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Her Name is Kara: 10 Reactions to the Supergirl Trailer

Here we go again. All-star producers Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg are launching a new light-hearted comic book superhero show which is getting a high-profile launch next season and has released a trailer which is pretty much the pilot episode condensed down to 5-6 minutes. Last year, it was The Flash; this year, it’s Supergirl. However, last year there was a sea of good will floating Flash’s way, the CW throwing more money at them to make a big budget pilot instead of a backdoor pilot within Arrow. Supergirl, on the other hand, is a genuinely brand new show with characters we’ve never met before even if we recognize some of their names, like Jimmy Olsen.  Moreover, Supergirl has not had nearly as smooth a ride to a series pick-up, with reports of CBS souring on the pilot and shopping it to The CW until CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler watched and fell in love with the show.

Now, Supergirl is set to debut on Monday nights in November, and the entire pilot is summarized in this trailer:

Melissa Benoist’s lead character Kara Zor-El is a twenty-four-year-old “who was taken in by the Danvers family when she was 12 after being sent away from Krypton, but now must learn to embrace her powers after previously hiding them.” Her love interest is a race-switched Jimmy Olsen played by Mehcad Brooks, her boss at a media conglomerate is Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart), her foster sister is Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh), and that X-Files-esque quasi-adversary is Hank Henshaw (Homeland‘s David Harewood).

I have 10 reactions to all of this:

1. I can’t believe this is airing on CBS

Maybe it’s the way the pilot starts with “My name is Kara Zor-El” ala Arrow’s “My Name is Oliver Queen” or Flash’s “My Name is Barry Allen,” but this instantly looks more like a CW show than CBS, albeit with a slightly bigger budget. Moreover, its primary message is girl power, which is more of an ABC thing than CBS.  Heck, at times this looks like a MTV show.

2. It’s almost like a superhero show in which Arrow‘s Felicity Smoak is nerd by day, superhero by night

Arrow Lone Gunman Felicity HeadcockMaybe I just think that because Kara has a nearly identical fashion sense and is similarly awkward around guys.  Melissa Benoist seems to be playing it a little bit bigger than Emily Bett Rickards ever has.

3. It’s refreshing seeing a woman get a chance to do the whole “Run down the alleyway and experiment with superpowers for the first time” thing.

The Sam Raimi Spider-Man did it.  Grant Gustin’s Barry Allen did it in The Flash pilot.  Now, Melissa Benoist’s Supergirl gets to take flight for the first time after getting a running start in an alleyway.

4. Are they purposefully making an homage to the weird X-Files era of Superboy?

newton-christopherWith Supergirl partnering with/battling against an X-Files-like task force, I thought of the era of the old syndicated Superboy TV show in which Clark Kent and Lana Lane interned at The Bureau for Extra-Normal Matters where they could Mulder & Scully their way through stories.

5. How many people are going to know her secret identity by the end of the pilot?

Obviously her sister already knows, but apparently so will everyone else other than her boss.

6. They sidestepped the whole “Are glasses really going to fool anyone into not recognizing her as Supergirl?” thing

Man of Steel dealt with this with Superman by completely dropping it until the very end.

7. I did not expect a feminist breakdown of the suitability of using the name Supergirl instead of Superwoman

They clearly felt that was necessary, but it comes off like they’re pre-emptively defending themselves from some imaginary attack.  I would have rather seen that moment played for humor, like Cat Grant agreeing that if there is a Superman his cousin should logically be called Superwoman but they ran it past marketing who concluded “Supergirl” looks better on t-shirts.  Then again, maybe that would have seemed too flippant about it.

8. It would be easier if this was set in the same fictional universe as Man of Steel

man-of-steel-henry-cavill-supermanSuperman is kind of all over the trailer without actually being in it beyond a solo photograph, which makes sense since how do you really do a show about Superman’s cousin without referring to Superman.  However, it’s also slightly confusing since we have a cinematic version of Superman running around in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman. The DC films and TV shows are separate meaning this version on Supergirl has nothing to do with the Henry Cavill Superman. The films are clearly aiming for a wildly different tone than the TV shows, as if the unrelentingly grim films are meant for the adults and the fun TV shows for the young teenagers and little kids. Still, it would be less confusing for audiences if this was simply a TV offshoot of Man of Steel, making Kara’s moment of describing the “S” symbol as her family’s coat of arms a direct reference to Clark Kent’s “It stands for hope” Man of Steel moment.  But everyone managed to deal with Smallville and Superman Returns co-existing.  Plus, I suppose Supergirl is going to be that more Christopher Reeves version of the Superman universe which so many people missed in Man of Steel.

9. Their version of Flash‘s Cisco is a male fashionista

The guy who wants to ask Kara out at the beginning turns into the show’s version of Cisco from The Flash, helping her design the costume and identify unfolding crimes to foil.  One of the rejected costume ideas during that sequence is a jokey reference to one of Supergirl’s actual comic book costumes over the years.

10. That airplane scene is the clear highlight

It is Frozen-esque that Supergirl’s first act as a hero is to save her own sister, and the sequence stands out as the real highlight of the trailer.  Melissa Benoist’s exasperated, “Oh, come on!” in response to the bridge looming in the distance is her finest moment.

