, the scientist who helped Clark Kent learn about his powers, Kara lived a quiet life of relative obscurity and peace.
That was until she saved a plane from crashing in the middle of National City. She embraced her role as a superhero and donned the famous seal of House of El (the S is actually a Kryptonian symbol, almost like a family crest; it doesn’t stand for “super”) like Superman did before her. All in all, she’s your typical hero: she saves children from fires, stops bank robbers and occasionally saves a cat from a tree.
However, in a lot of ways, Supergirl isn’t your typical superhero, nor is Supergirl your typical show about a superhero.
Usually, superhero shows are about the protagonist doing heroic things, and their personal lives are left largely out of the picture. It’s all about the powers and how many bad guys with cool names they can sack that week. And yeah, Supergirl does a lot of that. They occasionally suffer from villain-of-the-week-itis. Season one’s overarching plot is thin. The show is very episodic and formulaic, meaning very little carries over from week to week. The writing, like most superhero shows, can be rough, to put it lightly.
How Supergirl differs is that the show isn’t about Supergirl. It’s about Kara (played by Melissa Benoist). Kara, in many ways, is much more of an intriguing character than her cousin. She remembers Krypton. She saw it explode and watched her parents die. That’s got to cause some serious childhood trauma. The shadow of her home planet looms over her and strongly impacts her decisions, and she never feels quite at home on Earth in the way her cousin does.
Kara becomes Supergirl not only out of a need to help others but as a need to help herself. Embracing her powers is a way for her to connect with her Kryptonian heritage and honor her parents. Every victory is a step closer to healing. Superman has never really had that type of development.
And that’s what makes Supergirl so important. Female superheroes are rarely developed in the way producer Greg Berlanti has developed Kara. Mainly female superheroes are just scantily-clad sex objects with the personality of wet cardboard. The last super-heroine to receive this much attention and care was the Oracle in the 2002 show Birds of Prey. And that show was certifiably horrible.
If Supergirl is a success, if Berlanti achieves the same success he had with Arrow and The Flash, we could see a whole superhero revolution. Supergirl could be the start of a whole era of good female superhero shows. When future generations watch TV, they could see people of all races, genders and sexual orientations saving the day.
When we create superheroes, we are creating an ideal. We are creating someone we can look up to, who we know will always save the day. Up until recently, that has always been a straight white man. Supergirl lets people know superheroes can be anyone: they can be damaged and hurt; they can be different and unsure of themselves. If mousy Kara Danvers can be a superhero, anyone can be a superhero.
And that is what makes Supergirl worth it. Though victim to the occasional cheesy story line, all can be forgiven because Supergirl is ultimately more than just another superhero show. It symbolizes a new era, a new superhero age. It’s the age of the common man (and woman). It’s the underdog’s turn to save the day.
Kara Danvers is teaching us how to fly. We shouldn’t be afraid to leap.
Featured Photo Credit: Feature photo courtesy of BagoGames on Flickr.
Sara Karlovitch is a freshman journalism and government and politics major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.