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‘Supergirl’, Mon-El, and the Douchebag Redemption Arc

Spoilers through Supergirl season two, episode seventeen: “Distant Sun” and The Flash season two, episode seventeen: “Duet.”

There’s this awful thing happening on my precious Supergirl and his name is Mon-El. For at least twelve episodes now, I have suffered as Mon-El wormed his way into this unabashedly feminist ensemble show I love, helpless as he corrupted it from the inside out. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment it happened, but as of the seventeenth episode, “Distant Sun,” Mon-El has acted as a replacement for all of the other characters, completely drowning out Kara’s relationships with James, Alex, and J’onn, especially. It’s so bad that I imagine soon the show will be renamed, “Mon-El & Supergirl.”

I’ve watched as Kara–a girl who needed her friends, who needed her job at Catco to remain grounded–became unrecognizable. It’s not just that Mon-El has done horrible things or that Kara broke up with James for, I can’t even remember the stupid reason, it’s that Mon-El has taken away from who Kara Danvers is as a person (not Supergirl) and I’m not okay with that.

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The Crimes

If you’re wondering why I and so many others are so upset by Mon-El and his relationship with Kara, let me list out some of behavioral issues, so that you can better understand why he’s not just bad for Kara, but bad for television and its young viewers, as well.

  1. He’s selfish, first and foremost.

Mon-El wants to make himself a better person, not because a good twinkle in his heart tells him to, but because that’s how to best serve Mon-El’s desires. Mon-El wants Kara; Kara is a good person; Mon-El only wants to be good to win over Kara. He doesn’t care about endangering anyone else as long as Kara is safe. In “Distant Sun”, Mon-El even suggested that the pair run away to another planet together to escape Kara’s bounty (placed by his mother). He doesn’t care that Kara would leave behind her home, her family, and the city who needs her; he only cares that he is with her. 

  1. He has no concept of respect.

At one point during “Star-Crossed,” Mon-El pleaded with Kara to tell him how to fix their relationship because according to his “research,” she should have already forgiven him. Kara doesn’t give in because Mon-El has never listened to a single thing Kara has told him. She taught him that in order to be a hero, he needed to trust her and to protect civilians. He ignored her. She told him to go get Alex so that she could save the kidnapped humans on Maldoria. He ignored her. She asked him not to tell everyone about their relationship and ten seconds later, he–surprise–ignored her wishes. Mon-El doesn’t respect Kara as a girlfriend, as a hero, or as an equal. She’s pretty and he wants her and he’s used to getting what he wants, either through manipulation, charm, or just by whining about it. 

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Moreover, when Kara disagrees with Mon-El, he lashes out at her. Things Mon-El has said TO KARA when things aren’t going his way:

“You’re no saint! You just fly around like you’re pure of heart, but that is crap because you love the attention. You are not selfless.”

“I knew you were full of yourself, like a little bit, but this is off the charts.”

“(angrily) I’m sorry that I was defending your HONOR.” 

  1. He doesn’t trust Kara.

Kara has been a superhero for a while now, but even more recent episodes, Mon-El STILL does not trust her decisions or her abilities. As she goes out to face HIS enemies, even though he’s also super-powered, he tells her:

Mon-El: “Be careful.”
Kara: “Always am.”
Mon-El: “Respectfully disagree.”

That is not how a changed man behaves. That is not how a man who loves and trusts his girlfriend behaves.

In “Distant Sun”, he doesn’t trust in Kara’s ability to talk out a problem and instead believes the issue is hopeless. Kara wants to solve the issue by talking Queen Rhea, but Mon-El has already written that off as an option because he never even gives Kara a chance to prove her abilities. Even though Mon-El’s parents are the problem, it’s one that’s left to Kara to solve. While that is her job as a hero, one that she will never begrudge, Mon-El never offers insight into how to take them down, he only reminds her that her plans won’t work. As he does in most tense situations on the show. In fact, he responds to most situations with violence. 

“Would you like to see my superpower? ‘Cause I will just rip you apart with my bare hands right here, if you’re interested in that.”

  1. He considers himself a hero

This might seem like a small nitpicky detail, but I think it’s rather telling of his character. Mon-El tells his parents that he is “also a hero.” Now, I’m sure that MON-EL believes he truly is a hero, but on Supergirl, we’ve never seen him exhibit that behavior. When has Mon-El truly sacrificed his own sake for the good of others? Others, not Kara. We know that he loves Kara and he, I genuinely believe, would do anything for her. He gave himself up to his parents just to save her life. But that does not make him a HERO. It makes him selfless where she is concerned because HE loves her and HE cannot lose her. Mon-El wouldn’t be as selfless if he were forced to sacrifice himself for a stranger, as Kara has done hundreds of times. (How many Daxamites were killed when he blew a hole in the side of a spaceship to save Kara?)

