Spoilers through Supergirl Season 1, Episode 17: “World’s Finest.”
I know that Xena: Warrior Princess is still in talks to get a reboot, but until that day comes, I’ll be subsisting off of Netflix Xena reruns on a daily basis. (No, seriously.) Xena, for me, has always been that comfort show, the one I go back to when I’m in a bad mood and need something to make me feel better. I know every episode by heart and still it manages to surprise me. In my many years of searching, there hasn’t been a show able to match that pulpy goodness, the happiness, or the strong characters for a long time.
And then Supergirl came along.
I’m not sure which episode it happened, but at some point, Supergirl starting scratching that itch for a Xena-like show. Don’t get me wrong, Supergirl isn’t going to fill the chakram-shaped hole in my heart with only 17 episodes, but like Xena, it’s a show that’s bursting at the seams with joy and hope, and dammit if it doesn’t make me feel empowered as a woman.
For starters, Supergirl is full of women.
One of the things we feminists love about Xena is that it’s chock-full of ladies. Female heroes, female villains, female damsels, females in the background, females EVERYWHERE. It’s almost like Beyonce was singing about Xena when asking, “Who run the world?” (Girls. Girls.) And what’s more, Xena never relied on a man to save her. That was up to her and Gabrielle and my god, as both a young girl and an adult, it’s wonderful to watch.
Supergirl doesn’t rely on the men in her life, either, unfortunately for both Winn and James. Even in the Flash crossover episode, Barry Allen was relegated to eye candy, there for a laugh, a smile, and a few kind words of wisdom. And thank goodness for that because how disappointed would we have been to watch Barry zip in and save the day? Supergirl doesn’t need that and neither do we as fans.
And all those women are kicking ass.
Let’s all just take a moment to appreciate Kara’s arms in the Supergirl suit. I don’t know if that muscle definition is real or fake but hot damn is it refreshing to see a woman who looks like she could really knock you into next week, just like Xena and Gabrielle did to, well, everyone.
And it’s not just the Kryptonian taking names; Alex is a physical force to be reckoned with, as well as intelligent and fiercely loyal. Cat Grant is a self-made woman who looks to please no one and isn’t afraid to stand up for what she believes in, especially when it comes to defending Supergirl. And then there are all those other great female characters like Lucy Lane and Astra who also shine when given the spotlight.
At it’s heart, Supergirl is about the relationship between two women.
Xena and Gabrielle’s give-and-take relationship sustained the show for six seasons. Without it, there’s no way the show would have achieved its large, vocal fanbase who still, 20 years after the show’s original airing, attend shows and conventions in droves. We love this pairing (and some of us still don’t want to let it go).
For Supergirl, it’s the relationship between sisters Kara and Alex that guides us. Obviously their relationship is lacking in the subtext (thankfully–we don’t need some Lannister nonsense up in here) but it’s still up to the two of them to save the day. It’s this relationship that keeps Supergirl from being like every other comic book show on television. To some extent, we can see that strength of partnership in Kara and Cat’s relationship, but theirs is a more antagonistic affair. As I’ve said before, “Where Cat Grant keeps Kara grounded in reality, Alex keeps Kara flying.” Alex sees the world in Kara, believes her capable of doing anything. As someone who’s big into vagina loyalty, it makes me utterly gleeful to see two women support one another unconditionally.
The romance is minimal.
You could get into some lengthy internet arguments about whether or not Xena and Gabrielle were romantically involved. Personally, I’m of the mindset that “soulmates” was always more than just friends (and even Lucy Lawless has said she considered them married) but there was never a big to-do about either of them romantically. Sure, there were boys that came and went, but Xena was about action, about saving the world first and foremost. Any romance was just a nice bonus.
I was worried for a while there that Supergirl might pull an Arrow and start putting the love triangle and emotions front and center. Thankfully, the show has gotten away from that and realized that the lovey-dovey stuff is just a nice bonus. We want to see Supergirl save the world, not fret about what to say or do around the boy she likes. Sure, the stuff with Winn and James has drifted back and forth into the spotlight, but it’s never detracted from Supergirl’s goal; it’s never caused her to make stupid mistakes. Save the day first, then kiss the boy if you want. Besides, she’s got Alex at her side helping her along the way.