Based on this trailer, I’d say the Supergirl pilot is not going to be anywhere near as strong as The Flash’s, which had a clearly defined sense of direction, built-in mystery surrounding the death of Barry Allen’s mother, and Smallville-esque story generator whereby the accident (i.e., the particle accelerator explosion) that creates The Flash also creates all of his villains.  I can see why The CW went crazy over it just as I can see why CBS was a little nervous about Supergirl.

However, I am reminded of a moment at The Flash‘s panel appearance at Paleyfest LA a couple of months ago.  When they reached the section of the evening where they take questions from the audience, a little boy, probably no more than 8-years-old, stepped to the mic and opened with “My name is Barry Allen.”  Admirably undeterred by the instantaneous applause greeting his declaration, he continued to recite The Flash‘s opening monologue word for word. Grant Gustin, joined on stage by the show’s entire cast as well as producers, seemed especially delighted. The little kid ended his triumphant moment by assuring Grant he’d always be his Flash (a knock on the upcoming movie starring Ezra Miller).  It was a heartwarming moment and far from the only time little kids made their presence felt at the appearance.  The possibility of Supergirl making it to Paleyfest LA next year where a little girl might step to the mic to declare “My name is Kara Zor-El” as her love letter to the show and Melissa Benoist is not something I would want to take away from anyone.

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17 comments

  1. To be honest, this trailer first soothed my worries about them being able to deal with the effects and the actress, and then created a whole new set of worries. The whole thing looks so…girly. Insultingly girly. Just like Agent Carter it is clearly designed to draw in female viewers, but their attempt to add “female empowerment” comes of a little bit insulting. The whole speech about the use of the word “girl” is a bunch of BS, and it seems like a lot of it is just there because someone thought that this is what woman want. Woman liked The Devil wears Prada, so let’s add elements of it. Woman like trying out clothes, so let’s do a whole scene about testing out costumes. Woman are emotional, so let’s add the bit with the baby-blanket. And the best female characters are a little bit quirky and awkward (honestly, that is a life action version of Frozen’s Anna, and I can’t express enough how much I dislike that particular character), because that’s what the female audience likes.

    1. To all of your points about the overly girly nature of the trailer, there are certain moments where I’d be more inclined to believe it was an SNL sketch version of a female-leaning superhero show than an actual show CBS has produced and will air. Supergirl feels like it could slip into unintentional self-parody very quickly.

  2. Still withholding my enthusiasm just a little bit because I did indeed watch that SNL parody of the Black Widow TV show and I hated the first minute or so of this trailer.

    I do like that it’s more lighthearted than the DC movies, though. I don’t watch Arrow or The Flash because of all the “schmacting” which I have no patience for. As soon as I start to see it in this show, I’m probably going to drop it, too, so I hope they keep it as light as possible.

    1. The moment of Kara needing a pep talk from her sister after the mean man is a jerk to her is especially irksome. I talked a lot about The Flash in my article, but you don’t watch that show. So, without that as a reference point I’d say Supergirl reminds me more of a Lifetime movie married to a general mash-up of Lois & Clark, Superboy and the Christopher Reeves Superman. Considering that Arrow/Flash’s Kreisberg and Berlanti are heavily involved as producers (along with Chuck, Glee, The New Normal’s Ali Adler), I imagine Supergirl will easily go the way of Arrow and Flash with what you called “schmacting,” but while this would be okay on The CW I could see this struggling on CBS where they obviously have much, much higher expectations. For what they are, Arrow and The Flash came out of the gate so incredibly strong whereas Supergirl looks like it still needs some work.

  3. The trailer left me excited. It made me want to watch it. It left me feeling like I could relate to Kara and her personality. This is someone who has people who care about her, who wants to be great, who knows she can be great, but is still pushed into a position where she needs to prove herself. To me that is relateable. It didn’t feel overly girly. It didn’t seem very girly at all. If that is girly, then Barry is equally as girl considering all the moping around he’s done this season.

    Not only that but there were glimpses of potential action that we’ll see in the future and I liked it. It made me smile and I laughed a bit.

    Even more shocking was that it caught my boyfriend’s attention. I doesn’t want much to do with tv. Heck he was playing his ipad and then the more the trailer went on the more the ipad fell to his lap and his eyes were on the screen.

    Did I enjoy everything in the trailer no, but it is only a trailer. A trailer can be spun any number of ways. It did leave me hopeful though and that’s more than I had initially expected.

    1. Barry Allen is quite the moper. That’s true. Oliver Queen’s got all of them beat, although I guess he’s the intense brooding type and Barry’s the lovable moper.

      What I got from the trailer is that while I may not especially high on it I get the impression that others will find it empowering, and I wouldn’t take that away from anyone. Like I said, I love the idea of a little girl reciting the show’s opening monologue to Melissa Benoist and the cast at some panel appearance like that little boy with Grant Gustin and The Flash. However, because this is coming from the Arrow/Flash guys I do wonder how well their schtick will play, ratings wise, on CBS with higher expectations than CW, although i know Berlanti has like 6 different TV shows right now, including Mysteries of Laura on NBC.

