Female led superhero movies haven't done so well in the past. With possibly the exception of the Lynda Carter Wonder Woman of the 70s, I can't really think of anything that could even remotely be considered a success. Elektra and Catwoman were both failures of monumental proportions, and both of them suffered from the same major flaw: they were both aimed at the pre-teen girl audience, and forgot to understand the fact that the pre-teen girl audience isn't into superhero movies.
Sure, there are some members of that demographic who are, but the demographic as a whole isn't, and doing that alienates the core audience for whom those films should have been aimed. In both cases, the characters were damaged in trying to force them to appeal to that girl audience, who really didn't care about them in the first place.
Finding an Audience
Now, if you were a 12-year-old-girl when Catwoman or Elektra came out, you might have enjoyed them. They might have engendered in you a love for superheroes that wasn't there before. You might love them still, despite them being terrible movies, because of that nostalgic connection. To the general audience, however, they were colossal failures and they flopped at the box office because they didn't get who the actual audience was.
Flash forward to just a week ago and the release of the first full trailer, a whopping 6 whole minutes, for the new Supergirl television series, produced by the same man who brought us Arrow and The Flash. A lot of initial reactions compared it to the Scarlett Johansson SNL skit for an imagined Black Widow romantic comedy film.
Now, I think most of these reactions were unfair and greatly exaggerated, but nonetheless, that was the impression people were getting from it: that this was going to be another superhero project aimed at the Twilight audience and completely ignoring its base, thus alienating the real audience. And, now that you've seen it you know that's kind of half right. I think Supergirl has the ability to appeal to that young female audience and get them into superheroes, in the same way that Catwoman and Elektra may have done for the precious few that it was able to touch in that manner. It does kind of have that Ally McBeal feel to it (and you have to wonder if that was intentional, since Ally McBeal herself, Callista Flockhart, plays Cat Grant on the series).
The Show's Unique Superpowers
Supergirl also, however, manages to do something those other films couldn't do. It actually takes the character seriously and appeals to the core superhero audience, both men and women alike. When Kara is in her civilian clothes, working as Cat Grant's personal assistant or whatever it is she does, she's a girl. She has girl problems, and she lives a life that can speak to the young female fans. When she puts on her suit, however, things are totally different. The show goes from Ally McBeal to Man of Steel in nothing flat. The superhero aspects of the series aren't watered down at all. Supergirl is new, and still a little unsure of herself, but she is diving into the superhero role full force, and that's great.
I really think this series has the potential to be able to appeal to a wide audience, and I think that's something that Arrow and The Flash really aren't able to do on the level that Supergirl can.
There are definitely some things the show needs to keep in mind going forward. It can still fail just as easily as it can succeed, and it is by no means a guaranteed success based only on the strength of the pilot. First of all, this show has to tie in to the CW shows. From the pilot it looks like they are still trying to be non-committal on that front. This is really non-negotiable. Supergirl, Flash and Arrow need to become the Trinity of the DC Television Universe. They need to be the Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman of this world that Greg Berlanti has built, and is continuing to grow. I think she just fits perfectly into it, and Melissa Benoist, I feel, would have great chemistry with Gustin and Amell. They also need to keep Supergirl as a strong superhero, and be careful not to let the girly aspects of the show begin to dominate it.
The most important thing this show needs to consider going forward is that it cannot shy away from the Superman mythos. They have acknowledged that he exists, and that's great, but they can't just leave it at a name drop, with Jimmy Olsen carrying messages back and forth. That's going to get old and tiresome. And it's going to get old and tiresome real quick. Superman is going to have to make an appearance, even if it's just as Clark Kent. He's going to have to show up to check on her, especially since the pilot leaves you with the impression that Superman hasn't really made any effort to be a part of her life. He needs to get to know her, because Superman would just do that. He isn't going to have another member of his race on Earth and just not have any contact with her, and certainly not be there to help guide her.
One of the biggest downfalls of the Birds of Prey television series was that they name-dropped Batman all over the place, but never featured him, or any of his villains or supporting characters, aside from those who were regulars on the show like Oracle and Alfred. She needs to fight some Superman villains, even if they are second or third tier, and Superman needs to show up every once in a while. If the series keeps these things in mind, and continues to deliver a super-powered punch, I think it has the potential to be every bit as good as the other Berlanti shows.
So what did you think of the pilot? Anything you need to see from the show going forward? Let me know in the comments below. And, now that I think of it, there really weren't any spoilers here at all.