Supergirl: Lena Luthor Would Be Disappointed in You

The CW
The CW

I love Supergirl. Anyone who knows me knows that’s true. I binged the first season and caught up in the second after Alex’s coming out and my friends’ recommendations, and once I met Lena Luthor, I was done for. I’ve stuck by it through thick and thin, through good storylines and bad. I’ve stayed because I know deep down that Supergirl can be better. Can do better. Which is why this season has been so…frustrating in a lot of ways. 

One of the reasons I watch TV and connect with shows is because of representation. We all want to feel seen and heard, to feel like we are watching along with a version of our lives onscreen. And some of us more than others — when we’re historically underrepresented, seeing ourselves staring back at us when we click “TV on” feels amazing. Life-affirming. Like we are seen for the first time. But this season on Supergirl, we have gotten some representation that I feel like we really don’t need.

Let’s get this out of the way first — yes, I am a fan of SuperCorp. I feel like the chemistry between Lena and Kara is some that’s rarely seen among couples onscreen — gay, straight, and everything in between. That being said, I honestly don’t think the show will ever put them together in a romantic setting, and I’ve made my peace with that. There are a lot of arguments about Supergirl and queerbaiting, saying that Lena and Kara are being set up as romantic foils for each other with no follow-through, and while I could write a 38,000-word essay on that topic in how long it would take Kara to get Lena’s favorite scones from Paris, that’s not why we’re here today. Instead, I’d like to talk about…feelings.

I first had an inkling that I was different from other kids when I was three (thanks, Return of the Jedi), but it was all just vague background noise until I was 15. I remember being young, confused, and just blind-sided by the feelings I had developed for one of my closest friends; my best friend, probably, though I don’t know that I was hers. I cared about her so much, worried about her, wanted to be there for her and save her and be everything she needed — so much so that she wouldn’t need anyone else. When she got a boyfriend, I got weirdly jealous, especially when I was around them, and I just refused to acknowledge why.

In defense of myself, I was 15 and very, very Catholic (like, “had only attended Catholic school and worked at the church office for my part-time job” Catholic). I don’t think Kara has that same excuse.

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She held back on telling Lena she was Supergirl because she wanted Lena to love her. She held back one of the most important things about herself so she wouldn’t risk her relationship with her best friend. She values Lena over everyone else, except maybe Alex and Eliza, and has risked the lives of other people to save Lena’s. And then there’s how she looks at her best friend.

Lena is her first (and sometimes only) priority, and Kara doesn’t realize that maybe this is a little more than friendship. 

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It took me eight years to completely come out and admit my feelings to my friend. I just hope Kara will take less time. Lena has an attempt on her life about every three and a half weeks, and with Lex in the mix now, that could only get worse.

I don’t know if it’s worse to be oblivious to your feelings, like Kara, or to straight-up ignore them and put them in a box, like Lena. 

I mean, I get it. I do. She loved her mother and then watched her die. She tried to love Lillian, probably, and got pushed away and made to feel less than. She loved Lex, and he betrayed her. She loved her “friend” Andrea and got betrayed by her, too. So while I understand why, I just wish that she could see opening up that box a tiny bit before it’s too late might be a good thing.

My story wasn’t so dramatic as dead Irish mothers and sociopathic American brothers. Just a “small-town girl develops feelings for her roommate” story. You know, tale as old as time. And I told myself for so long that if I could just ignore it, if I could just tolerate when she was with that guy or when she talked about him, if I could just pretend those weekends she was with him didn’t exist, I would get all of her other time, you know? We’d walk to class together sometimes and have dinner and study and smoke and then fall asleep, talking about the most random shit, and I would just…ignore the way my heart raced when she laughed, how I watched her when she wasn’t looking, and how being around her was the only thing that ever made me feel better. If I ignored all of that, then at least I’d have her as my friend.

