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Mon-El is Supergirl’s Kryptonite

Not Kara Danvers—the show.

Supergirl is something you hear mentioned a lot around here, and that’s because from the get-go, it has blown many of us away with its unbridled enthusiasm and positive takeaways. While there have been stumbles here and there, Kara’s optimism and staunch refusal to be infantilized, along with a rich cast of supporting characters each battling their own demons, more than earned its top spot on our “best of 2016” list.

It’s therefore with the utmost love and respect that we, Gretchen and Kylie (‘Grylie’ of course), have to discuss a problem with Supergirl’s second season. A major problem, in fact. One that is actively dragging the narrative down and undercutting the show’s otherwise feminist messaging. We’ll give you three guesses who we’re talking about (though you probably only need one). That’s right, this guy:

Meet Mon-El. He’s Kara’s season 2 love interest/recently-turned-boyfriend from the Kryptonian colony of Daxam, the Zeta Beta Tau of the (potentially) Andromeda galaxy. And to be clear, we weren’t opposed to the idea of him at the beginning. In fact, we saw a lot of exciting potential in another alien survivor with superpowers on the show, especially since it put Kara in the role she had always intended to fill with Clark, yet never got the opportunity.

Here’s the story of a man named Mon-El

Like his Kryptonian pod, Mon-El landed in Supergirl with a lot of hype, but without making a huge impact. (He was unconscious during the first two episodes of this season.) Kara almost immediately recognized both his planet of origin (Daxam) and that he was someone of prominence. The Hatfields and McCoys-esque planetary rivalry between Daxam and Krypton set Kara up to challenge her own prejudice.

As befits our girl of steel, once she got over her knee-jerk reaction, she urged Mon-El to use his superpowers to help people. But, for the first few episodes he appeared in, Mon-El wanted to party, lay low, and be generally lazy and privileged. He seemed poised for a ‘learn how to be a hero’ arc with Kara as his mentor, while serving as a potentially interesting foil for The Guardian, a human with no powers who had chosen to keep his own superheroing a secret rather than work as part of a team.

Mon-El’s hesitation made a certain amount of sense early on. He’s the prince of a privileged culture that still uses slaves. He probably hasn’t worked a ‘real job’ in his life, at least by Earth standards. Plus, laying low on a new planet with a foreign culture after realizing you suddenly have increased physical power isn’t a bad idea. He needed to get his feet under him. And depending on what kind of relationship he had with his parents (who are actively looking for him across the galaxy while he lies about being related to them), he may have wanted to keep a low profile. Fair enough.

He also comes from a culture with a lot of baggage, specifically baggage about male privilege and men’s relationship to women. In 2×05, he pawns his work off on Miss Tessmacher and, when confronted by Kara, claims he did so because: “She wanted to please me. On Daxam, when a woman wishes to please a man—”. Yikes. We’ve never been more grateful for Kara interrupting someone.

He also seems to believe altruism (and/or job satisfaction?) = selfishness based on how he responds to Kara’s desire to help people.

“Okay, I may have your powers but I don’t have this, this innate desire to go leaping into trouble. But that doesn’t make me a bad person, all right? You’re no saint, Kara Zor-El! You fly around, rescuing people like you’re just pure of heart. But that is crap. Because you love that attention. You love people loving you. You are not selfless. And you’re no hero.”

Mon-El further projects his own desire to stay out of trouble and the limelight onto her. He encourages her not to be a hero or go ‘looking for trouble’ because he wants to stay ‘safe’ and not get involved. To him, his survival is no more than luck and merits no reflection or compassionate reflex. His privilege gave him a simplistic approach to life, and he prioritizes personal physical safety. Beyond that, he’s content to uphold the status quo, party on, and skip work whenever he feels like it.

And skip HR seminars.

This is a problematic head-space to live in, no question. He’s privileged, entitled, selfish, pleasure-oriented to the detriment of others, and interprets kindness and compassion as acts of self-centeredness. That’s a heck of a lot of societal baggage to unlearn, and it makes sense that he wasn’t ready to jump into being a superhero thirty seconds after he lands on Earth. We appreciate that this gave Kara a chance to face down the way she projected her urge to mentor onto him without taking his desires into account. She gets a chance to apologize and back off, like the respectful person she is. After this, the tone quickly shifted from mentorship to one of potential romance.

But before we dive into that, it’s worth taking a look at his arc as it’s been set up thus far. He’s a privileged white male from a toxic culture with a need to reform his toxic mindset. His arc is ‘douchebag becomes a decent guy’, to put it crassly. Which is…fine, we guess? It’s not a bad story to tell, even if pretty stale at this point. But this season already has an arc concerned with breaking the cycle of violence, overcoming an ingrained toxic environment, and shedding problematic cultural frameworks: M’gann.

If you count Lena’s arc pushing away from her family’s villainy to become her own hero, we actually have two. This is on top of Kara’s ongoing exploration of her own mixed Kryptonian heritage and Alex learning how to make space for herself within a much more positive, but still constrained, familial dynamic. The hints we’ve gotten of Maggie’s backstory seem to imply a similarly troubled family history. We could even include J’onn learning to forgive M’gann and let go of his (very understandable) hatred for his persecutors. Heck, the main plot of the season revolves around an organization that seeks to legalize and enact bigotry and violence against refugees. It’s safe to say that the ‘overcoming toxic ideas about others’ arc is well covered this season.

With that in mind, we feel compelled to ask exactly what Mon-El contributes to this narrative that is not otherwise dealt with by any of the other arcs that touch on this same topic. His own arc does specifically involve sexism and entitlement, but is that enough to justify his inclusion, especially when this aspect gets buried under his role as Kara’s love interest?

And it does get buried. Mon-El’s character development does not follow a linear trajectory once his role shifts from potential mentee to potential love interest. Prior to him canonically expressing romantic interest in Kara (which happens in 2×07), the most negative thing one could say about him was that he was a selfish douchebag, which honestly made sense due to Daxam’s toxic culture.

It’s only after he expresses interest in Kara that the most troubling aspects of his personality manifest: his protective paternalism and repeated failures to listen to or respect Kara’s agency. Episodes 9, 10, 13, and 14 all include at least one example of Kara giving Mon-El point-blank instructions that he just as pointedly ignores. Usually because he believes he knows better than her about what the best thing to do is.

We know.

Whether Supergirl intended his behavior to be read as  a result of his upbringing is almost beside the point. Canonically, it’s because he likes her. It’s right there in black and white. He blames being an asshole on his feelings for her.

“I also wanted to say I’m sorry. For acting like an ass. I’ve been giving it a lot of thought and I have realized that you are my Kryptonite…I mean, my feelings for you. I’ve never felt like this about anyone in my life… I didn’t know that there were this many feelings to even be had. My emotions, I guess they made me kind of crazy.”

How does this explanation make his behavior any better? If anything, it’s worse because it reads as an attempt to romanticize a lack of basic respect for Kara as an individual.

Kara Who?

Speaking of Kara as an individual, there’s a reason why we’ve started off talking about Mon-El’s place in this arc instead of hers. As unhealthy as we find Mon-El’s behavior, he at least has a canonical reason for his interest in Kara. Although he questions her superheroing, he admires it too, and wants to be like her. Though the resulting narrative does look uncomfortably like he only wants to be a hero so he can get in her pants.

But while we’re not thrilled about that, it’s at least a reason that we know exists. Kara? We spent almost half an hour just trying to discern that she likes Mon-El, apart from Alex basically telling her she does.

Seriously. Kara evinces zero perceptible interest in Mon-El prior to 2×12. Kara rejects the very idea that he likes her when Eliza brings it up in 2×08. When he confesses his feelings for her in 2×10, she fails to deny his statement that she doesn’t feel the same way about him (not that she can get a word in edgewise with Mon-El talking at and over her). 2×11 opens with her admitting they’re not a good match and she would never date him.

Kara: And even if I did have time to date someone, I wouldn’t date someone like… Someone who is…

Mon-El: An intergalactic bartender?

Kara: Yes! No. It’s… Because it’s not your job. It’s… It’s the way you are.

“It’s the way you are.” This is what she spit out without thinking, too. How much clearer can Kara be that she’s not interested in him? She basically just said, “It’s not you, oh wait it is you.” So excuse us if we’re more than a little confused when Alex tells Kara, “maybe the reason that you made such big plans with me was so that you didn’t have to think about how you actually feel about him” at the end of this very same episode.

Where is Alex even getting this from? Maybe the reason Kara wanted to spend time with Alex for her ‘Earth Birthday’ is because this is a hugely important day for Kara that she’s always celebrated with her sister? You know, the canonical reason Kara gave Alex at the beginning of the episode.

And yet, this conversation is the basis for Kara’s ‘change of heart’, or ‘realization’ if you want to put it that way, about her supposed feelings for Mon-El. She’s been absolutely clear about her lack of romantic interest in Mon-El up to this point. And no, facial expressions don’t count, though to us Melissa Bonoist came across as consistently confused at best. Just look at how awkward Kara’s physicality is with Mon-El whenever he’s in her space:

Alex’s assertion that Kara has feelings for Mon-El came completely out of the blue. Kara had only ever said she doesn’t like him that way. To go from “I don’t like you because of the way you are” (2×11) to “I thought you were thoughtless and selfish. And I kept writing you off, and you kept proving me wrong. And it just got me thinking. Maybe I can have it all.” (2×12) makes zero sense. First of all, we’d like to see the receipts for how Mon-El “kept proving me wrong”. From what we can tell, he hasn’t made consistent or lasting change since he first began exhibiting lack of respect for Kara due to his romantic interest.

