By Elizabeth Auwarter
At first, I was doubtful that this series could retain my interest due to the seemingly two-dimensional positivity of its title character. Audiences look for authenticity, not a forced look at the sunshine to blind themselves to reality around them. As the show progressed, I realized that the show championed finding positivity within the ever-present changes of an authentic life with no blinders. So how does this work within the world of Supergirl?
Season 2 Episode 2 contains a truckful of changes for the Supergirl characters. One of its specific themes is about chasing dreams even though they might scare you, a.k.a. “diving”. Kara petitions Cat Grant to make her new boss respect her, but Cat refuses. Cat tells Kara that she will be “taking a leave of absence from Cat Co.”. She describes herself as a shark that is swimming around in circles in a tank but not getting anywhere. Cat says, “There are new seas out there that I have to conquer. I need to dive.” While Cat runs toward change, even thrives off of it, Kara openly admits that she doesn’t feel like she can handle change well. “Everything is changing so fast. I do not do well with change,” Kara admits as she grabs a pillow to hold. Cat tells Kara, “You will rise to the occasion.” How have we seen Cat and Kara’s view of change develop throughout the series?
When faced with her first change, the arrival of Supergirl, Cat grasps at the opportunity with a ruthlessness that makes the audience understand how she got to where she is as a powerful CEO of a multimedia company, Cat Co. When faced with Supergirl in person, she enjoys the adventure of getting to know her while still keeping her steely exterior within her published interview.
Cat’s mother cancels dinner with Cat when she gets a ‘better offer’ to have dinner with some well known authors, telling Cat that Cat wouldn’t have anything in common with them, a direct jab at Cat’s career. Cat meekly mentions that she had cleared her schedule for her. Cat’s mother rails at Kara for not having her car ready, but Cat defends her employee saying that she is “excellent at her job”, saving the yelling at Kara for herself. Kara eventually lets loose a verbal tirade on Cat.
When confronted with Kara’s anger at her mistreatment, instead of firing her on the spot, she takes her out for drinks and gives Kara some great advice to “look for the anger behind her anger”. She admonishes Kara to not display her anger in the workplace because it can be seen as weakness in women.
When faced with being hacked and potentially having to step down from her CEO position, Cat first reaches for a glass and fills it with M&Ms because, let’s face it, chocolate always makes a terrible situation at least a little better. She then works on understanding the situation by having Kara and her team look into her e-mails to find any potential issues. When Kara confronts her about a seemingly scandalous transfer of money, Cat confesses that she gives money to her son whom she lost in a custody battle because she decided to stop fighting for him. She believed that, perhaps, her career got in the way of her caring for him and someone else would do a better job of raising him. When a board member is found out to be the source of her hack, conspiring against Cat to replace her as CEO, she calls the board member into her office, explains why he will be fired, and has him escorted from the building. Her softer side is shown in how she thanks Kara and her team for helping her find the information to fire the board member. This incident seems to have given Cat new clarity to see Kara for who she really is, Supergirl.
Cat’s method of dealing with change is both powerful and dynamic. She faces each change with open eyes that scan all of the options and weigh them. Cat looks at change as an opportunity to learn and improve.
Kara Zor-El / Kara Danvers / Supergirl
Kara’s change is aligned with her coming of age. It is mentioned early on that she is the quintessential millennial when it is thought that she calls her cousin, Superman, for help when things get too hard just like, Cat says, millennials call on their parents when life gets hard. I think that Kara is a great representation of a large segment of the millennial population in her fight against this stereotype. Cat does give Kara some needed pushes toward becoming more confident and independent, but Kara is far from lazy. As Kara becomes Supergirl, she learns more about who she really is. At first she takes offense at being called a “girl”, but she later embraces the persona that Cat has created for her. She rises to the challenges Cat raises to her and actually asks her cousin, Superman, to back-off from trying to save her. She learns to be her own individual. In some ways she is doing this by distinguishing herself from her cousin. She specifically mentions to her friends that, unlike Superman, she realizes the truth that she cannot do it alone, that she needs a team. This is her first real step into adulthood, not wanting anyone to bail her out but realizing that she needs a support system in order to succeed.
Kara struggles with the idea that she might be doing more harm than good by attracting higher level villains to her city and, accidentally, causing an oil spill. She is faced with negativity on every side, but she endures. Kara is the face of positivity in a darkly negative world full of untrustworthy people.
Season 1 Episode 16 shows what would happen if the ideal of Supergirl was tarnished. Supergirl is affected by Red Kryptonite and changed to what I would only assume she would be if she had no moral compass and nothing to stop her impulses. Most importantly though, she lost her faith in the possibility of a better world. SPOILER: Supergirl is cured but still has to deal with the consequences.
What is positivity without recognizing the pain? False hope. Supergirl realizes that she must deal with the “anger behind the anger” that Cat Grant warned her against when Kara, a.k.a. Supergirl, tiraded against her in the office. This same anger that was ten times more apparent when Kara/Supergirl was exposed to the Red Kryptonite. The amplification of what was boiling inside of her changes how she looks at herself. She still wants to strive for positivity, but she also have to understand why she is angry.
Cat is an instrument of change for Kara. She promotes Kara but makes Kara decide what she wants her job to be. This change sends Kara into an identity crisis. She knows who she is as Supergirl, but she doesn’t know who she is as Kara. This is one of the most difficult changes in life, learning a role: girlfriend, job, daughter, and sister. Kara looks to an assessment to find out what she would enjoy, but Cat rejects that. It is an offhand compliment that gives Kara the idea of what she wants to do with her life. She embraces the change of what it would mean to declare that she wants to be a reporter.
Kara’s method of dealing with change, although a bit greener than Cat’s has a charm of its own. She tries to find how she can fix what is changing to have the best outcome possible. Kara is less jaded than Cat, but this gives her a positivity during change that is needed, especially in her line of work. Alongside Kara’s refreshing positivity is her growing ability to exercise gumption.
Season 2 Episode 2 has another conversation that perfectly sums up Cat and Kara/Supergirl’s views of change.
Supergirl says, “I admire you Ms. Grant. It’s scary leaving the life you’ve known.”
Cat replies, “I’m about to take a leap into the unknown, and I’m thrilled. Do you have any idea how exciting it is not to know what I’m going to do tomorrow? It’s exhilarating.”
“I wish I could do that sometimes. Start something new. Be someone new.”
“Life is long, and you will be many different people before the end. And, knowing you, every single one of them will be extraordinary…”
After a bit of banter Cat says, “Be safe, Supergirl.”
“You too, and come back. I know we all need change, but we need friends too.”
As Kara/Supergirl learns to embrace change, she witnesses her mentor/boss Cat jump joyously into the unknown change before her.
Elizabeth Auwarter is a lover of the world of film with a minor in Theatre from Covenant College and a Summer Screenwriting Workshop Class from UCLA. Elizabeth Auwarter is the creator and writer of The Recovering Perfectionist, a blog to encourage those who struggle to free themselves from the prison of perfectionism.