I was so excited when I heard “Supergirl” was coming to TV, and so incredibly bummed when I saw the full page ad in People dedicated to the protagonist’s clothing and appearance. The layout of the ad mimics an article with a “headline” promoting her “super style: the right outfit can save the day.” Apparently, like so many other female characters, Supergirl’s power is in her appearance.
CBS, would you ever advertise a new Superman show promoting his super style? Don’t you get that one of the reasons we’re so desperate for a Supergirl TV show is because we’re sick of narratives about girls and women where the focus is on what we look like?
On either side of Supergirl’s image, there are two columns of “interviews” with the show’s costume designers. Colleen Atwood is quoted: “I think when people feel good in their clothing, it helps to sell them as having presence, if not power.” Kiersten Ronning chimes in: “We are catching Kara and Supergirl at the beginning of her story, so as she learns more about herself and finds her strength, she will also mature in her fashion choices.” CBS, once again, I’ve got to ask: Are these the kinds of quotes you’d choose to promote a story about a male character?
It was such a good sign that to me that Supergirl was going to have her own show. Not part of an ensemble, she couldn’t be obliterated on derivative merchandise. Supergirl had a good chance of avoiding the sad fate of Princess Leia, Gamora, Black Widow, and so many other female characters who go missing from children’s clothing, toys, and posters. In kid world, the show or movie or book is only the beginning, it’s the posters on buses, the LEGO sets, the images on the diapers and the lunchboxes and sippy cups and T-shirts that make up the world we all live in. But now I see in this promotion, to quote Ms. Atwood, that CBS has already managed to begin the process of erasing Supergirl’s power and presence.