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  1. He’s taking away from other beloved relationships

My biggest qualm with Mon-El is that Kara seems to have no identity outside out of him anymore. Where she goes, he follows, and it’s the SuperFriends who suffer. James has been relegated to being a background character. J’onn hardly had a line each episode. And you can’t tell me that a year ago Alex “my sister is my life” Danvers would let Mon-El take her unconscious sister out of her sight. Alex went into Kara’s Hell last season to save her and now we’re left to believe that she leaves that “saving” up to Mon-freaking-El? Rao no.

 

Instead of cute SuperFriends game nights on the show, every episode of Supergirl begins and ends with Mon-El. Enough is enough.

Mon-El’s Defense

In last week’s episode, “Star-Crossed,” Mon-El wasn’t painted in the best light. Yet, I want to make clear that my dislike of the character actually has very little to do with his flashbacks to the escape from Daxam. Was he a pampered sleaze? Sure, but his escape was chaotic. As asteroids fell to the earth, waking him from sleep, his guard wrenched him from bed and then thrust him into a shuttle. I can hardly make coffee 30 minutes after waking, so I can forgive his leaving Daxam how he did. I can also forgive him initially hiding his identity from Kara and the DEO. He didn’t know them. He had no reason to trust them. As royalty, it was safest for him to keep quiet. And I can understand his hesitation in telling her the truth after learning they were trustworthy. He had, in his mind, shed his royal ways and begun a new path on a new world.

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However, as soon as invaders started asking for him and threatened Earth, he should have spoken up. By not telling the truth, he endangered everyone. I will concede that Mon-El clearly grew up in an abusive household. His father is an entitled slave-owner and his mother suffers from some Pillars of the Earth-style son obsession that clearly isn’t healthy. However, we’ve watched Lena Luthor, a character who also grew up in a very manipulative environment, become a hero in her own right, not because she wanted to win Kara’s heart, but because it was the right thing to do.

Even though I compare Mon-El and Lena’s backgrounds, none of this is intended to contribute to the ship war between Karamel and Supercorp. While I’m an avid shipper of the latter, I’d be just as happy if Kara were with James again or if she stayed single. However, if the writers are adamant that Mon-El is here to stay, there needs to be some serious changes. 

The Redemption Arc

None of this is to say that Mon-El and the TV Douchebag trope cannot be redeemed. Goodness knows TV and movies love trying to prove to viewers that jerky boyfriends are just waiting to blossom into the “good guy” underneath. Steve, from Stranger Things, proved to viewers that being a douchebag is not an incurable disease. Now, Steve suffered more from having a poor choice in friends than he did from being a spoiled jerk, but he still had his issues in the early episodes of Stranger Things. And while Steve and Mon-El aren’t the same (Steve never pressured Nancy into sex, never made fun of her friends, and never manipulated her into staying together with promises of being better), there’s enough similarities that I can say with hope that Mon-El can be rehabilitated. However, it requires the same treatment Steve received in Stranger Things: Mon-El needs to learn to live without Kara.

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Here’s the thing: for all Mon-El’s flaws, of which there are many, how many of them are actively improving as he spends time with Kara, reaffirming his love for her?

I’ll tell you: none.

Because Mon-El has no real reason to change, no reason to improve. Kara broke up with him and less than 24 hours later, they were back together. Despite his ridiculous actions, Kara has defended Mon-El at every turn. She followed him onto an unknown warship. She stood up to his parents. She faced Kryptonite, TWICE. Through it all, Kara has been his biggest advocate, because that’s who she is. But if Mon-El wants to be better for her, if Mon-El wants to earn her love, he has to leave her and see who he is outside of Kara Danvers. He needs to clean up the messes he makes, not because Kara is watching, but because it’s the right thing to do. And right now, I don’t think he has that kind of selflessness in him.

Note: none of this is meant to be against the actor who plays Mon-El, Chris Wood. He seems lovely and honestly, none of this is his fault. Also, his comedic delivery is top-notch. I don’t hate him, just the Daxamite.

Supergirl airs Mondays on The CW at 8pm EST.