But, Lena, the world doesn’t work that way. Feelings don’t get better by ignoring them or overworking yourself or drinking every night so the sharp edges of the box they’re in seem a little more rounded and easy to handle. Downloading an AI you created into your former-assistant-turned-enemy-turned-patsy-for-Leviathan won’t make them better, and neither will creating something that will just make people be nice. Pour a scotch, crack open your box, and see what happens. You’ll thank me for it.

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“But Monica,” you say. “That’s a lot of talk about SuperCorp, but you said we were here for other reasons.” And we are. 

As I’ve matured, even though I’m pretty good about recognizing my feelings, that doesn’t mean my life is just all sunshine and doughnuts all day. One of the most frustrating things is when I get overlooked or passed over, oftentimes for someone who’s new and fun and shiny, despite the fact that I’m a hard worker/good friend/paragon of hope.

I’m looking at you, Lex Luthor.

I was not a huge fan of Lex’s casting when it was announced, or even in the first couple of appearances (he’s five years younger than Brenda Strong!), but I will admit, Jon Cryer won me over, especially in the CRISIS and post-CRISIS episodes. I’m enjoying his snarky, disaffected take on sociopathic Lex, and most importantly, I can’t wait to see Lena crush him. Ahem.

But my point is, the show is called Supergirl, not My So-Called Lex

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Supergirl has spent years crafting these complex, strong, intriguing female characters, but lately, it’s like they just don’t care. They spent an entire season setting Kelly up as a love interest for Alex, and we’re lucky if we get a scene with them doing anything other than gazing at each other lovingly (which I also enjoy, don’t get me wrong). I adore Azie Tesfai and her portrayal of Kelly, and both we and Alex deserve more scenes of them starting out as a couple. 

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We spent the first half of the season setting Lena and Kara up for an epic battle of wits and morals, only to have Lex press the reset button (…why, exactly?) and have them just pretending that the other doesn’t exist, even going so far as to uninvite Lena to game night.

GAME NIGHT. IS NOTHING SACRED?!

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While Kara’s busy being oblivious to the woman who’s standing right in front of her, the next episode’s promo leads us to believe that William asks her out and she’s considering it. Another lesson I’ve learned? Just because someone asks you out doesn’t mean you have to say yes. And just because someone is new and exciting and interesting doesn’t mean that there’s chemistry with them.

Lena, Kelly, Nia, and Alex, characters who I’ve spent years getting to know and growing to love, are being pushed aside for a flashy bald megalomaniac and a pretty journalist with a fancy accent. They do all the work, and then the boys get to have all the fun. Talk about a tale as old as time.

And all of this doesn’t even address Nia Nal, paired with Brainy in an unlikely-but-so-freaking-charming romance that just abruptly ended so Brainy could find his way. I hope they let Nia be Dreamer as Brainy’s figuring stuff out and don’t have her waiting by the phone, hoping he calls.

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I don’t know why I’m surprised, honestly. They did the same thing when Tyler Hoechlin was introduced as Superman in Season 2, going so far as to include him in the stock opening when he’s not even a series regular. And then we have Chris Wood’s Mon-El, a character who eventually found his way to being enjoyable (after being a royal jerk), but then was forced into a romantic storyline with Kara before their chemistry could truly develop correctly. Interesting storylines with the women we’ve grown to love are sidelined in favor of newly introduced men, showing how good or bad they can be without trying, and taking delight in whichever it is. They get a redemption arc, and all I get is annoyed.

I really do get so frustrated with Supergirl because I know it can be better. Time has proven that the show is at its best when it lets its women take the lead (like when my favorite trio forgot to stay sexy and stay out of the ReignForest in Season 3), but it keeps getting distracted by its new boy toys.

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I’m not asking for SuperCorp. I’m not. Honestly, even if that was a direction the writers were headed, now is not the time. Lena and Kara have done too much harm to each other with no healing at all, and now’s not the time for them to take their relationship to the next level. No matter where their relationship ends up, they deserve to be able to take the time to get there in a healthy and unproblematic, honest way.

What I’m asking for on this show is what I ask for in real life — give the women what they have earned. Show me the representation that we all deserve.

 

Supergirl airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on the CW and Showcase.