      1. My concern with CBS isn’t so much higher expectations. They certainly don’t have that. They do have a different demographic. They get older people. The oldest of all the networks. Which is likely part of the reason their numbers are so high. Their demo are older people who want to sit down and watch episodes. They will watch frequently, but often it isn’t appointment TV, even if they tune in every week. CBS shows tend to not be serialized. Supergirl will no doubt be serialized on top of skewing younger. This is a better fit for ABC or CW or even FOX. CBS is an older skewing network with procedurals and traditional multi-cam sitcoms. Look at what’s happened to Person of Interest. As it became more serialized it lost viewers. Serialized shows require more commitment and I’m not sure CBS viewers are as loyal. It’s a different beast than the other networks. It doesn’t fit. I’ll be pleasantly surprised if it gets to next season.

      2. At the upfronts, CBS did brag that they have more top 30 shows in the coveted 18-49 demographic than any other network, and they defended the buying power of the 25-45 demo. Les Moonves took some shots at Jimmy Kimmel’s jokes about their aging viewership. However, while CBS is eager to alter the narrative about being the network with the shows everyone’s parents watch it is still the prevailing narrative. And as I was getting at and you more explicitly laid out, Supergirl just so does not fit on CBS right now. I’ve always thought that, and now that I’ve seen the trailer I think it even more.

      3. PR Magic is brilliant. I believe NBC tried to spin some things in their favor when in actuality the only new show they picked up from last year was The Mysteries of Laura and Chicago PD, aka no comedies. Undateable doesn’t count because it was from 2013-2014 and aired in the summer before it go moved into the main season. Spinning words is amazing. Pretty amusing to watch too.

      4. By my count, CBS, ABC, and NBC all claimed to be the #1 network this week, CBS in overall viewers and 18 to 49 if you take away NBC’s Superbowl, NBC in 18 to 49 because how dare you try to take the Superbowl away from them, and ABC in 18 to 49 if you take sports completely out of the equation at any network. I believe ABC dubbed them themselves the #1 network for entertainment.

      5. Im torn on whether or not this is the right tone for supergirl. Meaning the whole being raised by a loveing family ala clark kent scenerio, will it work for supergirl? They could have rocketed her off at age 16 or 17 and made her even more alien.

        The problem is that makes the character less relateable. Now, while that does make for a compelling comicbook chatacter, it also makes it hard to translate a character like this to the small screen. Let’s be honest, there’s an amount of cheesiness that comes with a character like Supergirl. Personally i think it’s a tough call and i think that they possibly made the right one, but only time will tell.

      6. I’ve seen the Supergirl movie and encountered her in Smallville, Superman: The Animated Series and Justice League Unlimited. However, the only time I’ve encountered her in the comics was in I think a New 52 Superman graphic novel in which the villain was some new Kryptonian who’d arrived on Earth and convinced Kara to side with him because she was still relatively new to Earth and still had an outsider’s point of view, painting her as an immigrant and Clark as someone who had long since become acclimated to his surroundings. I had kind of forgotten how important that was to her identity, and you’re right – they’ve really, really dropped that from the Supergirl pilot. Instead, they’re going with a more Superman-like coming of age story in which Supergirl’s powers function as a metaphor for her transition from girl to woman and finding a purpose in her life. She’s not so much struggling to understand humanity as she is simply finally attempting to understand herself. In one sense, I can see where that might seem to make her less relatable because surely we can all relate to the feeling like a bit of an outsider. In another sense, it might actually make her more relatable, fitting her into a more traditional and accessible superhero story, even it rings slightly false for those who know her from the comics. But this is all based off of the condensed version of the pilot, which is obviously going to try very hard to pull as many people in as possible. So, you want to simplify it and have it just be a girl with her coming of age story, making several Frozen associations (Kara’s sister might as well be singing “Do You Wanna Build a Snowman” through that door at one point) along the way to really reach out for little girls. That works for a pilot, but I don’t see how Kara’s immigrant status does not end up looming large over the show in the long-run. At the very least, she’s probably going to have plenty of flashbacks to her mom back on Krypton (or wherever the show is saying she’s from).

  4. I have a neurosis caused by my year 9 English teacher. We were asked to write an autobiography. Ever since then, any introduction starting with “My Name is…” strikes me as lame, uninspired, unoriginal….

    I am going to say what guys are gonna say. I’m going to watch for the eye candy. I had a crush on Chyler Leigh since “Not Another Teen Movie”. Supergirl is cute too. Not a fan of Callista Flockheart though.

    I do love the idea of blue skies again. I also love the idea of it being fun and not Nolan-esque.

    This is a nitpick but how does Supergirl’s sister know that she can fly if she was learning it for the first time in an alley.

  5. As some one who prefers the likes of Arrow and The Flash over the grimmer movies, I have to say I’m looking forward to this. I have to agree I can’t believe it’s airing on CBS, especially since it’s a channel notoriously know for being the “old people network.” And your point at the end about a little girl having a Supergirl to model after? So cute. Can’t wait to add this to my superhero watch list!!

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