Leading Ladies

I have been an avid CW network watcher for some time. For a while it has seemed like they had the formula for hit TV series, but at the same time, I have noticed a decline in the way they treat their female character leads. Shows like The 100 and Supergirl have been so striking because of these independent ladies who lead the series that are both bold and bad ass.  As soon as we see these fierce females finally hitting a high stride the show writers feel the need to strike them down and shake their cores to lift up the male side characters who do nothing for the built up dynamic that has been a strong series structure. The CW has yet to recognize that female heroes have a force of their own and their presence and power on television are needed even more so now than ever before. 

Supergirl started off as a CBS series, but in season two the show shifted over to the CW network. In season one Kara Danvers (Melissa Benoist) established the support systems between her sister Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh) and her boss/mentor Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart). Cat showed Kara how she could empower herself and be a woman of great smarts and strength simultaneously, that she could have the kind of career that truly showcased both her big heart and big intellect. Kara was reminded that this is her story and no one else's. However, in season two with the introduction of new character Mon-El (Chris Wood) and the show's shift to The CW, it is as if the writers are trying to erase all of that by turning her into the shadow of the Supergirl young girls and adults have come to admire and be inspired by. Kara's character has become a fraction of the fierce female who has ignited viewers with her conviction and charisma. In season one of Supergirl, Kara already had a budding relationship with Jimmy Olsen (Mehcad Brooks) which had so much potential, but when Mon-El was introduced it was almost expected that he and Kara would have a romantic relationship even though he has done nothing to be worthy of her attention or affection. They tossed aside a built up budding romance between Kara and a man of color for a boring, bland and interchangeable white guy.

Kara has had an infinite amount of chemistry with just about every female dynamic she has engaged with from Grant, Lucy Lane (Jenna Dewan Tatum), to Lena Luther (Katie McGrath). Mon-El and Kara, or Karamel as the relationship has been deemed by fans, was given more screen time in the recent Valentine's Day episode of Supergirl, which had been touted as being very heavy for canon queer couple Alex and Maggie Sawyer (Floriana Lima). Sanvers, the ship name fans have for Alex and Maggie, has had this sweet and supportive slow burn to their relationship while Karamel has been the direct opposite with Mon-El’s misogyny and toxic treatment in the way he interacts with Kara.  The Karamel dynamic has quite often felt forced and disjointed as opposed to the natural connections that are seamlessly established with Kara’s female counterparts. These are relationships that have had more meaning and established Kara's identity over a short term romance that makes absolutely no sense. The looks alone and body language that has been shared between Kara and Lena, the pairing fans call SuperCorp, have been genuinely some of the most incendiary and polarizing to ever grace TV screens. Kara’s identity and worth should not be used as a tool to build up a secondary male character, after all, the show is called Supergirl.

The CW's history of baiting and bad behavior doesn't start or end with Supergirl. Last season of The 100 lesbian character Commander Lexa (Alycia Debnam-Carey) was killed by a stray bullet and fell victim to the Bury Your Gays television trope that has long plagued the LGBTQ community. The showrunner of The 100, Jason Rothenberg, had baited LGBTQ fans only to shatter endless shipper hearts and left fans feeling betrayed. When we look to television for representation only to have it ripped away by sloppy writing and poor research it is disheartening. Clarke Griffin (Eliza Taylor) has been a beacon to her people, but she has also long been their punching bag. Season four of this hit series has just started but it seems no different. It also seems as the season progresses that Bellamy (Bob Morley) is being built up for an arc of redemption which is undeserving. Last season his character killed countless innocent Grounders at the command of Chancellor Pike (Michael Beach), all because he thought he was doing what was right for his people, when in reality it was what he felt right for himself. Bellamy wants to be seen as a leader so badly that he is willing to commit a heinous act all to show his dominance but not take any ownership or acceptance in the destruction he creates instead. He wants to save his society, but at the detriment to all of the work Clarke has built up as an ambassador and she is the one who continually has to make sacrifices with the choices she is forced to make due to his brash bad behavior. On both The 100 and Supergirl it seems as though it's a long set up for the male characters to find their redemption while tearing down their female counterparts in order to do so. 

The CW used to have a standard when it comes to representation and diversity, but they have continually trounced on it and have proven that the trust of TV series watchers is not something that is among their priorities.  Kara and Clarke are two independent wonder women who should not be treated as though their characters are secondary or shadows of the determined women warriors that they personify. 

There was a great fan migration of The 100 fans who found their way to Fear The Walking Dead after Lexa's death. I see a similar situation with Supergirl fans who may find themselves on the flock soon to find another show that provides the respect and representation that they seek and absolutely deserve. If the CW actually wants to be groundbreaking and empowering they should start featuring multiple LGBT relationships in one series. Having multiple LGBT couples sends an incredible message to a community that has continually been treated as if their TV relationships are disposable or used as only a tool to further the heteronormativity prevalent in most programs. CW has a chance to show that the female leads can be superheroes too, that their value does not depend on what a man deems and determines it to be. It's time for their stories to shine. These characters deserve better. We all do.

This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.
CONVERSATIONS