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Supergirl fails its feminist mission by pitting women against women

Why can’t Supergirl — primetime’s first female title role superhero character — catch a break when it comes to getting along with other women? Whether they’re battling over relationships or for job security, the female characters are constantly in competition with each other. It’s a pretty disappointing story line loop considering the show is supposed to be based around female empowerment.

Back in December, Chasing Life fans were excited to hear that Italia Ricci would be returning to television with a villainous role on Supergirl, but the introduction of her character, Siobhan Smythe, is causing some dismay about the initial capacity in which she has come back.

Siobhan — that’s pronounced like “Shevaun,” mind you — is first presented in a screamingly annoying scene in which CatCo boss, Cat Grant, completely pits the two women against each other to fulfill her personal vendetta against Kara for allegedly driving away Cat’s son two episodes ago. Not only can Siobhan remember Cat’s coffee order, but she hand-presses it from beans grown in the shade of a guava tree in Peru and has her lunch order down pat.

Still from Supergirl
Image: Darren Michaels/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

To top it off, Siobhan is intent on learning all of the office gossip and seems dead-set on moving in on Kara’s kinda-sorta love interest, James. At the very least, she takes a huge amount of joy in aggravating Kara in a high school-style tit-for-tat IM war in which she accuses Kara of being “obsessed” with him.

More: How Supergirl is disappointing its feminist fans

The exchanges between Siobhan and Kara are excruciatingly demeaning and adolescent.

Now, the rivalry between Cat and Kara has been forgivable up until this point — there has to be some tension in the show and Cat provides some (at times) well-placed comic relief — but things have gone too far, and now that “assistant No. 1” is on the scene, the fact that the show is forcing complicated female relationships throughout many plotlines is even more evident.

I think it’s important to mention that I’m not talking about villains here. I’m all for female villains adding to the action — the Livewire episode back at the beginning of the season was one of my favorite episodes so far — and word on the street is Siobahn later turns into DC super-villain Silver Banshee. But the story lines that involve petty arguments and jealousy within the female characters’ personal lives is really starting to grind my gears.

Which brings us to Lucy Lane.

In addition to the Siobahn vs. Kara subplot this episode, we were also treated to an equally degrading thread in which Lucy becomes anti-Supergirl. Lucy is beyond jealous when she pieces together that James has gained knowledge about the DEO through interactions with Supergirl. As James gives the age-old excuse, “Lucy, it’s complicated,” she angrily fires back, “How close are you two? Are you as close with her as you are with him?” The implication that Lucy — an extremely intelligent, ambitious and beautiful woman — would reduce herself to becoming green with envy over the possibility that her boyfriend has been working with, or even just talking to, another female is insulting.

Still of Lucy Lane in Supergirl
Image: Darren Michaels/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

One solid female relationship that fans can get behind? The sisterly bond between Kara and Alex. However, even that bond seems to be in jeopardy now that Alex is harboring a dark secret after killing Aunt Astra. The possibility looms that the loving rapport between the sisters isn’t long for this world.

Still from Supergirl
Image: Darren Michaels/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Look, there are plenty of shows out there — some of which I greatly enjoy — that include silly, immature and mindless story lines. The difference between the other shows and Supergirl is the fact that this show is supposed to be operating within a framework of girl power and female empowerment — it’s how they’ve marketed the series. The show has a greater responsibility than relying on cheap, dramatic plot devices. A show based on female empowerment shouldn’t involve petty arguments and jealousy between women.

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