My husband is a big superhero fan. They are the only movies we pay to see in theaters. Almost every show on our DVR (and especially the ones we watch live) are superhero series. He has turned me into a fan too. So, when I heard about Supergirl, I got really excited. Finally a superhero show with a female lead, not just female “teammates” (or, you know, sidekicks). But, I wondered, will my husband be excited? I knew he would watch it for me and because of his superhero love, but would he actually enjoy it? Would he be able to relate to it as much as The Flash or even Superman (Smallville may be his favorite show ever and I have gone to sleep with Lois and Clark on in the background too many times for me to count)? Funny thing happened this week. He has been out-of-town and we were only going to have time to watch one of our shows before the weekend. He wanted to watch Supergirl. “We can watch The Flash,” I told him, thinking that’s what he would prefer. His response? “But Supergirl is my favorite!”
I shouldn’t be so surprised. I am a huge supporter of female-led shows. The reality is that TV executives know male-led shows bring in both male and female audiences, but sometimes they still question if female-led series can do the same. It seems that Supergirl is proving just that. So, what is it about Supergirl that makes a female lead so accessible to men?
I asked my husband why the show is his favorite despite it having a female lead. He looked at me like I was crazy. He hadn’t even thought much about it having a female lead. While I think it’s important for men to understand the significance of a female-led show on television today, his thought process gives evidences to the idea that maybe male viewers don’t care if the shows they watch are led by a man or a woman.
Here’s the deal. He likes Supergirl because it is FUN. For a man whose brain is working constantly at his job, he watches television to decompress. He wants to be entertained. If Supergirl does something well, it’s entertain. The show is action-packed, with characters that make people smile and keeps viewers on their toes without completely stressing them out. There are not a lot of action shows that also put a smile on your face. Supergirl does just that and brings in a gender-diverse audience because of it.
My husband also said he liked Supergirl because it’s about Kara figuring out what it means to be Supergirl. This is something every person can relate to. Everyone has a time (or multiple times) in their life when they are trying to figure out exactly who they are and who they want to be. When Kara is asking the question “What kind of superhero do I want to be?,” she might as well be asking “What kind of person do I want to be?” Is there a question more relatable to the human race than that one? Kara not only asks the questions we all ask, but watching her grapple and grow both encourages and challenges viewers to do the same. Three cheers for Berlanti and Co for creating a show that does not just entertain, but makes its viewers better people. Men and women alike need and want this.
It’s not complicated. If producers create a show that keeps people interested, makes watching television enjoyable and fashions characters with whom viewers can identify, then those viewers are not likely to care whether the lead character is a male or female.