Secondly, say we accept that somehow Kara is interested in Mon-El despite her never saying so until Alex throws that idea out there. Why does she like him? This is a genuine question we have, as it is nowhere stated in canon other than what Kara says to Mon-El about how he “proves her wrong.” Contrast this with the repeated explanations of and emphasis on her feelings for James Olsen last season.

The most likely possibility we came up with is that she’s attaching herself to Mon-El out of a fear of abandonment. Alex dropped the truth bomb on Kara in 2×02 that Clark abandoned her with the Danvers family, and she’s been resisting that truth ever since. The additional truth about her father’s experimentation with bio-weapons (2×08) only heightened her sense of isolation from her heritage and family.

Plus, Kara’s arc this season has been increasingly focused on her isolation from her friends. James has the Guardian and Winn, Winn has Lyra and the Guardian, Alex has Maggie, J’onn has M’gann. Visually, the frequent shots of Kara alone on screen juxtaposed with characters like Alex being comforted by others cannot be an accident.

But if this is the case, why do we not see this dealt with more specifically? Are we just supposed to assume her desire to date Mon-El stems from her fear of abandonment? Or from her trying to establish a connection with someone, though without any specific statement to that effect? And if so, why have Alex of all people be the one to tell Kara how she really feels? Alex’s relationship with Maggie makes up a significant part of Kara’s isolation arc. Alex has been spending most of the time with her new girlfriend, so where does this sudden insight into Kara’s unspoken interest in Mon-El come from? It almost felt like Alex just wanted that needy, single sister of hers off her hands. Or like she had read the script and knew Kara was going to date Mon-El.

Are we meant to see a misplaced attraction for Clark? This started off as kind of a joke between us, but the longer we thought about it, the more sense it began to make (this is how desperate we are for an explanation, guys). More than once, the narrative draws explicit parallels between Mon-El and Superman; even Mxyzptlk dresses himself up in a parody of Clark’s superman costume when he tries to prove himself a suitable hero partner to Kara. There’s no denying that Kara’s mentorship of Mon-El is the exact dynamic she never got to have with Clark, and that missed opportunity is something we’ve seen her struggle with before.

Also, Kara’s first instinct for a day job for Mon-El is as an intern at CatCo, complete with Clark Kent glasses and journalist outfit. So…does she secretly want to date her cousin? It’s weird to think about, but it kind of works.

Let’s not do this.

But this wild train of thought brought up an actual issue in Mon-El’s arc: the conflation of hero-ready with boyfriend-ready. The narrative especially conflates Mon-El’s desire to be a superhero with his desire to be Kara’s boyfriend on his side. He only makes the decision to try and become a superhero after realizing he wants to date Kara, and specifically right after seeing her get tazed to protect humans. Because he needs to see her physically suffering to kickstart his hero arc. It’s two clicks away from manpain, really.

On Kara’s side, she perceives Mon-El as being a compatible boyfriend when he begins to progress in his desire to be a hero. It’s not a bad reason to want to date somebody, but not a overly compelling one either, especially given how limited that progress was. Actually, what was his progress? He finds a job that’s a better fit? He improves in their sparring sessions?

It’s particularly strange since at the same time Kara is training Mon-El to be a good boyfriend hero, James Olsen is toiling away in the background as The Guardian completely of his own volition. If all Kara wants is someone to partner with her in her superheroing, the boyfriend she had at the beginning of the season already fit that criteria. And she didn’t have to drag him along kicking and whining either. Granted, James is much squishier, being a human instead of a superpowered alien. Unlike Mon-El, James is physically vulnerable and could get hurt, and not just from the bad guys. Kara can punch a car without flinching; dating a human being would come with potential hazards for them if she got too…amorous.

Which is actually a point in Mon-El’s favor. She can fuck him without danger of hurting him. Unlike Adam or James, Kara need not worry about her powers injuring Mon-El because he’s almost as powerful as she is. We’d actually buy just this if that’s what we got on screen. Kara’s got physical needs. If all she wanted was a fuck buddy she didn’t need to worry about breaking, we’d support her. You get it girl.

But at the end of the day, that’s no more than a honeypot, albeit a reasonable one. After talking around in circles for almost two hours (or was it three?), we had to finally admit that as much as any of these might make some sense, none of these explanations made it onto our screen. And most required us to ignore multiple scenes that’d work against them.

The fact is, in between Kara telling Mon-El she doesn’t want to date him and her telling him she wants to make it work, only two things happen: 1) Alex tells her she likes Mon-El, and 2) Kara learns Mon-El has been drinking club soda lately.

As absurd as that sounds, the scene in 2×11 where she discusses club soda with M’gann is the only physical flash of potential interest from Kara in basically the whole season. She’s sitting at the bar when M’gann comes by and asks her what she wants to drink. Kara tells her she’ll drink what Mon-El is drinking, to which M’gann replies, “he’s been drinking exclusively club soda for the week.” Kara’s “Really?” reads as both surprise and, weirdly, interest. We say “weirdly” because why the heck would his drinking choices make any difference in how she feels about him?

Kylie’s totes profesh timeline to help you visualize the meaningful progression

We suppose it could be an attempt to address his frat boy culture and drinking issues. Club soda is the go-to for non-drinkers at a bar. But Mon-El’s drinking has never been a canonical reason for Kara’s lack of interest. She cites their cultural differences frequently, but never specifically calls him out for his drinking. So why would a change in that behavior specifically trigger a positive response from her? Is it just meant to be a sign that he’s shaping up in a more general sense? If so, Supergirl dropped the ball, since this hasn’t manifested in any other way for Mon-El. Not to mention he’s enjoying a margarita in 2×14 and was more than happy to provide a stressed Winn with a drink in 2×15 since, “Zakarian Ale always takes the edge off.”

Point being, it’s simply impossible to connect M’gann’s line to any sort of growth in Mon-El, even just related to his alcohol consumption. So does Kara really just want to date a dude who drinks club soda too? We suppose those wholesale prices can’t be beat.

Crack theory though it be, it makes more sense than Kara’s explanation that “Every time I put myself out there, it backfires” (2×11). Uh. Footage not found, Kara Danvers. As we recall, you did the breaking up with your two canonical love interests because you wanted to focus on your career and thought you’d be better as friends. Unless maybe it backfired when Adam and James ordered tonic, because she wanted to split a bottle.

We’ll stop.

Seriously though. We understand that relationships can make you feel vulnerable. Putting yourself out there can be hard if you’re afraid it won’t work out. But Kara has never actually given a relationship a chance to get further than first date and first kiss (until now). Her lived experience, as depicted on the show, does not merit the explanation that every relationship “backfires.”

All we’re left with at this point is that Kara likes Mon-El…because Alex tells her she does.

Us too, Kara.

Mon-El who?

It ought to be clear at this point that the writers seem to have invested far more energy into giving Mon-El a backstory to explain his general douchebaggery than they did in giving Kara a reason to even be interested in him. H was shoehorned into her arc to the point where there is no canonical explanation for her interest in him, because her agency didn’t matter as much as him learning how to be a decent human being. She’s became little more than a love interest in her own story. 

We might mind this less (though only slightly) were it an actual adaptation of the source material. But Mon-El in the comics has nothing in common with the Mon-El on our screens. We don’t have time to go into details, but you can look it up yourself if you want to understand the various permutations of this character over the years. To be brief, Daxam in the comics is not a misogynistic, slave-holding race of frat boys and privileged partiers. They’re xenophobic and tend toward isolationism, sure, but that’s about it. Mon-El is not the heir to a sexist, toxic culture who learns how to be a decent guy and caring romantic partner in the comics. He’s basically just Superman 2.0.

In short, this is not an adaptation. Mon-El was a blank slate that the Supergirl writers did what they wanted to with, simply using a familiar name to establish him. (Even though the whole “El” thing kind of makes no sense in this context.) To be fair, it’s not the first time they’ve done this. But it does mean that there’s no justification for Mon-El’s arc this season, romantic or otherwise, other than “this is the story they wanted to tell.”

And we actually know they wanted to tell this story and tell it this way. In an interview with Chris Wood (who plays Mon-El) for Sci Fi Magazine’s April 2017 issue, Wood describes how the showrunners wanted Mon-El to have a hero’s journey, and “a good starting point for [Mon-El] is something that is the opposite of a full hero, which is a frat boy and selfish and self-centered.” The rest of the screen shots of the interview make it pretty clear that Mon-El’s arc from frat boy to hero was intentional from the beginning.

What’s more troubling are Wood’s comments regarding how the mentorship and romance aspects of the arc complicate the characters and give Kara “a lot to react to.” Troubling because Wood does not seem to realize how much Mon-El has not just taken up screen time in but taken over Kara’s arc. And ‘complicated’ might be true, but we have other choice words to describe what intertwining the mentorship and romance arcs has done to Kara’s story this season…

So he’s a bit of a fixer-upper

Just to recap here: We have a completely original character that has cannibalized screentime to the point where the series protagonist and titular character doesn’t have much of a discernible arc, and did so through a series of contrivances that have no possible Watsonian explanation outside of a shared Schweppes predilection. And yes, we have to point out that it’s a female lead getting the shaft in favor of this new male character. Though there are more women-led TV shows now than ever, we are not at a point where representation is good enough for this to be ignored.

