CBS' Supergirl, Feminism, Anger and the Red Tornado

(Note: This review does contain spoilers. Leave now if you don't wish to know more about what happens in Supergirl Season 1, episode 6: Red Faced.)

I'm a big fan of the new CBS Supergirl TV show. I've been watching since the pilot and was given a treat with the Red Faced episode (season 1, episode 6). Throughout the show, there was a not-so-subtle subplot about anger and its appropriate expression in the workplace—for women.

There's so much to like in this episode: Cat Grant and Kara a great scene in which Cat tells Kara that it's okay for a man to pick up a chair and throw it out the window when a deadline is missed, but that same action is not acceptable for a woman. Instead, a woman is supposed to bury her feelings, always be nice and get along with her male counterparts in the workplace. The double standard is clear and Cat wonders about that.

The added layer of having Cat Grant tangling with her mother showed a layered approach that really hit home for me: Cat was getting tossed aside by her judgmental mom and blown off to hang out with intellectuals such as Margaret Atwood (nice touch BTW) and there's a moment where Kara is empathetic toward Cat. She sees how Cat's mom treated her so horribly and wants to be kind to Cat, but, seconds after her mother is gone, Cat's her usual self.

But we also see a different side to Kara in this episode. She is handling lots of stress trying to hold down a demanding job and saving National City on a daily basis. She's torn in many different ways and seeing Jimmy Olsen back together with Lucy Lane does a number of her.

What was so fun about this episode is that it had all the makings of a clunker: A cheesy "Red Tornado" android that's a super military weapon that will help protect the USA against aliens. I rolled my eyes when I first saw what the episode was about, but then the writers tricked me (and I liked that). First, the special effects with the Red Tornado weren't half bad. For a TV show, they were solid and I could suspend my disbelief (heck, I watched decades of old Doctor Who episodes and sometimes the aliens were covered in plastic wrap—I kid you not!).

Second, the story was more about anger, its portrayal, how to deal with it and what's "appropriate" for a woman in today's society. Now that's something I can get behind. That's a juicy topic that's topical. We often don't talk about anger because it's bad and not something that society thinks that a woman should feel—especially in the workplace. But there's a great buildup of Kara showing us why she's so pissed.

In a scene with Jimmy, she's hitting a car as her punching bag, and she loses it. She expresses to him that she's not normal. She was sent on a spaceship to come to Earth by her parents and she is afraid that she'll never have what Jimmy has with Lucy Lane. She wants to find a partner who can love her for who she truly is and not who she pretends to be in her everyday life. I really appreciated seeing this scene. It's not often that we get to see a woman, who's supposed to be a goody-goody role model, lose her cool. I appreciated seeing the complexities in the show. I hope that CBS chooses to push the needle with topics such as this a bit more, but I'm concerned that with the 8 p.m. time slot that won't happen.

I also applaud the feminist overtones in Supergirl. I have a daughter and want her to grow up to know that she can take any seat in a company—no matter if it's at the Board table, CEO or, as she's been telling me lately, President of the United States of America. Whether it's intended or not, Kara is becoming a role model for young people of today. She's a mouse by day, doing the dirty work that Cat throws at her without complaint, but she's also her and National City's savior (in an earlier episode in season 1, Supergirl saves Cat Grant in a helicopter). The mixing of the two sides of Supergirl makes the show brilliant, fun and a great take on women in today's America.

With powerhouses such as Jennifer Lawrence earning much less than her male co-stars and that being reflected across all various industries, it's interesting to see how the writers have Kara working hard for low pay (as per Cat herself in this week's episode), but she's also secretly everyone's savior. I find it interesting to see how she plays both of these roles and the Red Faced episode brings that all to a head.

During the showdown with the Red Tornado, there's a moment in which Kara unleashes her full power. She doesn't hold back and uses the hurt, anger and rage within to blast the Red Tornado with her heat vision. It's a frightful sight.

 

 Supergirl lets out her rage.

Supergirl lets out her rage.

Kara doesn't just unleash her anger on him, but she has to dig deep to continue the onslaught when the Red Tornado keeps coming toward her. Earlier in the episode she's shown to have an altercation with a road rage drive who gets all up in her face, but when she defends herself and protects the children behind her, she's blamed. The dual nature of the anger theme is well-played and I liked seeing that. It's okay for the driver to come at her in anger as he tries to punch her, but when she stops him, he changes his tune and pretends to be the victim. Another perfect example of how men get away with so much.

At the end of the episode, Kara defeats the Red Tornado, all is right with the world, but she cuts her finger on some glass. Having never saw her own blood before, Kara wonders what is happening to her. I'm not 100% happy that the writers took this route, but I do get it. Supergirl has to have some vulnerabilities (and the show creators mentioned this was important to the show) or otherwise things would get boring pretty quick.

I'll be curious to see where the show takes us in next week's episode. Having a Supergirl who could get hurt by a bullet, could be extremely interesting.

Overall, the theme of anger, and its appropriate expression, is handled well in this episode. It reminds me of a scene in my Lost book in which Cinderella is betrayed and snaps. I've written on this type of topic and I am happy to see where the Supergirl writers took the anger theme this week. When I chose to write my Cinderella's series, I did so because I also wanted to explore women's roles and show characters in a different light. Kara is growing nicely into a complex person and I like that. I'm hoping we see more of her development. All of this adds up to some good news with CBS announcing that Supergirl is getting picked up for a full season.


I'm the author of the Cinderella's Secret Witch Diaries series in which readers get to find out what really happened to Cinderella after she married the prince. If interested, get your free ebook of Lost here.