'Supergirl': Is the Inevitable 'Sexist' Charge Justified?

·Writer

After months of build-up, CBS released the first Supergirl trailer on Wednesday, during their upfronts presentation of their new fall lineup to advertisers. The Internet promptly exploded — and, perhaps predictably, the fans had a specific gripe at the ready.

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There were plenty of variations on this tweet as well:

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Charges of sexism against Avengers: Age of Ultron and its merchandising (including the baffling choice to remove Black Widow from a toy set based on the very Widow-centric scene featured in nearly every commercial) have made the topic women’s roles in comic book franchises a particularly hot one right now. In response, Saturday Night Live did a sketch with the Marvel superhero, only instead of an action film, it’s a romantic comedy. And, while the second half of the Supergirl trailer definitely makes it feel like a superhero show, the first half — from the cinematography all the way down to the soundtrack — feels, beat-for-beat, like the SNL sketch.

This is far from the first time that comic book fans have pooh-poohed a TV show for being too “girly.” The Adventures of Lois and Clark was basically a rom-com in its first season. Smallville — and even Arrow — have detractors that say there is (or was) too much emphasis on romantic sub-plots. But much of the problem stems from the idea that Supergirl — who at many times in her nearly 60-year history has been presented as a feminist icon — had been reduced to the stereotype of a hapless goofball who is reduced to silly giggles in the presence of a cute boy. (Granted, Mechad Brooks is very cute… but have some composure, woman!)

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With the Black Widow sketch only a week-and-a-half old, the Supergirl trailer is more a victim of poor timing than anything else. The backlash was intense, but many quickly sprung to its defense: How can the show be sexist when it’s appealing to the very audiences turned off by the macho punching contests that so many other superhero properties have become?

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It certainly doesn’t help Supergirl’s cause that it’s the first live-action TV show focused on a female superhero since the poorly-received Birds of Prey back in 2002. Still, the show should be given a chance to prove itself rather than proclaiming it DOA months before its premiere. And of course, this is all based on a single trailer. It’s impossible to tell for certain whether a show is good or bad or sexist or feminist when we’ve only seen a little more than six minutes of footage. With any luck, fans will start to move past this and focus on the real issues:

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Supergirl will air Monday nights this fall on CBS.