As we said, we did see potential in Kara being able to fulfill the mentor role she was meant to with Kal-El. The chance to explore Mon-El’s shared trauma with Kara over the destruction of their planets could have been incredibly poignant for both characters, especially if explored alongside the unpacking of Mon-El’s toxic culture.

Further, M’gann’s storyline showed us how breaking through cultural conditioning and the cycle of violence can be incredibly moving and impactful. Given Daxam’s description, Mon-El pushing against his own culture would have inherently required a white male character to come to terms with his own privilege—a potentially powerful story in today’s cultural context. Honestly, the way Daxamites are portrayed is so over the top that Mon-El ran the risk of being a kind of misogynistic strawman for Kara to rip into, which could have easily felt too pandering or heavy-handed. It would have been understandable in Cat’s absence, who was rather famous for dismantling sexist ideas with her long speeches, but we can’t say we’re upset that didn’t happen.

Yet what did happen, as we said, was that the Supergirl writers decided to use Mon-El’s romantic interest in Kara as a catalyst to spur his growth. Similarly, Kara’s romantic interest in Mon-El at least somewhat fueled her desire to mold him into a superhero. The thing is (as Mr. Mxyzptlk of all people pointed out): this didn’t really happen. Instead, given Mon-El’s previous bad behavior, his newer displays of basic decency and minimal competence were framed as acceptable romantic behavior in a partner, and good enough for Kara.

Kara it’s fine! He’s perfectly adequate!

This is why we keep joking about club soda. Even if it was just showing Mon-El’s increased capacity for responsibility, all it really meant was that he managed not to get drunk on the job for a week. That’s it? That’s the bar he needs to clear?

The answer is “yes” because at its core, this is the “fixer-upper” trope. In some ways it should be the 101 example of the fixer-upper trope, unless we want to whip out Belle and Rumple from Once Upon a Time (though even with that, there’s so many scenes of Kara explicitly training Mon-El on how to behave that it might win out). While this does tie back to the show’s conflation of “ready-for-action superhero” and “ready-to-date”, it more closely relates into the uncomfortable gendered implication of Mon-El’s foregrounding over Kara in the first place.

The thing is, the fixer-upper trope is sexist, because it plays out in a specifically gendered way. Its employ forces women to take on a man who’s substandard in some way and put in the work to ensure he becomes a suitable romantic partner. It’s Spike and Buffy, or Marge and Homer. The only genderbent example we can think of is She’s All That, and the “fixing” Rachael Leigh Cook required was to look more fuckable by taking off a pair of glasses. So…kind of hard to call that a feminist masterpiece.

Relationships are work, sure. But this particular dynamic is quite evocative of the Nice Guy™ trope for a similar reason; there is a complete devaluement of a woman’s feelings and emotional needs, not to mention it leaves no space for her to have her own problems. When there’s a Nice Guy™, the woman is supposed to see his value because he’s, well, nice. That’s the bar, and it sets up the demonification of women who rejects any man that clears it.

The fixer-upper trope is similarly rooted in male entitlement to a woman’s affections, though in this case it’s even worse. The woman is required to suffer the man’s bad behavior until she can get him to understand, because the only thing that can motivate a man to change is romantic interest in a woman.

She’s literally dying right here…

There’s just…so many issues with this line of thought, not the least of which being the compulsory heterosexuality. It’s not constructive for men to feel that they’re incapable of reform, or growth, or the ability to strive to be better people without the help of women. It’s sure as hell not constructive for women to feel that they have to put up with bullshit to bring about that growth. In fact, that underlying mentality is what leads to a culture where women are more likely to stay in unhealthy or even abusive relationships. If the man errs, it’s the woman’s fault for not being better at fixing him, just like a cheating man means a wife who failed to satisfy him. A woman who leaves a fixer-upper is “giving up” on the man, when her love could “save” him.

Though we could write ten thousand words on the ways this line of thought pisses us off, nothing sums it up more than an amazingly on-point speech from The L Word—an often times amazingly off-point show, especially as it has aged.

“Oh, fuck off, Mark. It’s not my job to make you a better man and I don’t give a shit if I’ve made you a better man. It’s not a fucking woman’s job to be consumed and invaded and spat out so that some fucking man can evolve.”

Kylie shared this scene in which Jenny Schecter rips into her male roommate, who had violated her privacy and trust in a big way, with Gretchen the day after “Homecoming” aired. Apparently others made this connection to Mon-El as well, enough so that it resonated with over 13,000 people and counting. Because while we concede Mon-El needs fixing due to his cultural baggage, why is it Kara’s job to “fix” Mon-El and not, you know, his own? And why is this being so prioritized in the season’s narrative?

If this were simply in the context of Kara molding Mon-El into a superhero, that would be one thing, but again, the fact that he becomes her boyfriend adds layers to our discomfort. We were treated to multiple scenes of him not listening to her, or flat out undermining her, and yet she still makes the decision to enter into this relationship.

What’s worse is that Mon-El, though not the world’s greatest action hero, didn’t start ignoring what Kara was telling him until after he made it clear in a conversation with Winn and James that he wanted to pursue her romantically. Like we said, he already needed fixing given his inherent entitled approach to life as a Daxamite, but is this how they demonstrate romantic interest? With scene after scene of him refusing to listen to her, the woman he is supposed to care for?

Just as a refresher…

  • Kara tells Mon-El to buzz off; he pesters her instead (2×09)
  • Kara tells Mon-El to ‘keep his mouth shut’ when they meet up at Catco; he immediately starts talking in the elevator (2×09)
  • Kara tells Mon-El to go get the DEO for help; he follows her through the portal without contacting the DEO (2×09)
  • Kara tells Mon-El to protect the cops and let her tackle Livewire’s henchmen; he abandons the cops and they would have died if Guardian hadn’t shown up (2×10)
  • Kara tells Mon-El to let her handle Mxy; he challenges Mxy to a duel to the death instead (2×13)
  • Kara tells Mon-El not to tell the DEO they’re dating; he does after about three seconds (2×14)
  • Kara tells Mon-El to be give her dad the benefit of the doubt and get to know him; he instead makes rude remarks at the family dinner (2×14).
  • In response to ^, Kara demands that Mon-El stop and say something nice; he continues to confront and accuse Jeremiah (2×14).
  • Kara tells Mon-El he needs to learn that what she says matters; he goes to get advice from a male colleague instead of listening to her (2×14)

And okay, let’s say that yes, this is how Daxamites are conditioned to behave in a relationship. But it’s sure as hell not how Kara is. Fixer-upper tropes are terrible, but at least the problems are usually fixed or the issues are subsiding before the woman dates him! Instead, Kara is more or less plunked into this relationship where her needs are dismissed, which is the opposite of shocking since his actions prior to them dating fell into this pattern too. It’s also worth mentioning that she calls him an “arrogant dudebro” four seconds before she goes to kiss him for the first time. Well, first time where neither of them are on drugs. So she is aware of these issues, and seems to want to date him in spite of that.

This is one of our biggest struggles, as you could probably tell, while we searched for some explanation to explain Kara’s interest. At the end of the day, what is it that they’re going for here?

If the Supergirl writers truly believe Mon-El has grown as a result of all his time with Kara, they’re going about showing that growth in an incredibly unusual way. In “Homecoming” (2×14), the first episode where Kara and Mon-El operate as an official couple, Mon-El is more or less at his worst. Heck, he ignores her request for privacy so quickly that it’s framed as a joke in a jump-cut. It actually seems like it’s supposed to be endearing, just like when that gosh darn rascal followed Kara through the portal and jeopardized both their lives.

Given the number of times this happens, Kara willingly entering into a relationship with him is not the most comfortable thing in the world, especially since she realizes when he’s not respecting her and tends to yell at him for it. Her acknowledgement, and we guess dismissal, of his issues are often evocative of a battered girlfriend. We’re not saying that’s what this is. But what we are saying is that as women, each time we watch Mon-El promise to change and Kara forgive him, only for there to be zero lasting impact, it’s a dynamic we’ve seen before. And it’s a dynamic that lessens the impact of Kara standing up for herself each subsequent time, since she looks more and more like a fool for believing it and him.

This was never the case, so why did you think it could work?

This is just…bad. There’s no other word for it.

“Homecoming” is by far the worst offender of the season, especially since the narrative exonerates Mon-El in the end for his dismissal of Kara’s emotional needs. He was right about Jeremiah being compromised, and shame on everyone else, including a goddamn mind-reader, for not seeing it! Then, the final scene of that episode was supposed to demonstrate that Mon-El is a supportive boyfriend because he was willingness to listen to Kara. What’s weird is that this was framed as this huge, momentous thing that he was doing, to the point where it required his narration to confirm that yes, he is going to extend Kara this very basic sign of respect.

“Hey, today was a, a little, I just want to (*sighs*) I’m not I’m not gonna talk. Hmm. Why don’t you…Why don’t you tell me what you need? I’ll listen.”

She is sitting, sobbing on a couch. After her father betrayed her whole family and the DEO. This is not a difficult situation to parse out. Why the fuck did we need to hear him pontificate on how he’s willing to listen while she has to provide a PowerPoint presentation on the basics of comforting someone?

What do you think she needs right now? A fucking tailor??

We’re left simply dumbfounded. Were we supposed to find his line romantic? Coming right on the heels of a scene where Maggie instinctively supported Alex in the way she required with no hesitation? Especially given that despite Kara asserting her need for him to listen to her in very certain terms, he still had to seek out the advice of Winn because he felt he didn’t know what to do? All this scene showed us was that Mon-El needs to be hand-held and validated through the most basic attempts at emotional intimacy with his girlfriend. Wow, what a winner. Sign us up.

