Supergirl: Sanvers’ Breakup Illustrates the Need for Positive Queer Representation on TV

The CW
The CW

Well, it happened. The moment many Sanvers fans have been dreading finally played out Monday night on Supergirl as Alex (Chyler Leigh) and Maggie (Floriana Lima) officially called it quits. Although the seemingly perfect couple was busy making wedding plans for most of this season, a fissure in the relationship happened that they were never able to recover from. Alex realized she has always had a strong desire to have children, while Maggie’s version of their life together never included them. They were at an impasse, unable to get past this one issue, but it eventually led to the demise of their relationship.

The breakup was unlike many others on TV. From a strictly story point of view, it was unusual in that it happened out of love and ended with no hate, no hard feelings and no one really at fault. There was no blame to be doled out. Off-screen, of course, the breakup was caused by Lima’s decision to step down as a series regular this year and pursue other projects. While that’s something she has every right to do, and is not an atypical move for many actors, it has made fans more than aware that this breakup was coming, leaving many to dread this day for months.

Not only have fans been sad and fearful about losing one of their favorite couples, but the loss of Sanvers also means the loss of one of the very few successful, positive queer relationships on TV today. While the attention brought over the last two years to the harmful “Bury Your Gays” trope has resulted in fewer deaths for LGBTQ characters, overall representation numbers are still severely lacking. Because of this, Alex and Maggie’s relationship held significant weight to many Supergirl fans who are now feeling this loss harder than ever, and see it as just another instance where queer characters on television are denied a happy ending.

The breakup itself and reason behind it on screen felt realistic, relatable and heartbreaking, especially since there’s no real solution or someone to blame for making Alex, Maggie and all of us at home so sad. Both women have valid points of views and opinions here. Neither are being unreasonable or hurtful to the other. Sometimes love just isn’t enough. The question of whether or not to have kids is one that almost all relationships face at one point or another. Kids are a huge deal and having them drastically changes a relationship. While I wish we would’ve been privy to the actual conversation between Alex and Maggie that led them to call it quits, the fact that it happened off-screen saved us from some of the heartbreak.

The CW
The CW

Alex is always going to want kids. No matter how hard she tries, she can’t turn that off. It’s actually very mature and smart, even though it hurts a hell of a lot, for both women to realize that they shouldn’t push the other into any decision they may one day regret. Regrets are not a healthy thing to have, and if Maggie or Alex would’ve agreed to go against their true feelings it most likely would’ve led to them resenting each other down the road. Once resentment enters the equation, a relationship is pretty much doomed from there on out. Sacrifices must always be made in relationships, but here it felt like if either woman gave in it would’ve been too big and just led to trouble down the road.

The reasoning behind this breakup was further proof of the love that existed, and still does, between them and how much they truly meant to each other. They changed each other and made each other better people as a result. While difficult in the moment, I am still hopeful for the future given these two left one another on such a loving, respectful note.

Alex: “I didn’t know I had it in me to be happy. Or to be accepting of myself. I never would’ve gotten here without you.”

Maggie: “You made me deal with my own stuff. Confront my past. Look at the things I didn’t want to look at. I’m stronger for it. I’m really grateful for you.”

All of this is not to say that fans don’t have a right to feel upset or sad over Sanvers breaking up. They have every right to those feelings, especially when I struggle to think beyond just Wynonna Earp, The Shannara Chronicles and Carmilla for examples of successful, positive LGBTQ relationships happening on-screen at the moment. That was what Sanvers was for many: an on-screen representation of a loving, respectful, healthy relationship between two women. Because there are so few others like it, Sanvers held significant weight in the lives of many viewers, and the loss of this relationship is one that will be felt more than typical television breakups.

There is a glaring lack of representation on television and more than anything that is what this Sanvers breakup illustrates. How do we make the loss of queer relationships not hurt quite as bad? Simply put, have more of them! Relationships between male and female characters rarely elicit the same passionate and vocal response that queer on screen relationships do because there’s just so many of them for fans to choose from. “Oh, the guy and gal on Show A broke up? No big deal! I still have ‘ships sailing on Show B, C, D, etc., etc.” Queer fans don’t have that luxury. Their on screen losses are bigger, more impactful and have potential for more damage because there are just too few of them.

Sanvers was proof that queer stories matter and they are 100 per cent worth telling. The people they represent matter and deserve to have their stories told just as much as the next person. Both Leigh and Lima have been incredible allies during this journey, realizing the powerful voice that their characters can be for all the LGBTQ fans out there longing to hear their stories told. My hope is that this just proves we can’t stop here. Sanvers’ story may be (temporarily?) halted, but Alex’s journey continues on. Her story matters and should be told, just as each and every person matters and should see themselves represented on screen.

So if you’re hurting over Sanvers today, know that you are not alone. There are many others mourning the loss of this couple and what they represented. Hopefully they have helped illustrate the need for more and more LGBTQ characters and relationships on screen. These characters allow many to know they are not alone in their feelings, help to create better allies or even help someone who is intolerant have a little better understanding. Sanvers did that and I have hope there will be more to follow in their footsteps. Until then, remember to never be afraid of who you are and kiss the girls you want to kiss.


What did you think of Sanvers breakup? Share your thoughts below!

Supergirl airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on the CW and Showcase.