As A Guy And A Girl Go Head To Head, Supergirl Revisits A Familiar Debate
Also: watch what happens when two less-qualified men nominate themselves for a Girl's job.
Saying that Supergirl wears its feminist politics on its sleeve is a bit of an understatement. In fact, it wears them on its hero's chest, in the form of a Kryptonian emblem that roughly translates to "Stronger Together," a 2016 presidential campaign slogan of Hillary Clinton. But if that quotation is a little too subtle, this week's episode may have stated things a little more clearly.
To back up a bit, we saw something of a bait-and-switch. We came into this episode assuming that Livewire was returning as the Big Bad of the week. But what looked like a jailbreak turned out to be a kidnapping, as a body-snatching mad scientist was using remote-controlled humans (including Melissa Benoist's stunt double and real-life Ninja Warrior Jessie Graff) to capture Livewire so that he could use her voltage to charge up his homemade homunculi. Learning about the villain's plan, and her unwilling part in it, Livewire vowed to first sue the man for copyright infringement and then murder him. His familiar, if somewhat startling retort: "Such a nasty woman."
Now, I'm not sure if we're all old enough to remember this, but there actually was a time when a lot of people assumed that Hillary Clinton would be the next President of the United States. Including, probably, the person who currently is the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump. In fact, one evening last year, he was getting so thoroughly creamed in the final presidential debate that he interrupted his opponent by spitting those exact words -- "Such a nasty woman" -- into his microphone. I can't say whether this episode was shot before or after the election that occurred a few weeks later, but that direct quote can hardly be an accident.
The "Nasty Woman" epithet was quickly co-opted by the other side (much like "Deplorable," but in the opposite direction), and used to sell any number of t-shirts and other merchandise. It's still showing up on signs at protests. But it's another thing entirely for a primetime network TV series to deliberately put the words of a now-sitting president into the mouth of an episode's clear bad guy. Or, at least it used to be. I suspect we'll see a lot more of it in the weeks and months to come.
It's important that we don't try to take the analogy too far. Yes, Livewire essentially disappeared from view at the end, much as our last next president had (until yesterday, anyway). And there are those who have perceived Clinton as a nigh-invulnerable supervillainess, hopelessly warped by her own power (while simultaneously at death's door, somehow). However, unlike in the real world, it was Livewire who gained the upper hand over her male challenger at the end of tonight's Supergirl.
But could Livewire have let slip an oblique comment on how the 2016 election pertains to gender politics in the workplace? Clinton frequently cited her experience as a reason to vote for her; even her opponents grudgingly conceded the point. Similarly, Supergirl is unquestionably National City's most experienced superhero, yet two men presumed to try to take the job away from her. They failed, of course, and thus had to endure Livewire's mocking as well as their humiliating defeat.
And Livewire has a point. Both James and Mon-El want to be superheroes like Kara. But Mon-El, who has the physiology of a hero, lacks the heart of one, whereas James has the heart but lacks the physiology. Only Supergirl has both. Fortunately, she is able to call on both of their strengths to help defeat evil in the end. If only the three-way dynamic among Clinton, Trump, and Bernie Sanders could have played out so positively for all involved.
But of course Supergirl is fantasy, a world in which POTUS is a woman, aliens are welcomed and given amnesty, and -- more plausibly -- superheroes are real. Thus next week, it looks as if political allegory will give way to an old-fashioned sci-fi siege tale, as the DEO is invaded by evil White Martians.
Or, as our current president might call them, "bad hombres."