CBS's Supergirl premiered this week and it deserves your attention. Not only because it is about time that we saw a young, female superhero on TV -- but mainly due to what star Melissa Benoist said on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert: "It's for everyone."
Undoubtedly the feminist question has come up following the first episode's conclusion, and who can blame those asking? At least from Superman's point of view, he has featured on our TV screens as far back as when George Reeves donned the red cape in the 1950s. From the 1990s classic Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman to 2000s Smallville, Kryptonian Kal El was given center frame. We did see Supergirl on the small screen as recently as 2010 in a season 10 episode of Smallville, where, after a number of guest episodes adapting to Earth life, she finally adopts the official superhero title. Yet, not counting the not-so-successful Christopher Reeve era film spinoff in 1984, Supergirl has not featured as the lead character, ever.
It could be argued that female superheroes have been scarce.
Marvel has tried at least with Black Widow, Agent Carter, and Fox with their female mutants in the X-Men film series . The strongest and best superhero characters on Agents of SHIELD are females. As for DC, Black Canary and (soon) Wonder Woman are the only two I can recall immediately (though we could add Christopher Nolan's Catwoman).
So, no doubt the timing of the new Supergirl series was due to a clear gender gap of lead superhero characters. Coupled with a second season of Agent Carter next year, and Netflix's Jessica Jones later this November, the discrepancy appears to be on its way to being addressed.
The good news is the pilot episode gave Supergirl the highest ratings of all new shows of Fall 2015. The even better news was the episode was well written, with characters we can all get excited about. It didn't once pander us with pro- or anti- feminist camps, which was trap it could have easily fallen into. Instead, it just got on giving Supergirl, Kara Danvers her origin story. Importantly, it featured top notch TV action scenes we are slowly starting to expect each week from our superhero shows.
So much social progress has occurred that so little is made of the bigger changes to Superman canon. Superman mainstay Jimmy Olsen is introduced with charming mentor-like presence, and as a possible love interest, successfully breaking the casting mould without even blinking -- he is played by Mehcad Brooks. It was a pleasure to see Calista Flockhart in a TV office again -- she plays Cat Grant, Kara's boss and the Perry White equivalent I presume.
Of course, to legitimize everything in the Superman world, we see former TV Superman, Dean Cain and former Supergirl, Helen Slater portraying Kara's step-parents. They only 'cameo' in the pilot, but it appears they both will feature more throughout the season.
What ties the whole episode together is the fact it has a bit of everything for everyone. And while it is a comic book show, it has more heart than you would expect. Tone-wise, it feels less dark and serious than Arrow, and as fun as The Flash. Melissa Benoist plays Kara with a playful sweetness to counter her tough, butt kicking superhuman strength as her alter ego, Supergirl. It was no surprise to see successful DNA elements from Marvel's Agents of SHIELD creeping in, with the introduction of a government agency monitoring alien activity and a crack team of agents to provide support. Superman was teased and mentioned enough to ensure Kara has her own space to grow without needing back up each week. Though gladly, enough room was left for a once-a-season fly-by pep talk from her super cousin. By far, the highlight of the episode was a scene featuring a rescue of an airliner going down in flames.
I think it's important that for the next several weeks we keep watching Supergirl. If ratings continue as they do, and the series sees additional seasons down the track, then a great justice will have been served. The worst thing that could happen is if this show fails, it is unlikely we will see any more female superhero shows anytime soon.
So I urge you to go check it out and make some noise on your own social networks. It is a worthy show to receive your support and I hope with many people gathering together to watch and share, we see many seasons of Supergirl make it on to our television screens.
Daniel Sanguineti is a Australian Film Producer and Writer, who tutors film and media at the University of Canberra and the Canberra Institute of Technology. He is on twitter @DanSanguineti.