It’s been pointed out that in the most recent episode, he seems much more supportive of Kara, responding to her confusion regarding whether or not to post the article on Cadmus with a “do whatever you think is best.” It’s nice he supports her, but could he maybe, we don’t know, ask her what she’s feeling conflicted about? Talk her through her decision-making process? Be a sounding board for pros and cons? Yes, his penchant for undermining and questioning Kara’s decisions troubled us, and we do appreciate positive growth. But he’s swung so far in the other direction that he now just tries to pacify her, and is basically useless as a dialogue partner. In some ways, it’s almost patronizing. Besides, more than anything, it’s too little, too late.

The only feeling this is truly imparting on us is “why?” Why is Kara saddled with this guy? Why is she attracted to him at all? Why did there need to be a romantic component to this relationship in the first place? Why was James Olsen abruptly sidelined for this? Why has this relationship taken over Kara’s arc this season?

Dear Supergirl Writers

We have no answer to these questions, and it’s making justifying Mon-El within this season incredibly difficult. Frankly, Mon-El as a love interest is difficult to justify within this show. From what we we saw prior, it was not the type of program that would allow for these horrible implications about what kind of romantic behavior women should tolerate, or even expect.

Not to mention, Mon-El isn’t the main character here! We could keep going on about the fallacy of his hero’s arc and the horrid implications inherent, but at the end of the day, he is supposed to be a supporting character. So what the hell does his presence in Supergirl do for Kara? If this is about seeing her desire to mentor someone play out, why was the romantic component shoehorned in, and why aren’t we privy to how Kara feels about both him and her new role? Why couldn’t Kara have had this arc with James, given how he is willingly putting himself in danger, just like she wants Mon-El to do? Most importantly of all, why is Kara relegated to playing the babysitter of someone else’s mono-myth on her own damned show?  

It’s frustrating to see this play out, it’s frustrating to see how it took the narrative off-track for a good number of episodes, and it’s frustrating to see Kara almost turned into a straw feminist that asserts her wants and expectations of Mon-El repeatedly, only for growth to be back-dialed so that she can run into the same exact issue again. Is the point that she’s supposed to learn a mediocre man really is good enough?

Kara, do you have a source for that?

At this point, we’re really struggling to see how there’s going to be any sort of positive takeaway from this. Oddly, our biggest glimmer of hope came at the end of the last episode, immediately after Kara was fired from her job.

Kara: Reporting is my calling. I help people.

Mon-El: You know who else does? Supergirl.

Kara: You know, it’s just, when I write, I don’t need a yellow sun. It’s just me. Supergirl is what I can do. Kara is who I am. I really loved that job.

Mon-El: Hey. You have so much to offer this world. So don’t let Snapper or anyone else tell you differently. Okay?

Kara: You know something? Maybe being Supergirl and having you is enough.

This exchange did two things: firstly, it established that Mon-El is not very in-tune with who Kara is and what drives her—what makes her feel complete. Her struggle with identity was the beating heart of the first season, and certainly a focus at the start of this one between Clark’s appearance in National City to help her, and her decision to finally become a reporter. It’s entirely possible Mon-El was just being used to give Kara a reason to explicate this distinction to the audience, but it also could mean that the Supergirl writers are aware of the disconnect between the person Kara is and the person she’s currently chosen to be with.

We admit this is a stretch.

However, the second result of this exchange is something we cannot believe is unintentional. Kara musing that maybe being Supergirl and dating Mon-El is “enough” is meant to be challenged. It was said three seconds after she had just explained how fundamental being a reporter was to her sense of purpose, not to mention, we were treated to a scene last season where Cat tackles this exact mentality in Lucy Lane’s behavior.

Unless the entire writing staff sustained head injuries, we staunchly believe that Kara will find that her words do not ring true. Especially since Clark point blank told her that being Kara was as important as being Supergirl (2×01). She needs a human side as well as a superhero side. In a season that began with Kara professing, “Last year was all about figuring out how to be Supergirl, and now it’s time I figure out how to be Kara,” her blasé acceptance of the lack of a fulfilling career is ripe for deconstruction.

But where does that leave Mon-El and the fixer-upper trope? Well, if they’re setting up Kara to have a comeuppance about this scene, it’s possible that will play out on an even bigger level. That there is supposed to be a discomfort in watching Kara put up with so much from Mon-El over and over again, and perhaps this will be tied into her canonically established abandonment issues more explicitly than it has been thus far.

Yes, this doesn’t exactly address why the writers forced this incredibly contrived romance into being without adequate explanation or exploration from Kara’s perspective. Again, we couldn’t come up with a single reason as to why she would date this man that made sense with how everything unfolded. But it’d still be a hell of a lot better than if we’re supposed to seriously view this as an earnest, romantic love story.

Now that’s what we call romantic satisfaction!

Because sorry, it’s not. It is not the job of a woman to date a guy with a million red flags because she feels she can elicit change in his behavior, and it’s certainly not her job to stay to see that through when the guy continues to disappoint or fail to meet her own emotional needs. Men don’t need a woman’s love to grow or strive to become a better person; that’s offensive to men and oppressive to women. It’s for this reason that we feel the “fixer upper” trope needs to die. To see it played straight on Supergirl would be disappointing, to say the least.

But at the same time, this is Supergirl. This is the show that when it’s good, it’s *so damn good*. The show that has subverted a number of sexist tropes before, and no matter what we think of the follow-through so far, has given Kara the narrative space to ask to be respected and listened to by Mon-El. This is at least recognized as a need by the writers, if nothing else. Mon-El has been a stumbling block, there’s no question. Any character that pulls a narrative off its track this much would be. The Supergirl writers can potentially be our heroes in the end, taking this opportunity to consciously tear down the idea that fixer-uppers are entitled to our time and efforts.

However to do that, the writers need to realize there’s a problem. They need to see that on a show that was supposed to be about a woman becoming the hero while struggling with her sense of identity and place in the world, a man is now subbed into that role. A man with no basis in the comics, a man that the audience never asked for, and a man that is not nearly as “reformed” as they currently seem to think he is.

Mon-El is not a hero—he’s Supergirl‘s kryptonite. And the writers need to do something before he irreparably harms the show.


Images courtesy of the CW
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  • Morty

    This man’s complete and utter lack of distinguishing traits continues to unnerve me. But that’s probably the point, to make him a blank slate self-insert.

    • Blandsome has never been a more appropriate moniker.

      • Morty

        Yes, “tall, dark and blandsome” is good enough to steal and use somewhere. It’s a very apt description of a particular kind of character.

        • It’s one of those perfect descriptors that I’m kind of annoyed I haven’t had for years. There are so many characters it fits.

  • Isabel

    Wow. This. THIS. If I ever feel the compulsion to point out to people why I don’t like Mon-El for Kara, I’ll just redirect them to this excellently written work right here. (The amount of people who don’t find this dynamic problematic troubles me a lot).

    I wonder if a girl can hope that maybe this is like Book 2 Mako-Korra where they break up in the end? maybe? hopefully?

    • I wrote a piece for my own website about how similar Mako is to Mon El a few weeks ago (based on a conversation Kylie and I had about it), and I keep hoping that’s what they’re setting up. The parallels are too strikingly similar to ignore, especially after Mon-El’s pacifying attitude this past episode.

      http://www.gnellis.com/mon-el-mako-supergirl/

      • Thomas Hayes

        Damn Korra Season Two!

        Good lord I can’t believe I’m there with another show again three years later. I thought LoK had completely derailed in the middle of that season, I didn’t think Book 1 was great but man Book 2 was so rough for the first half. Book 3 felt like a different show as soon as it began, I was so relieved.

      • Isabel

        So maybe I’m not grasping at straws that hopefully, they’re headed for the same trajectory? I mean, not that I think Mon-El being compared to Mako is a great thing for Mako either (Mako’s way better. If they’re going for selfish to selfless, Mako’s self-sacrifice at the end was done way better) but the parallels are indeed there and I’m glad I’m not the only one who sees them.

        (Mako: I guess you should what you think is right. I support whatever decision you make. –went through my head as I was watching the blog scene in the last episode. Though Kara is much more agreeable than Korra was at that moment in time)

        It just… It might have been more acceptable if Mon-El and Kara weren’t in a relationship. They could’ve had Kara single this season and just trying to figure herself out and Mon-El as a mentee could’ve helped that. And maybe, when he’s gotten more than just “I’m a nice guy now”, and we can actually see something Kara likes in him, I would’ve been fine with him and Kara being in a relationship. As it is, I always feel like bashing my head in when I see Mon-El and Kara as a couple and then right alongside the Sanvers relationship and like… why? Why him? Can you not see how wrong this is?

        Then there’s those who think that the reason there’s hate for Mon-El is because its not LGBTQ, or because of Supercorp. Just… really? they can’t see all of this?

        It’s just frustrating to see those comments. So I’m really glad I found this piece right here. Thank you for this.

        • Mako also starts his trajectory in a very different place than Mon-El and experienced a level of deprivation and need that Mon-El, being the prince of a party-oriented culture did not. Mako’s fear of being insignificant and desire to protect makes much more sense given he was an orphan, lived on the street, and literally raised his younger brother. In that sense, Mako’s behavior, while still not excusable, is much more sympathetic.

