The world can be a heavy place. When terrorists killed 130 people in Paris this past November, the world mourned. We mourned for those affected by this tragedy and the excruciating loss of life. Less than two weeks later, a mass shooting occurred at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado, killing three. One week after that, 14 people were killed in San Bernardino, California during their office holiday party. Days later, Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump called for barring all Muslims from entering the United States.
Like I said, the world can be a terribly bleak place, and that darkness is often reflected in our media. Television shows like "The Leftovers" and "Hannibal" expose that simmering existential horror of our everyday human existence. They're dark, thoughtful and unrelentingly cynical. They make us want to shut the blinds and wallow in our own sorrows.
And then there's "Supergirl," a show so bright and unabashedly optimistic that it truly has the power to save us from ourselves.
Yes, "Supergirl" is a show about an alien (with amazing hair, BTW) who flies around in a cape protecting people. It's fictional, and fantastical, and sometimes, it's just plain fluff. But it's also bright, colorful, and funny -- with moments of real pathos. And in times likes this, when you're surrounded by headlines that speak of hate and overwhelming loss, we need someone like Supergirl. More importantly, we need a show like this.
Supergirl (played by the charming Melissa Benoist) is more than just a symbol of strength for the citizens of National City; she's hope personified. But what makes her a great superhero isn't her super strength or her heat vision, it's her empathy and compassion -- it's her ability to triumph in the face of adversity with blinding optimism.
In the show, Kara Zor-El wants to be a hero. She wants to live up to her Kryptonian destiny. And she aspires to be like her cousin Superman, so from the pilot episode on -- in which she literally flew into action to save a Boeing 777 from crashing to the ground -- she's been proactive about this hero business. But learning to be a hero isn't easy; in fact, at times, it can seem downright impossible, even for an alien with super strength.
In the second episode of the season ("Stronger Together"), Supergirl screwed up. Kara's excitement and overconfidence got the best of her, and she was forced to check herself (after wrecking herself and National City). But her mistakes all came from enthusiasm, from her desire to do the right thing. She wants to do better, and be better, for her city, so she empowered her human friends, James and Winn, to help her. She inspired them to be their best selves, to help save National City with her. She inspired them to be their own heroes.
In fact, everyone on "Supergirl" is a hero. Take media mogul Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart, who has emerged as the show's secret weapon this season. When Kara asks her boss how she manages to do it all -- run a media empire, have a family, a social life, etc. -- Cat's simple answer is that you can have it all, but you have to start small and work your way up. Become a master of your job, then a master of your family, then a master of having a social life.
And despite her fierce bravado, Cat sees the good in people, so she stands up for what she believes in. As the head of a media conglomerate, she has the power to change the conversation, and she uses it to spread a strong, positive message. When her protégé Leslie Willis (aka Livewire) rips apart Supergirl on everything from her outfit, to her sexuality, to her annoying "adorkable" personality, it's Cat that shuts that s--t down. At CatCo, women don't tear apart other women on-air -- or IRL.
Not only does "Supergirl" bring frank discussions like this of gender and feminism to the small screen on a weekly basis, but its exploration of heroism is by far one of the most impactful narratives on TV.
When an earthquake shakes National City to its core, Kara is powerless -- literally. She temporarily loses her powers in episode 7, "Human For A Day," giving her biggest critic Maxwell Lord an opportunity to smear her name and scare the people of National City into silence. He tells them no one can help them in their time of pain of grief, not even Supergirl. He incites city-wide fear and panic, so Kara has to figure out how to help National City recover from the earthquake without the use of her powers.
"No hero can save everyone, but a real hero never stops trying," James Olsen tells her. She's powerless and terrified, but that doesn't stop Kara from being a hero. She stops a gun-wielding looter using nothing more than her compassionate words. It's a beautiful scene, one in which hope and resilience triumph over fear.
This sentiment is also echoed in Cat's live broadcast. The CEO of CatCo Worldwide Media argues that Supergirl is not only necessary as a super-powered fix-it, but as an example of the selflessness and heroism we all have inside of us. We're all the heroes of our own story. If Supergirl, powerless and nearly broken, can strap on her cape to save the day, then so can we.
And that's what makes "Supergirl" so special. It shows that in times of trouble and sorrow, everyone has the potential to do extraordinary things. And sometimes, you might fail -- even Supergirl can't save everyone -- but that's OK. Being a superhero isn't about saving the day, it's about inspiring others to act, to be the best versions of themselves.
Oftentimes we find ourselves paralyzed by fear: fear of the unknown; fear of what's to come; fear of toxic masculinity; fear that one day someone we love will be taken away from us because of a senseless act.
But I don't want to live in fear anymore. I'd rather live my life in the sunshine. I'd rather have hope.
We can't protect people from unforeseeable tragedies -- and we may not have the superpowers of Supergirl -- but we can help spread our hope and compassion to our neighbors when they need it most. Like Kara, and Cat, and the rest of the show proves: let's become our own superheroes.