On May 13th, CBS revealed the first of two trailers for the upcoming show “Supergirl,” based on the popular DC Comics character.
From what I observed, the fanbase became fractured in opinion, which is natural and expected, but one of the more popular responses on the negative side was that “Supergirl” was too feminine in tone, the character was too girly, and various fans felt the show was not targeted to them.
On the following day, The CW released the trailer for the upcoming show “Legends of Tomorrow,” based on various DC Comics characters, and spinning out of the popular shows “Arrow” and “The Flash.”
From what I observed, the fanbase was united in its excitement for the show, to the point where I felt compelled to watch it even though I was admittedly behind on both shows, because I wanted to see if it was that good.
It made me wonder why a female-centric superhero show with a trailer so detailed that you could be left feeling you’ve already watched the premiere episode would be viewed negatively, but a team show revealing barely anything beyond a premise, a rooftop nighttime chat, and some scenes (mind you, we haven’t even seen the villain yet) would get unanimous praise.
The obvious immediate conclusion is that a portion of the male geek fanbase is uncomfortable with female superheroes who do not reflect women in a way they like.
Maybe they like to see their female action heroes kicking butt, punching people, smacking people with illuminated sticks, shooting aliens and metal automatons, and so on, but not see women dealing with such boring things as identity, the realization that abilities and identity are not mutually-exclusive things, that women are not of singular mind on the vocabulary of feminism, and so on.
After all, the trailer for “Legends of Tomorrow” doesn’t have any of those distracting character-profiling points, because we learn practically nothing new about Sara Lance, the White Canary, beyond what’s been seen of her in “Arrow” and we learn practically nothing about Hawkgirl.
There’s also a bunch of male characters framing White Canary and Hawkgirl, so they’re overshadowed.
I don’t remember seeing any male fans complaining about the overshadowing of female characters in “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”
Black Widow mostly kicked butt.
Wanda Maximoff mostly kicked butt.
Maria Hill… didn’t do much of anything.
So when you think about it, the film didn’t have much female characterization, either.
If the “Supergirl” trailer gets a blowback response and the “Legends of Tomorrow” trailer doesn’t, then it’s not about the criteria of character information or plot information, story or adherence to source material.
It’s about a number of things, but one of them is immaturity when it comes to women.
The superhero genre has be fueled by the sexual objectification by men and their fantasies for decades, and the existence of a “Supergirl” show is connected to the character’s longevity. That longevity is connected to a partially-male fanbase that had purchased “Supergirl” comic books for more than a handful of volumes. The character would not have been a viable choice for translation into television by a network like CBS without a long publication history.
Comic book fans are ecstatic at this point because there are enough good comic book-based shows on television and film that it can be rightfully called a genre in those mediums, as well as in print.
This proliferation of comic book-based television is a validation of sorts, a testament to the power of the genre and its indelible impact on pop culture.
To believe in the product, but not see why that mythology needs to do certain things in another medium, like speak to women’s issues when the lead character is a woman, is seemingly immature.
That immaturity is at the core of the adolescent discourse, in which people go on social media and complain about the things they don’t like without critical analysis.
To complain about something seeming too feminine or girly isn’t really complaining about the item, be it the film or trailer for a television show.
It’s a problem with those of you who don’t get it.
It’s your problem with the world, and the understanding that your perceptions of it are anachronistic.
It’s not knowing that in the United States, women have seven trillion dollars of annual buying power. It’s not understanding that according to Nielsen Business Insights, CBS, the network airing “Supergirl,” has more top 20 shows in the categories of travelers and retail shoppers, new auto shoppers, diners and moviegoers than NBC, ABC and FOX.
Women make up a significant portion of all of those categories. Don’t believe me?
“Pitch Perfect 2” made almost twice the money “Mad Max: Fury Road” did on the same opening weekend for both films.
I’m going to take a wild guess that the majority of the tickets for the former were bought by women and the majority of the tickets for the latter were bought by men.
That’s how the films were marketed, and look which one won in the box office receipts.
CBS is not interested in the vocal minority of fans with issues about female characterization within a superhero-based television show.
Most of us aren’t interested, either.
Most of us get the theme that is at the center of discussion today.
Be it of gender, sexuality, ethnicity, nationality.
You, the vocal minority, do… not… get… it.
So how about trying something new.
If you don’t get it, admit it, and then be open to learning about it.
And we will stop paying attention to you, and trying to explain logic to you, explain the changing world to you, explain business to you.
That’s a mutually-beneficial deal.
There is so much work to do in the circles of entertainment, that complaining a show geared to women is too feminine to you, has unfortunately received more real estate online than it deserves.
There are bigger statues to bring down, and more important roads to pave.
Joseph Phillip Illidge is a public speaker on the subjects of race, comics, and the corporate politics of diversity. In addition to his coverage by the BBC and Publishers Weekly, Joseph has been a speaker at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Digital Book World’s forum, Digitize Your Career: Marketing and Editing 2.0, Skidmore College, Purdue University, on the panel “Diversity in Comics: Race, Ethnicity, Gender and Sexual Orientation in American Comic Books,” and at the Soho Gallery for Digital Art in New York City.
Joseph is the Head Writer for Verge Entertainment, a production company co-founded with Shawn Martinbrough, artist for the graphic novel series “Thief of Thieves” by “The Walking Dead” creator Robert Kirkman, and video game developer Milo Stone. Verge has developed an extensive library of intellectual properties for live-action and animated television and film, video games, graphic novels, and web-based entertainment.
His graphic novel project, “The Ren,” about the romance between a young musician from the South and a Harlem-born dancer in 1925, set against the backdrop of a crime war, will be published by First Second Books, a division of Macmillan.
Joseph’s newest comic book project is the upcoming Scout Comics miniseries “Solarman,” a revamp of a teenage superhero originally written by Stan Lee.
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