About Jen Stayrook

Jen Stayrook
Don't let the fancy nerd duds deceive you; Jen’s never been described as “classy.” You can find her on Twitter where she stalks all of her favorite celebrities: @jenstayrook. Or you can find her on Steam or Xbox dying in every game she plays as "Rilna." Email: jen.stayrook@theworkprint.com

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10 comments

  1. Thank you so much for writing this. You definitely nailed it. Now, if only those in charge were to give Mon-El some real redeeming qualities I wouldn’t despise the character so much.

  2. I started out liking Mon-El and the start of his friendship with Winn that they quickly dropped in favor of making an asshole pining after Kara. Still not sure why the hell they are rushing the whole thing, unless they’re absolutely sure that they have no plans of him continuing beyond the second season. If they are keeping him, he’d need to make a big potentially sacrificial move for someone other than Kara or even anyone who is particularly close to Kara, like Lena or Snapper, to convince me that he’s really trying to become a hero. But I don’t see that happening.

  3. The same thing happened on Once Upon A Time in season 2. Villain rapey douche pirate Hook came along and completely ruined the awesome female hero who can now find no meaning in life without him and the formerly good show is now known as that show all about the desperate attempts to redeem “hero” Hook. Sooooo sick of good female shows being turned into damaging sexist garbage.

  4. I recently rewatched the first season Supergirl, I remember when it first aired and how cheesy I thought it was, but seeing the show become what it is, I miss the cheese.

    It’s actually really funny and sort of ironic that you mention how the best way for Mon-El to redeem himself and to grow as a character is to find himself and his identity outside of his relationship with Kara, because that’s pretty much the exact same reason why Kara ended things with James. And yet, ever since Mon-El came along, she never got that chance. I agree with pretty much everything you said. Personally, I would love a stray lead bullet to find its way to Mon-El’s heart, but that’s just me. If he’s here to stay, then so be it, but do better in their distribution of Mon-El’s screen time with Kara versus her screen time with her friends and family. Alex/Kara talks (without the subject of Mon-El) were among the biggest highlights of season 1. And her STRICTLY PLATONIC friendship with Winn has always been a warm spot as well.

  5. This was so on point. It’s beautiful how you explained all that is bad with Mon-El in this article. I don’t think I would like him if they made him a better character now though; they truly ruined him for me the moment he was a misogynistic, possessive, jealous a-hole on episode 13. After that I couldn’t regard him in a positive light ever again. And he has lost all positive points with me. He is not good for Kara, she gains nothing from a relationship with him, but him? he gains everything.

  6. Your summary of season 2 so far regarding MonEl is so fantastic and so very true. You explained it beautifully. I miss the SuperGirl/Kara of season 1. I miss the Alex/Kara sister moments. I agree that in season 1 there was no way Alex would have permitted an unconscious SuperGirl to be taken to another earth without her being there. I agree that the writers in a sneaky subtle way turned a female SuperHero show into a male SuperHero show. In summary, the writers screwed up season 2 with MonEl. Kara told James she needed to figure out how to be Kara and broke up with him, next thing we know she is jumping in bed with MonEl. I agree with you that in order for the character MonEl to be a hero, he needs to be away from Kara. His mother Rhea is a definite psycho-path, MonEl could be a hero by taking his people back to Daxam and giving them a ruling under his leadership. I just want the show to go back to being based on SuperGirl and no longer being the life and times of the MonEl.

  7. Thanks for this, I agree with everything, mon-el is such a douchebag this straight girl gave up on the show about five episodes ago.

    It will piss me off greatly if the writers pretend the man-smell hate comes from the Kara/Lena shippers, because it’s all of us who watch this show, and Lena as presented by these same writers would make a much better partner for Kara. It isn’t even close.

    Why did they choose to glorify this gross sexist condescending frat boy at the expense of Kara’s dignity? The writers seemed smarter than this. They aren’t.

    If he’s gone, I’m back. Otherwise will not subject myself to watching this once proud feminist superhero act as a cowardly doormat for an emotionally abusive asshole. Don’t they care about the horrible sexist regressive message this sends their young audience?

    Good writers would have made him hot on the inside too. Bad writers think young women, even superheroes, are so weak they need a man. It’s so insulting. I’m mad I gave this a chance.

  8. So accurate and it made me realize just how much I miss the sister moments. They anchored the show. All that was goodn was ruined or put aside to make room for Mon El.

  9. Looking over this again and they really didn’t do much to try to improve his character between this and the finale.

    Unfortunately now though, with his pod being pulled into a vortex in the final moments of the finale, they can now just tell us he’s better and no longer a douchebag without actually showing him making the change. They’ve sent him to the future (most likely) so that he can return and be different. That doesn’t erase his behavior at all in the second season, no matter what they think. We still know that he was quite the sexist asshole to Kara.

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