So there I was on Rotten Tomatoes, my favourite website for binge reading about Hollywood movies and the occasional glimpse into foreign films I didn’t know about but now do and will probably go see.
For whatever reason, the first thing I noticed wasn’t that there were more Star Wars movies on the way or the tops of the box office this week looked like pure drivel, but a bit of news under the TV TALK section.
Normally I don’t bother much with TV – I’m honestly not much of a television person. I fear committing myself to a whole series knowing that I will inevitably binge watch the entire thing the first day I have free.
Apart from Game of Thrones (damn you addictive show) and some old BBC mysteries, I stick to films.
But this monring, in our face, was a picture of a woman in a Superman uniform, looking upwards with a look of hope in her eyes. The bullet underneath read:
“CBS Orders Supergirl to Series, Mindy Project Cancelled”.
I had to take a moment to stop and think. There was something inherently horrifying about the wording of that line and the pairing of those two articles together.
The way the bullet was phrased makes it seem that a faceless, albeit very masculine television network, “ordered” a female character to begin a series. A man ordering a woman around is nothing new, but it’s not so often that we see it spelled out so blatantly in front of us.
But the real coup-de-grace of the whole news item was that a show about a white, all-American woman with very literal superpowers is coming to television while a show about an intelligent, very-real non-White woman with no superpowers is being taken off the air.
Now, to be honest, I don’t intend to ever watch one episode of Supergirl, and by comparison I had only ever seen one episode of The Mindy Project (remember that aversion to TV?)
If asked to tell people what Mindy was about I probably woud have stumbled out with something like “a show about a quirky, over-qualified, kinda-awkward woman and her love life”.
Vague, yes, but the show nevertheless offered some real takeaways. For one, the show seemed to depict some of the actual awkward, frustration and downright bizarre things adults go through as they navigate their careers and bedroom partners, and that the titular “Mindy” looked like your average Bengali-American woman.
On the flip side, if I had to predict what I think Supergirl will accomplish on television, I would suspect that we’ll be in for one hour every week revolving a young white woman having to balance the demands of small town America with the privileges and responsibility of her “noble” birthright.
Worse, we’ll have to endure a few seasons of identifying the term “super girl” – that is, the idealized apex that all young women could strive for – as being a slim, athletic, red-haired, caucasian woman.
I’m white; I’m over-privileged by the colour of my skin and the shape of my body. I’d have to be an asshole not to notice this. With that in mind, one thing I can say is that the world doesn’t need more shows that emphasize this so blatantly that we need to give our protagonists actual super powers on top of the ones we effectively have. It’s already an unbalanced reality as is.
Maybe I’m wrong, maybe Supergirl will actually turn the table on us, and revel in irony. Probably not. If networks wanted more shows like that they probably would have kept Mindy Project afloat.
After looking up both shows, I realized they were actually on separate networks; but just imagine for one minute if they weren’t.
It’s not hard to imagine a single network deciding they’ve had enough of Mindy and wanted a more plastic show starring a female character to take her place – or even that that same network was worried that too many shows with strong female characters might upset some sort of cosmic balance permanently tilted towards shows with male characters.