          Funny you bring up that Mako quote to Korra, Kylie and I literally talked about it after we watched that episode and as we were writing about Mon-El being pacifying to Kara in that scene. Great minds 😉

          I’m with you. If they had given Mon-El a mentee/hero arc for most of this season and then tried to establish a romantic attraction at the very end, maybe into next season, I could have invested in it. It wouldn’t have made me less uncomfortable about how James was sidelined, but Kara/Mon-El had potential to win me over if done well (meaning with more space for Mon-El to grow before getting into a romantic relationship).

        • Joseph Payne

          I, too, am hoping that the writers are with it more than we realize, and that the troublesome Mon-El “romance” is only set up to fail as part of making a later, more healthy romance the true end goal.

          There is something that gives me more hope for this being the case. During the first two seasons of Flash, there was one little incorrect detail that just annoyed me to no end. It was fairly minor, and I don’t want to name it for possible spoiler purposes for those who plan on catch up on the series, but it annoyed me, even though it really didn’t hinder the story or character development. And then, at the very end of season two, we find out that not only did the writers have everything right all along, they had actually set up something even cooler that they semi-revealed when they set right the “mistake.” So there is precedent for CW writers to make us think that they’re screwing up horribly, only to surprise us quite pleasantly in the end.

          But there’s also precedent for what happened to Lexa, too. =(

          I choose to maintain hope.

          • Isabel

            Looks like Mon-El and Kara are here to stay though. And I don’t really see them addressing the other issues here. If they make Lena evil I’m out.

          • Isabel

            well, out as in I’ll probably wait for the dvd release so I can pace myself watching. stop if I get annoyed or something.

  • Shhhh

    This article is incredible, you’ve basically outlined every thought I’ve had about why the Mon-El character isn’t working. And, as you both have mentioned, the problem isn’t Mon-El, in and of himself, or the idea of Kara and Mon-El together – it’s that the show has done zero work to set up the relationship. It’s somehow even less than lazy. Personally, I’d be interested in watching Kara knowingly enter into a toxic relationship with Mon-El because she was afraid of forgetting Krypton.

    Really, I’d like the show to pick a reason (ANY reason) for their relationship, besides the fact that they’re both existing within the vicinity of each other, but it doesn’t seem like that’s going to happen. Hopefully his parents will be arriving soon to drag him away to whatever planet the Daxamites have taken up residency on.

    • Kara entering into an unhealthy relationship to preserve her memories of Krypton could actually work in theory. Exploring her psychology that way, if done well, would have been a compelling story about grief, loss, and the sometimes unhealthy choices we make for ourselves when we fear losing important pieces of ourselves. It would play into her abandonment issues well, too.

      But you’re exactly right. They haven’t given us any reason other than that they’re both attractive people who occupy the same physical spaces. It looks worse and worse the longer it goes on. And we didn’t even dig into how this reflects on James Olsen being sidelined at the beginning of the season. it was cringeworthy then, but now? It’s downright problematic, imo.

  • Aydrian

    This was a fascinating read. Fantastic work.

    Also, I feel like far too much of Mon-El’s attitude is excused by his upbringing by the fans who like him.

    Doing something out of ignorance is one thing, but doing something out of disregard is another. Doing something on Earth that’s unacceptable because it was right to do on Daxam and he didn’t know is ignorance. Outright ignoring Kara’s wishes, like not telling people they’re dating and disregarding her two seconds later, is disregard.

    His upbringing isn’t causing him to do that. Kara told him not to and he did it anyway. It’s stunning to me just how many people in the fandom thought that was excusable.

    • Exactly. Mon-El not listening to Kara once is ignorance. Twice could maybe be a mistake, or even three if I’m feeling generous with the writers. Four or more times that a character exhibits a specific type of behavior is a pattern/established character flaw, not upbringing or ignorance. Especially when Kara outright confronts him about it, explains why it is hurtful, and he admits he understands it is wrong and will change.

      I fail to comprehend how viewers can excuse behavior that the character himself understands is a problem and promises to change. And not just once, multiple times. He blatantly disregards her wishes, and basically admits he does because he believes he knows better than her.

      Even in the scene where he tells the DEO they’re dating. When Kara calls him on it because she had specifically asked him not to do that, his excuse is “well on my planet we celebrate this”. The unspoken message there is “I understand your desire for privacy, but my customs matter more”. He fully understands what he just did, he just thinks that he has a viable excuse for violating her wishes. This is not romantic!

      • Lisa

        Mon El chooses not to listen to Kara simply because he doesn’t respect her. He doesn’t respect her choices, her decisions, her feelings. Nothing. And with all the negative qualities she’s pointed out to him repeatedly, she doesn’t seem to respect him either.

        Also, I’m still really irritated about Kara being guilted into liking him. She said and quite emphatically that she didn’t feel the same way he felt about her and why to suddenly, and by suddenly I mean the end of the episode, she’s randomly got feelings for him just because her sister said so? That’s some of the worst writing I’ve seen yet.

  • Bo

    Great stuff here.

    It feels to me like they should have picked between Mon El as a love interest and Mon El as someone Kara mentors the way she was meant to mentor Clark. Combining those two storylines was always inevitably going to lead to the way things are playing out now because you can’t do both without ruining both. Mon El’s reasons for avoiding the hero profession are exactly the reasons the relationship comes across so poorly. And if he doesn’t oppose being a hero, well, why does he need a mentor at al?

    Mixing them guarantees he ends up monopolizing air time far too often, since he’s too involved in both Kara’s personal and professional life. They should have chosen one or the other.

    • Agreed, and I think they should have gone for mentorship and left Kara without a love interest this season if it wasn’t going to be James. Dropping James and then moving this direction looks terrible for the show, even if they didn’t intent it to.
      Kara finding out that her mentee had lied to her from the beginning after investing all of her emotional energy into training him to be a hero? That’s huge emotional payoff. Adding the romance angle only complicates the dynamics in an unwieldly way. We don’t need romance to make the pain of Mon-El’s lies hurt more for Kara.

      Losing her ‘purpose’ (watching out for/training Superman) after having missed out on mentoring Clark would have been enough of a gut punch.

      • Bo

        Adding romance calls Mon El’s entire motivation into question, as you brought up. Especially now that they’re an established couple, because it does make Mon El look like he only “improved” in order to get Kara in bed. Whatever the intent, that’s the image the show projects.

        And yeah, that’s without even discussing the racial implications of dropping James as a love interest and replacing him with this dude. No offense to the actor, because it has nothing to do with his ability as an actor.

        • Sarah Grace Zabel

          Combining the mentor relationship with the romantic relationship also feels weird to me. There are dynamics in power and trust in a mentor/mentee relationship that are contrary to a the equality I would like to see in a romantic relationship.

          Of course, it seems to me that the mentorship waned as the romantic relationship waxed, so they aren’t engaging with that conflict.

          Almost like Mon-El was uncomfortable being in the lesser power position of being the mentee, and defensively tries to establish a romantic relationship (where he expects to be in the superior position). That Kara has different expectations for their relationship seems to affect him not at all.

          • The power dynamics would be different in a mentor/mentee relationship vs a romantic one for sure. Given the trajectory of the arc, one could come away with the implication that Mon-El’s discomfort with Kara’s position of relative authority made him uncomfortable, and he sought to establish a dynamic he was more comfortable with. I don’t think the writer’s intended it, but I can see that interpretation being possible with what we have on screen.

          • Sarah Grace Zabel

            When Alex met Maggie in 2×03, I interpreted their first scene together as a Meet Cute, the first scene in a romantic arc, the same as I’d seen with opposite sex characters a million times. I was uncertain, however. I thought it was, and I wanted it to be, but I had been burned by disingenuous wlw relationship beats before (I’m thinking of The Librarians). I was surprised and delighted when the show followed up on the romantic relationship beat it established. Consequently, I believe that the creators’ use of the language of visual storytelling is purposeful.

            When we get the Kara/Mon-El scenes at the end of the episode, part of me is expecting or hoping that Kara does not let Mon-El off the hook. But then he starts to make his apology, and the background music is on his side. Since I trust that the creators are being purposeful, I have to think that they know that they are telling the Kara/Mon-El as a straight-forward romance.

            All of this is to say that, while I have instincts telling me that there must be something going on that makes this storyline worthwhile, a protective instinct is growing within me, telling me that I cannot expect this storyline to pay off down the line, the creators intend it to be working now.

    • Lisa

      It’s like this article pointing out that the reason Mon El even wants to be a superhero is to get into her pants. That’s his whole motivation and that’s been made abundantly clear by the writers who love to point out that his character wants nothing to do with anything that doesn’t personally benefit. For crying out loud, he said to Kara that she isn’t a superhero. It’s obvious there’s a lack of respect here on his part and it’s made even more glaringly so with every fight they have. You can’t have a feminist icon in this superhero only to saddle her with a misogynist who refuses to listen to a single word out of her mouth only to then take advice from another man who’s basically saying the exact thing she is. Seems like her point of view only resonated with him when it came from a man.

  • Catarina

    Oh wow. I’m so glad I’m not the only one thinking all of this. I stopped watching after the Mxy episode. And I was so shocked to see someone else think of Jenny from L Word.

    • Star-Lord

      Hey newsflash you are watching a SUPERHERO SHOW!! Mon-El is on a journey to become the hero from the comics

  • XanDany

    THIS. Everything about this. I have tried to break down why Mon-El upsets me so much and I think you did a great job of doing that. I introduced my niece to season 1, but I am super uncomfortable having her watch season 2 because of the message Mon-El and his relationship with Kara sends- which makes me sad because I really want her to see the Sanvers stuff.

