Friday, May 24, 2024

Kara Danvers Was Not a Mistake

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Spoiler warning for Supergirl Season 3 Trailer

The trailer for Supergirl Season 3 aired recently at San Diego Comic-Con. It is far darker and grittier than anything we’ve seen for the show thus far—more a trailer for, say, a Marvel Netflix series than The CW’s Supergirl. And for a show that has struggled with less-than-stellar press and occasional low ratings throughout its last season, it is likely a big move, a chance for change.

The only problem: the very premise of this shift—that Kara Danvers was a mistake—is wrong.

Let’s take a moment to rewind back to the first ever trailer for Supergirl. It begins with the introduction we all know so well, transitions into Kara just being Kara. From the music to the lighting, it’s lighthearted. It’s goofy. And most importantly, it’s about Kara, because the show used to be about Kara (that, like a great many things, changed in Season 2). That is the show so many of us fell in love with.

Nearly every funny moment, every touching moment, has been a Kara moment. From Kara eating ice cream with Barry Allen to Kara sobbing in the DEO after being infected by red kryptonite, she is the glue that holds the show together. It is why viewers were so excited to find out Cat Grant would return in a recurring role in Season 3. It is why sister night scenes were so loved in Season 1, so missed in Season 2.

It is why the show succeeds.

Supergirl goes…Dark?

There have been successful dark superhero shows, of course. Take Jessica Jones. The darker, heavier tone is in large part due to the subject matter, but it is also an artistic choice: the final action scenes are edged with glowing purple, large shadows. And it all works because that is who Jessica is. Her fight against Kilgrave cannot be separated from the horrors she experienced when under his control. She has no alter-ego, no separate, villain-free life to lead.

Kilgrave commands Luke Cage to attack Jessica Jones

Kara does. After all, that’s why Kara Danvers was created. Much like Clark Kent, Kara’s human identity allowed her to put her powers to the side and lead a “normal” life.

So many superheroes do not allow themselves to love; it’s too dangerous, the trope says. Too risky. Kara, however, can love, and she does so freely. These people, the ones that she cares about, the ones that come to game night and call her their hero and keep her grounded, are her greatest strength. They are canonically what has kept Kara happy for so long. Why take that away?

Jessica Jones had thirteen episodes in its first season. The suspense continued steadily throughout all of them because there was reason for it to continue, quite simply. There was enough background for this arc to last—a sign of a well-written show.

What background does Kara have for this choice to turn dark? What justification is there? To maintain suspense for thirteen episodes is hard enough; Supergirl is about to attempt it for a 20-something episode season for little to no discernible reason. Right now, Mon-El left, and that’s it. The trailer paints that as the answer, says that Kara’s choice to send away her boyfriend is reason enough for her to question her very identity.

I disagree.

Kara Zor-El lost her entire family, her entire world. And in the past, the show has done an incredible job of discussing that: see the entire Season 1 plot-line with Astra and Non. See “For the Girl Who Has Everything,” where Kara is attacked by the Black Mercy and dreams she is back on Krypton. See the end of Season 1, when Supergirl gave a speech that boiled down to hope. Hope—have hope.

Where is the hope now?

I lost everything when I was young. When I first landed on this planet, I was sad and alone. But I found out that there is so much love in this world, out there for the taking. And you, the people of National City, you helped me. You let me be who I’m meant to be. You gave me back to myself. You made me stronger than I ever thought possible, and I love you for that.

-“Better Angels”

Kara Danvers is important because of how much Kara Zor-El has lost. So to claim that she would throw away such an important part of who she is because she lost her boyfriend shows a fundamental misunderstanding of who Kara is. More than any other character, any other hero, Kara Danvers is who she is because of hope, because of her ability to love. Take that away, add in this grittiness and darkness that seems to be all the rage in hero shows and movies and the result is not the Supergirl we know.

Kara Danvers, Supergirl, or both?

Now, I do not want to discount the importance of Supergirl as a character. This show is one of the first—and to this day, one of the only—female-led superhero shows on TV. And more than that, it’s one of the only ones aimed at a younger audience. That means a generation of girls will grow up and see a superhero who can be a reporter too, who can have a female mentor and a supportive sister and a loving group of friends, who can be whatever she wants and save the world.

That is, of course, changing now.

That’s where the problem lies, at the end of the day: to take away Kara, to say that the life she has crafted since the age of thirteen for a sense of normalcy, a sense of belonging, is a mistake is to say that she cannot have it all. What kind of message does that send?

As it turns out, what I had viewed as a nasty but unimportant line in Season 2—“Maybe being Supergirl and having you is enough,” Kara says to her boyfriend of a couple of months—turned out to be oddly prophetic. Given that Mon-El’s location is “the central mystery of the season” and Kara Danvers is proclaimed to be a mistake, it looks like my worst fears are coming true.

"Maybe being Supergirl and having you is enough" - Kara Danvers to Mon-El

Kara Danvers is not a mistake. She is an identity created to give Kara Zor-El a new home, and she is a woman who could be it all: a successful assistant, a great reporter, and a superhero.

So while Supergirl is important–and yes, she is incredibly important—so is Kara Danvers. Throwing away this part of her identity over Mon-El sends a horrible message to every young woman watching and takes away the heart of the show, the part that made so many people fall in love with it in the first place.

The Choice to be Kara

What sets Supergirl apart from other heroes is her continued choice to be hopeful, to be kind. That choice is inseparably linked to Kara Danvers. Kara has showed again and again that being a hero does not only come from having superpowers. It comes from doing the right thing and being kind even without those powers.

Having Kara regret becoming Kara signals a shift away from the wholesomeness of previous seasons. That, to me, is worth mourning more than anything in the trailer.

I do not watch Supergirl for the grit, for the darkness. If I wanted that, I could turn on nearly any superhero movie made in the past decade. No, I, and so many other people, watch it because it tackles those same issues, that same pull of darkness, with hope. With the knowledge that, at the end of the day, family, friendship, and love will get us through. That’s beautiful.

Superman has “Truth, Justice, and the American Way.” Supergirl has “Hope, Help, and Compassion for all.”

In the trailer for Season 3, none of those things are visible. So where is our Supergirl?

Images courtesy of The CW and Marvel

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