Supergirl only has two episodes left in it’s first season and while it hasn’t been renewed yet (CBS, COME ON), watching this season has given me so much more joy and “girl power” than I ever imagined. Supergirl is far from perfect, it has about 10 layers of cheese you have to cut through to get to the meat, but Xena wasn’t perfect either and that doesn’t make me love both any less.
Two more episodes left in the season and I’m already a wreck.
I’m enjoying Supergirl and this story articulates a lot of the reasons why. It does share some valuable similarities with Xena: Warrior Princess (also my all-time personal favourite TV series). I hope that like Xena, the Supergirl series can continue to grow and develop.
And if you haven’t seen it already, I’d also recommend Lost Girl for a very Xena-esque TV series. Not to mention The Middleman (from the show runner of the rebooted series) and Legend of the Seeker (from many of the same people involved with the original series).
I agree with everything you’ve said! Let’s hope CBS gives Supergirl the ability to shine. I haven’t seen Lost Girl, but I’m writing it down now! Thanks for the recommendations and thanks for reading!
I love both Xena and Supergirl. One of the things I liked right off the bat about Supergirl is that her first big heroic save of the plane was because it was her sister on it and not a guy that she was interested in (unlike how a lot of times in the past they’ve made Clark’s first big saves be because Lois was in danger, except Smallville and making him save Lex Luthor). And one of the things I’ve loved the most has been Kara and Alex’s relationship as sisters.
Oh please do not disrespect our greatest hero. We love Xena because she is a strong kick ass woman with no superpowers but deals with each encounter with intelligence, strategy, determination and confidence. Supergirl is (portrayed as) a love stricken, idiotic teenager with super powers. If she did not have those powers she would be just another wimpy girl. Cat and Alex are actually much more comparable to Xena. Just because Supergirl can fly and has super strength does not make her a hero. At least not in this series. Shame on the producers for ruining Supergirl image. Instead of praising the series you should be demanding a strong female character (super strength does not make a strong person) not a wimpy, silly Supergirl.
I’m not sure I agree with this assessment. Xena isn’t strong because she kicks ass all the time. She’s strong because she has her morals and beliefs and sticks to them. Just because Supergirl is more of a meek character doesn’t make her any less “strong.” Would you have said that Gabrielle is a weak character? No. In fact, Gabrielle, over the course of 6 seasons became the much stronger character. Her journey, I think, is much more comparable to Supergirl’s. Cat and Alex have stoicism down, to be sure, but that doesn’t make them any stronger than Supergirl, a character who wears her heart on her sleeve. Emotion doesn’t make a female character weak.
Whoa! I was just thinking the same thing and was curious about typing both names into Google just to see what would happen. Although I like it for different reasons, being that I am a dude. Hercules and Xena are both my comfort shows too (I’m watching Xena right now while I do uni work lol! … and replying to this thread lolol!) and The Flash and Supergirl have started to become something very similar. I am in love with the upbeat, heartfelt and at times adorably cheesy moments in Supergirl. It is so reminiscent of Xena, a show that wasn’t afraid to stop taking itself seriously. This is so rare–so rare!–these days.
The only part I think is inferior in Supergirl is the feminism. I have always believed the feminism should be subtle enough to ignore if you want, otherwise you risk alienating audiences like me, who find it quite jarring and preachy. Alex is a good example of good feminism; not once has anyone made a comment about her being a strong woman. We just see her as a kick-butt character, and we accept it without being forced. Xena was good at this too. It didn’t stick “why, because she’s a girl” directly into the dialogue, and it never implied that the president and God were both women in the same sentence (as Maxwell did in Supergirl S01E20). I hope that Supergirl follows Xena’s example and treats them like characters rather than as the kick-ass women.
Nevertheless, I can see The Flash and Supergirl soon becoming potential comfort shows for me in the future, once they’re wrapped in a bit of sentiment and nostalgia.
I also found The Adventures of Merlin a good comfort show like Hercules and Xena, if you haven’t seen it and you’re interested. That was quite sappy and fun too. It just wasn’t as flattering towards kick-butt women all the time … though what they do with one of their kick-butt women is quite fun to watch regardless. Check it out if you can.
Stumbling on this article 4 years after date, it’s funny how the similarity still holds. Though Supergirl has by now featured a lot more relationship drama, driving the show is still the relationship between two powerful women.