    I question WHY Mon-El was needed this season. Because frankly, he really wasn’t. They already added some great characters with M’gann and Maggie (after losing Lucy ad Cat) but for some reason they needed to add this bland dudebro? All I can think of is that the CW people panicked and wanted another bland love interest for their female lead. How disappointing.

  • Caro O’Blivion

    This was everything that bothered me about Mon-Ew but never could put into words, thank you!

  • Felicity

    I am actually a huge fan of the couple, but you definitely brought up some interesting points that I hadn’t really thought of. I think they definitely need to show Mon-el growing outside of Kara’s influence and taking longer strides in being the selfless hero we know the writers are aiming for with his character. I suppose I may have got swept away by the chemistry the actors share and I do still believe the relationship has a lot of potential if the writers work out certain kinks in the story. His ignorance can only go on for so long before it gets tiresome, but I think he will get there with or without Kara, it will just take some time, which is completely normal. Certain ingrown traits will take longer than others to recondition but I don’t plan on giving up on the character just yet, mostly because it is just so damn nice seeing Kara this happy, her smile and laughter is so darn infectious.

    • Yeah, I think what’s frustrating too for me is that they haven’t seemed to really explore or even discuss Mon-El’s trauma and conditioning, at least not in the way M’gann’s was. So while when you sit down and can think about how turning away from that is going to be a struggle, no question, it’s just dismissed on-screen. To us we’re seeing more “there’s just some frat boy being a frat boy” and it doesn’t go much deeper than that. It feels as though this romance is taking a front seat to everything else for both characters, and as we mentioned above it’s hard for us to track it from Kara’s point of view at all. But for him, it’s almost like his hero’s arc is assumed, rather than in evidence.

      • Em

        That’s something that I’ve always thought was strange as well. A lot of Mon-El’s behavior (especially early on when he wasn’t interested in being a hero) could easily be explained by the trauma of losing his world and being alone in alien place. But they never really go there in the story. Often time I forget that he has a similar back story to Kara and J’onn because that backstory is constantly referenced and Mon-el’s isn’t.

        I’m guessing part of that is because of him “secretly” being the prince they didn’t want to actually give him a backstory, but the more I think about that being the motivation the less sense it makes.

    • I hear what you’re saying, totally. Wrestling with and overcoming problematic cultural structures takes a lot of work and time. I tend to be less sympathetic with ignorance, especially in the relationship dynamic, mostly because Kara has been very clear about what she expects from Mon-El since before they started dating. He can only claim ignorance once. After she’s explained how his behavior was both hurtful and disrespectful and he’s acknowledged it both as a problem and one he wants to overcome, he can no longer claim ignorance. And they had precisely this interaction early on when he first began not listening to her (it happens in 2×10, definitely, and it may have even happened before then). Where I get frustrated, then, is that the writing has him both acknowledge his fault and promise change, only to dial that progress back. It ends up with Kara and Mon-El having the exact same argument multiple times with no lasting change (and again, he’s no longer ignorant after the first argument).

      There was so much potential when the season started, I’m just not convinced we’ve seen it translated in any significant way onto our screens as of yet. But I do hope that the interactions with his parents mean we’ll have more growth outside of Kara and their romance. He needs it!

    • Stay Pressed

      Do they have chemistry though? If we’re just being honest for a second… Do they?

      • BruisedEggo

        I certainly don’t see it. It actually makes their kissing and amorous scenes kind of cringeworthy. I mean, I see them trying, but it just looks inherently awkward and never really has the spark that draws me in.

      • Joseph Payne

        No. They have ZERO chemistry.

        It’s even more painfully obvious when compared to how the camera seems to light up whenever Melissa and Katie McGrath are in a scene together.

      • Felicity

        Yes they do, unfortunately just because you don’t see it, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Yes Kara and Lena look good together as friends, but I and a lot of others don’t see their relationship as anything but platonic. You may disagree but if we’re honest, they don’t do anything for each other that a really good friend wouldn’t do and of course there are no romantic feelings to even build on.

        • S4S010

          If you look at your best friend the way Kara and Lena look at each other… Oh girl, have I got news for you.

          (btw, Melissa was extremely close to her (soon to be ex) husband when he was on the show, but they didn’t have onscreen chemistry either. So it doesn’t matter how “close” they are irl, it simply doesn’t translate to their characters. The scene in which they have the best click is the one in which they go check out the place that ends up being a portal to shitsville, and that was some sibling levels of chemistry.)

          • BruisedEggo

            I feel like the problem is that most people don’t know what onscreen chemistry really looks like. They claim so see it all the time in places where it’s truly nowhere to be found, like this pairing. Maybe chemistry is subjective, but honestly, if I recoil and grimace while watching romantic embraces in which I actually like both actors respectively who are engaging in them onscreen, it means there’s something that just doesn’t translate from script to screen and that something is actor chemistry.

          • S4S010

            I agree. Every person defending him (which is all they really do, they don’t give a flying f about Kara) usually ends up being a 14 year old girl who’s been fed this nonsense since she first got hold of a remote control. Girl meets boy, boy strangles girl, boy stops being violent, boy doesn’t wanna use his strength for good, boy discovers love and lust on earth are different from his home planet, wants to become a hero to get into girl’s pants, boy doesn’t listen to girl when she tries to help him become something she already is, boy keeps on disrespecting girl, girl gets told by her sister who’s never trusted or liked the boy that girl should totally like the boy, girl likes boy, boy still doesn’t respect girl… it’s basically that Avril Lavigne song all over agian.
            “He was a boy, she was a girl, can I make it any more obvious?”

          • Felicity

            You’re being completely reductive about the fans of the couple, but go ahead, whatever floats your boat. I’ll just be over here, not being resentful and bitter about a couple that I was determined to hate from the get go, which is what you clearly were. By disrespecting Kara’s choice, you are implying that she is somehow deficient which is of course typical, but you are debasing her character as a whole.
            Her happiness, her choice, are all in her control and as for your argument, maybe it would have a real shot if Kara was miserable with Mon-el, however she looks more content now than we’ve ever seen her, so you might want to reconsider your stance on which part of the fandom cares about her happiness because it definitely isn’t yours.
            I for one only became truly convinced of the couple’s compatibility after I saw Kara’s feelings towards Mon-el change and if anything, it was her joy and radiance that suddenly made their relationship captivating. I am a Kara fan first and always will be, whether she remains with Mon-el or not.

          • Isabel

            that’s probably the frustration (the generalizing fans stuff). I mean, I’m frustrated too with how they portray the relationship and I feel like bashing my head in sometimes (or theirs) when they don’t address these things properly. I’m not sure about onscreen chemistry since that can be subjective at times. A lot of people here might not see it (I see Kara light up more with Barry, honestly) but I might just see things differently.

            But I can point out things I didn’t like: how they broke up in the latest episode (and got back together). It should’ve been a lot more things than just lying (She doesn’t tell her other identity to most people) and I wish they’d shown more about the other issues that I’ve seen in this relationship but they brushed over those issues. Then just have Mon-El telling us he’s changed because of Kara (Actually, I see more of Winn changing him. Or allowing Winn to change him because he wants to have a relationship with Kara).

            And you’re right. Mon-El is Kara’s choice. But it feels like watching a friend stay in a relationship which isn’t great for her and even if I want to support her choice, and be happy for her, I want to advise her to rethink her decision for reasons and ask, “Why do you even like him? because I don’t really know why.” And yet all you can do is watch over her and hold her when she gets hurt again and again, even if you tell her that this should stop. Its frustrating.

            Because you’re not supposed to sit and wait in a relationship until that person gets better. I just feel like this’ll propagate more of “asshole turned to good because of girl” beliefs and that’s not… a good kind of thinking. That could lead to an abusive cycle of forgiving a person and expecting them to be better next time and… just not happening. Or maybe they do for a time, then revert, and you’re still holding out that this could be different. And it won’t. And they’ll take those chances for granted and its not healthy. And its hard to break that cycle.

            I just… want them to write this better. to show us better.

          • Felicity

            But that’s the thing, you see that and I don’t, I most likely never will. The thought of their relationship would make no sense at this point and if you’re suggesting their ‘looks’ are anything but Lena’s complete reliance on Kara as the only person who doesn’t hate her, than it doesn’t really make sense. If anything that is neediness because she is desperate not to lose the only person she has, especially when she does not even have her own family behind her. She is rich, beautiful and powerful with a hint of darkness so I understand why you would want Kara to be attracted to her, but as a couple not only would it be awkward but Kara would constantly have to restrain herself, to make sure she wasn’t hurting her or you know accidentally break her spine.
            If you’re recoiling at a couple, actually displaying a physical reaction, then all that suggests is that you are projecting your issues on to them, because I and a lot of others enjoy their interactions. Maybe that is something you need to examine further because I do not ship Barry and Iris in the least, yet I haven’t once ‘grimaced’ while watching them, even though their interactions feel forced and robotic. I simply enjoy Barry’s happiness and Iris’s character as a whole and suddenly it becomes tolerable.
            Regardless we all know Kara has a big heart and a habit of bringing in strays, hell Mon-el was one of them but he requires her less and less where as Lena relies on her and her alone.
            Kara feeds off the attention and love from others, it’s why earning back the public’s trust was so important to her in the first season. Part of her bases her own value on how much other people need her, which isn’t all that healthy and the fact that nobody else believes in Lena, only makes Kara become more determined to dig her heels in and be her knight. That all stems from her failure in completing her original mission, her displacement from her home, loss of her family and planet etc.
            Lena also highlights Kara’s ego and showboating side which isn’t evil, it just isn’t like her and Lena continuously admits to Kara how alone she is, so Kara is simply being a good friend in standing by her because who else would?
            Yet with Mon-el, who actually retains Kara’s services as a productive, sage mentor and not simply a source of strength, his loss, similar background, constant battle to be better and burgeoning respect attracted her. She chose him and you may not like it, but she does and we are all still free to ship who we like.

          • S4S010

            “If you’re recoiling at a couple, actually displaying a physical reaction, then all that suggests is that you are projecting your issues on to them, because I and a lot of others enjoy their interactions.”
            Sure, I’m projecting my issues on them. Let’s leave it at that.
            I don’t have any issues, but I’m definitely projecting them on Kara and tall dark and blandsome.

  • Jasmine Wallace

    Can we just…. send this to all the writers? We need a way for them to see this

    • Lisa

      Seriously. This and the part where they mention Melissa and Chris’s lack of onscreen chemistry should be pointed out to the writers.

      • Star-Lord

        You are a freakin tool nobody is gonna listen to hypocritical manhaters like you. And Chemistry lmao its so natural with these 2

        • Lisa

          Go somewhere and mature a little because no one here is going to stoop to your level to engage your juvenile attempts to grate on nerves.

    • Star-Lord

      Shut up hypocritical manhater wow you must hate all men especially Bond, Stark, star Lord ect.. and newsflash Mon-El is not even fully developed yet.

  • Lee Cox

    Misandrist much? And by the way, Mon-El DOES have a basis in the comics. Ever hear of the Legion of Super-Heroes, or of Superboy, which is where Mon-El was first introduced during the comics Silver Age? You might want to do a little research before going off on your next feminist diatribe.

    • Thomas Hayes

      This just in: Lee Cox didn’t read the article and is trying to waste everyone’s time.

      • Star-Lord

        Oh he read it alright and its full manhate. The one that wrote that article must really hate James Bond, Tony Stark, Star Lord ect.. another crazy person from the LGBT Community ruining another fandom with hypocritical manhate

    • Joseph Payne

      As I’ve pointed out elsewhere, it’s been made extremely clear by CW and DC that the characters on the CW shows are entirely separate from the characters in the comics. There is NO GUARANTEE than Mon-El grows up to be anything of note. There is no guarantee of the LSH even existing at this point in the continuity of the CW shows.

      The article also goes to great pains to explain exactly WHY Mon-El’s character as portrayed on this tv show and his ongoing behavior is insulting and a problem; in no way does this article say or even imply, “Mon-El man, man bad.” It’s a well-constructed, carefully written and worded piece, and I agree with the points made in it.

  • luvthejem

    Yes to all of this. There are so many troubling things about the relationship, but perhaps the most troubling is the number of people who defend it. They excuse his behavior because of his culture. I’m sorry, but no. M’gann came from a culture of genocide, no one had to teach her it was wrong. She was a good enough person to know that on her own. Lena Luthor was raised in a house with violent xenophobes, but she’s a good person. No one had to teach her how to be better than that. She has put herself in direct conflict with her family because she knows it wrong. Why is it that this douchebag white boy gets a pass? Lena gets nothing but suspicion, even when she fights against her family, while the former slave owner gets coddled. Kara has been on Mon-El about not listening to her for many episodes, still he has to hear it from a man (Winn) before he understands the word listen? No. Just no. Unless they’re setting this up as “even a superhero can find herself in an abusive relationship” then this is a failure of a storyline.

    • Star-Lord

      more bull from a manhater. And newsflash Mon-El was a spoiled Prince on Daxam he is already evolving. He is on a journey to become the guy from the comics

      • Lisa

        This is a disgusting and ignorant response to an eloquent and accurate assessment of the goings on of this particularly problematic aspect of this show.

        • Star-Lord

          Accurate ??? Only in manhaters view. You must really hate heroes like Bond who is a womanizer and Tony Stark, Star Lord. And you are so blind you dont even get that Mon-El is on a journey to become the famous Mon-El from the comics

          • Joseph Payne

            Actually, the CW has repeatedly made it clear the characters on the TV shows are distinct and separate from the comics characters. So there’s no guarantee that CW Mon-El is going to be anything significant.

            And the article is indeed factually accurate and well-constructed. Gretchen and Kylie are both very good writers. Truth is truth, regardless of personal opinions.

      • Hey, I can see you disagree with a lot of the comments being made about Mon-El, and with the piece. That’s totally fair! If you’d like to have a conversation about what you disagree with specifically, we’re more then comfortable with that here. We appreciate constructive disagreement.

        I’d like to ask that you keep your comments constructive, and on point, though. We do not appreciate using loaded language to respond to people who are trying to engage in a productive dialogue.

        • Star-Lord

          Your whole article is toxic as hell. And there is so much wrong with it. Funny you dont hate on any woman. I wonder why

    • The romance really really muddies the point here. It’d be one thing if we saw his will to grow stemming from internal motivation, but it is framed, 100% explicitly, that he is just doing this because he likes Kara. And then as you pointed out, her embracing of this behavior like “oh well good enough” is absolutely the main discomfort we have. It’s amazing to me how many people seem to project this hero’s arc one to him when it’s not in evidence, especially when juxtaposed against the likes of M’gann and Lena.

    • Lori

      Oh, my gosh. This exactly. There’s a reason the writers of this article are fascinated with Mon-El’s sudden preference for club soda: It’s really the only time he’s ever seemed to have an epiphany. (ie. Maybe I’ve been drinking too much.) Every other life lesson he has supposedly learned has been spoon-fed to him with all the subtly of an ABC after-school special…and even then, he shows an incredible knack for unlearning those same lessons. How is such an individual supposed to be capable of being on a “hero’s journey?” One other thing that really bothered me? If someone came to me for advice, and was later fired because they acted on that advice? Man, even if my suggestion had been good, I would have felt guilty. However, Mon-El seems strangely ignorant to the role he played in Kara losing her job.

  • Jennawynn

    Did the season 1 writers come with the show to the CW? Anyway, I’m glad someone else picked up on the “accepting Mon-El because she can’t fuck her cousin” feeling I’ve talked about myself. Wanting someone durable, (see breaking up with Cat’s son, being mad at James for being Guardian, the line about breaking boys’ noses when they kiss) but the only ones available are her Space Dad and cousin. lol

    Me? I fully support ace!Kara. Her disgust with finding both Winn and Mon-El doing the do at work? The fact that she can’t last more than one date with anyone? The fact that she didn’t feel attracted to Mon-El until Alex told her she was (and Alex is always right!).

    • Right? It’s kind of a weird implication (Kara/Kal), but the show does draw visual parallels between the two, so it’s hard not to think that’s a part of it at some level.

      I support ace!Kara, too! Even when I ship her with James or Lena (or Lucy, or Livewire…), I’ve typically headcanoned her as ace given precisely those situations you point out. It makes so much sense to me.

  • Star-Lord

    Hey hypocritical manhater. You are toxic and newsflash Mon-El isnt even fully developed yet. He is evolving into the Mon-El from the comics.

  • Michael

    I don’t know why the writers thought giving Mon-El so much screentime would be a good idea. He came out of nowhere and is suddenly everywhere on the show. It certainly can’t be because of Chris Wood’s acting abilities because those are pretty mediocre.
    The only explanation that I can see is that Chris Wood seems to have a contract that guarantees him work on CW shows for several years. Containment was cancelled, TVD was ending so they tried to shove him into a new CW show. And when trying to write a character for him that was important for Supergirl and that would be able to stay for several seasons they went a bit overboard.

    • Lisa

      I think it has less to do with Chris Wood, who just so happened to get passed around the CW, and more to do with the writers’ erasure of anything in Kara’s life outside of him. As it is now, she’s unfairly and unjustly shunning her friends for wanting to save and help people, her sister is in a relationship that takes up whatever time she has outside of work and now she’s lost her job. Kara literally only has being Supergirl. It’s the isolation trope. Alienate her from everything save for one aspect of her personality and this relationship going and she’s about to face the harsh reality that this problematic guy she’s already found so many faults in has been lying to her the entire time.

      It’s also the writers’ essentially replacing their black male lead with a white male. That’s it in a nutshell and probably the most irrefutable fact about their reasoning behind it.

      • windleopard

        So basically they turned her into Bella from Twilight? I know, I know, it’s a cheap shot, but I can’t help but look at it that way.

  • Leah

    I really appreciate this article! I’ve had a lot of the same thoughts about Mon-El, so it’s nice to see others who have the same opinion. I really wish they’d kept Mon-El as a mentee, as I feel like that storyline could’ve been really interesting – it never seemed to me like they fully finished that arc, either, and instead just kind of let it drop while they changed his focus to romance.

    I think what’s bugging me most about the show right now though is that Kara barely has any screentime with anyone but Mon-El. I can’t even consider her friends with Winn or James right now because she never interacts with them outside of info sharing scenes in the DEO or scenes where she’s fighting with James over him being Guardian (and not always making a lot of sense, either). I miss all the other characters! Especially James, who despite being a regular on the show has barely been in S2 at all, and now that Kara’s not at CatCo we may see even less since he isn’t part of the DEO.

    • Lisa

      “she’s fighting with James over him being Guardian (and not always making a lot of sense, either)” THAT’S EXACTLY HOW I FEEL!

    • Lisa

      “she’s fighting with James over him being Guardian (and not always making a lot of sense, either)” THAT’S EXACTLY HOW I FEEL! When she was yelling at him about being human and pointing out to James that he shouldn’t be The Guardian because he could get killed I felt like she basically invalidated all of the cops and firemen other people who constantly choose to be in the line of fire because they want to help people. She was pretty much saying that as a human, he’s not good enough to protect people and it irritated the daylights out of me because it made me believe that that’s how she views humans. It was so insulting. It’s also part of the reason she’s open to being with Mon El despite all of her negative feelings about who and how he is as a person behind it, because he’s not human and is superpowered. Never mind that Mon El doesn’t give a flip about protecting anyone other than himself and Kara. With this whole arc she’s essentially giving off the vibe that humans are inferior, incompatible mates, and that they’re unable to really to protect their own planet. I don’t know if the writers are purposely making her this way, but that moment where James was trying to convince her that she wasn’t out there fighting alone and she only mentioned Mon El, effectively crushing James’ feelings in the process, I was hit with the thought that the writers are making Kara think superpowered beings are superior in her eyes and I didn’t like it one bit.

      • Leah

        Yeah, I personally got confused by her wanting James to be safe but then after he said that he was going to be The Guardian whether she supported it or not she still refused to work with him. If he’s going to do it anyway why don’t you work with him! It gives him a better chance of staying alive if they’re working as a team, surely Kara would know that. I just don’t really understand the purpose of their fighting over this when it didn’t seem to result in anything in the end.

      • windleopard

        “When she was yelling at him about being human and pointing out to James that he shouldn’t be The Guardian because he could get killed I felt like she basically invalidated all of the cops and firemen other people who constantly choose to be in the line of fire because they want to help people.”

        Not to mention her own sister who has no powers herself.

  • Hinkypunk

    I’m so glad you wrote this article, it articulates everything that’s been bothering me about the character and the so-called romance between him and Kara. The writers using Alex as a mouthpiece to tell Kara “You like him, you just don’t know it” infuriated me! On a character level, how would Alex know about Kara’s so-called feelings for Mon-El if she’s been spending nearly all her time with Maggie? On a writing level, making one character flat out tell another how they feel is horrible, lazy writing. That’s not even touching the fact that they had Kara break up with James and then try to mold Mon-El into the guy that James already is?? If Kara was worried about James being breakable, why not actually explore that understandable fear in their relationship instead of a weaksauce ‘better off as friends’ excuse? It makes me wish Mon-El had been the one to disappear instead of M’gann.

  • That Which Dreams

    What if Mon-El is controlling Kara’s mind? Subtly. That’s why she keeps going back on her tirades, and she immediately changed track to “Maybe being Supergirl and having you is enough.”

  • Mary Clark

    Such a BRILLIANT article. I hope the Supergirl Staff sees this because it has everything we’ve been complaining about and saying all season in such concise, smart and logical facts. WONDERFUL job!

  • Stay Pressed

    Great article. Really enjoyed reading this, while not enjoying it at all cause it reminds me of all the shitty parts of the show.

    Also really appreciate how this doesn’t bring up Melissa’s chemistry with Katie, cause a lot of people who do like Mon El tend to yell “YOU JUST DON’T LIKE HIM CAUSE YOU SHIP SUPERCORP!!!” at people who have very legit reasons to not like the guy.

    • Joseph Payne

      This is a great point!

      It’s ENTIRELY possible to dislike Mon-El and his behavior WITHOUT shipping Kara/Lena. His actions and disrespect toward Kara are harmful and denigrating without having to compare the Kara/Mon-El interactions with Kara/Lena, Kara/James or Kara/anyone-at-all.

      I freely admit to being a Supercorp supporter. I’d be lying if I said otherwise. But the lessons this show has been communicating with Mon-El are toxic all on their own, and Katie and Gretchen laid those bare very nicely in this article.

      • BruisedEggo

        I don’t ship Supercorp and didn’t even know it was a thing coming into the fandom, but I hate that you can’t claim to dislike Kara/Mon El without someone trying to throw Supercorp into the pit of excuses why. I just don’t like the relationship, what it’s doing to Kara, the isolation aspect of it, what it’s doing to the overall show, and the fact that it’s taking so much away from what Supergirl is supposed to be about.

        I also don’t like how CW/Mon El is so front and center considering he’s only series regular and is billed lower than the other people on the show. Mon El is shoved into everything and it’s taking screen time away from well established characters like Jame, J’onn and even ate up all of Miss Martian’s screen time before she was shipped to Offscreensville. This show isn’t about Mon El and yet you’d think will how present he is, despite his lack of compelling character development aside from being a pompous, disrespectful jerk, he’s all over everything to do with this series right now. Last I checked, it was called Supergirl, but now it may as well be called Mon El’s Girlfriend.

        • Joseph Payne

          Yes, it seems very odd all around. The whole situation regarding Mon-El just doesn’t FEEL right. That’s another thing that makes me think he’s just going to be a feint of some sort.

          • BruisedEggo

            Honestly, it just feels like they’re trying to replace James/Mehcad as the male lead and it’s very unsettling. Last season he was in every episode and now he’s lucky if he gets more than 30 seconds of time on screen. The show as a whole has been affected and not positively. I don’t get it.

  • Divide By Zero

    The Article: This is a great analysis of Season 2 and Mon-El’s arc. I don’t have anything meaningful to add. I was very confused when this guy appeared in the pod. I wished it was Astra who somehow survived (got near the sun maybe?), but alas, it wasn’t her.
    Some of the comments: I’m a man. Misandry is a real issue in modern media. There are some ugly stories, which I’m not going to mention here. And yet it is laughable to think this article has ANYTHING at all to do with ‘man-hating’. There’s been plenty of toxic female characters in media, and Supergirl has its fair shair as well (Not only obvious ones like Lena’s mother. I consider Cat Grant’s behavior to be deplorable in several moments, like basically forcing Kara to date Adam for example, or blaming her for him leaving. Despite the fact that Cat left as a friend of both Kara and Supergirl, she was terrible to her half of the time).
    The ‘fixer-upper’ trope is not related to gender. And this is probably my only issue with the article – you shouldn’t have put ‘sexist’ in here. (‘distressingly sexist trope’). This takes away from the main points of your analysis. Yes, the trope might be used more for male characters, but it’s not restricted to them!

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  • Octavia

    Mon-el is so incredibly infuriating. I hate him I hate HIM. The writers of Supergirl did what I worried they would do when I first heard they were introducing Superman at the start of the season, but didnt do, and instead did it with someone who is misogyny personified. Mon-el has completely taken over Kara’s own show. And after last nights episode of The Flash? The way that episode played out? How Kara was ‘taught a lesson?’ Theres no way hes leaving now. Theres no way that Kara is ever going to be free of him. And it makes me want to scream.

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  • MrsT440

    I think the story of a good person falling in love with a charming but toxic personality is a fascinating story to tell. Think of Mon-El as an addict on step 2 – and Kara IS his step 2. You make an eloquent case that there’s no good reason for Kara to be attracted to him in return. Let me count the ways.
    1. They’re both effectively orphans due to the same catastrophic event. I think that is a legitimate basis for friendship.
    2. They have mutual memories of vacations on planet “Sedenach” [sp?] and the Bismuth mountains. Kara’s whole family is dead, except for Clark. Who else in the universe would appreciate that precious shared memory? Again, friendships are built on that sort of vicarious shared experience.
    3. They both have a competitive nature and enjoy sparring with each other.
    4. As you say, he’s less squishy than just about anybody on the planet. Extremely huggable.
    5. He knows how to have fun – in that regard, he’s HER teacher. That’s a fine gift in a life that is otherwise fraught.
    6. …or maybe 5b. He can dance!
    7. Now that the Big Lie has been revealed, he has clearly taken the next step in his hero’s journey. He’s done lying. Surely good things will arise out of the 12 step journey he’s now going to take in Liars Anon.
    (Listening might take a while longer to master, but I think he’ll eventually turn that corner, too….although I do think he is ultimately destined to be a leader, not a follower)
    8. Getting past the lie will also foster his being better at “satisfying her emotionally.”
    9. He IS learning to be a team player. You can see this as early as 2×09, or even 2×06.
    10. He might not yet have a perfect understanding of what makes Kara tick, but he knows more than most (he knows what her crinkled eyebrows mean, and he has certainly picked up on club soda & potstickers), which brings me to
    11. They both have insatiable appetites. Food & love sort of go together, you know? Okay, maybe that one is a bit thin. But it IS a point of commonality.
    12. HE is clearly committed to learning her, to being better, and I DON’T think it is just to get in her pants. I think it is because he really loves her. She sees that. She sees that even though he screws up, he sincerely wants to be better. So they inspire each other.

    Never fear – Kara has not gotten totally lost within the romance–just temporarily disoriented by the novelty of it all. She will eventually find her way back to the essential Kara – whether it be through journalism, or whatever. I really don’t see this romance as high-jacking her story arc. I see it as a character-building experience that…well, maybe it changes the focus a little bit. Mon-El’s fans might have rose-colored glasses on, but Kara doesn’t. She’s calls him on his B.S. every time. She’s kicked him out and broken up with him more than once.

    I see Mon-El as a terrific foil to show just how strong a woman Kara really is. I really enjoy watching that interplay. While I respect your viewpoint – that Kara would be better off not investing so much time in a “fixer upper” relationship – it saddens me that you don’t see the value in it that I and Karamel shippers do.