For as many comic books as I have read, hero movies that I have watched, graphic novels that I have pored over, I have only seen a handful of lesbian representation.
By that, I mean I can only think of two canon lesbians off the top of my head who have remained consistently lesbian in every adaptation, but they are secondary characters at most and have no superpowers. There are several others in comics, of course, but most of them are not solidly lesbian. By that I mean that they don’t have a storyline around their sexuality, it changes with different adaptations, and it is rare that a reader would realize they are lesbians without specifically searching for that information. Often times, these women’s lesbian identities are erased altogether—sometimes turned bisexual, other times heterosexual—as the characters evolve and are passed to different writers. As we comic geeks know, characters are ever changing, always dying, sometimes resurrecting, traveling throughout time and the multiverse, and entire backstories can change or be rewritten along with defining characteristics. When it comes to comics, everything is free game at some point or another. Not everything is canon, and neither are most lesbian characters. We have yet to see a lesbian superhero—or villain—come to the big screen. (Let me take this moment to side-note that the new Batwoman series coming this fall will finally bring us the live action lesbian superhero we all deserve!) In the meantime, lesbian heroes in Marvel and DC live adaptations are virtually nonexistent.
Which is why I was so impressed when I landed on a specific character in the CW’s live action Supergirl series. Let me prelude this by saying I am not and never have been a fan of the supers. Superman has always gotten on my nerves, and consequently I have never been big on Supergirl either. That being said, I’ve been sick lately and dedicated the past two weeks to Netflix. It was during this time that I finally decided to give the Arrowverse Supergirl a shot. Quick disclaimer: if you watch Supergirl (or plan to) and don’t want to be spoiled, do not read on! Now that that’s out of the way, let’s dive into why I am so ecstatic about something that happened in season two of Supergirl.
I’m extremely behind on the series, and if we’re being completely honest I still haven’t gone past season two, so I have no idea how this storyline will play out. But at this point in time my excitement can’t be contained. In this adaptation of Supergirl, our girl Kara has an older sister named Alex, who never once mentions any attraction, any dates, anything about romance throughout the entire first season. I did notice this, as so many shows lay such a heavy focus on romantic drama that it was a breath of fresh air to have at least one main character who apparently couldn’t be bothered. However, that all changed in the beginning of season two. Suddenly the badass sister—and she is quite badass—who never flirted, never got flustered, never stared after a man with longing was suddenly showing these signs of affection toward another woman. A new character who’d come in with attitude, then promptly softened that hard exterior and actually made me like her instead of being annoyed by her. The same went for Alex; she went from being annoyed by this new character Maggie, to intrigued by her and somewhat friendly, to actually becoming friends. However, Alex’s intrigue hit a new level when Maggie casually mentioned an ex-girlfriend, and later headed out for a date with a new woman.
While it is never explicitly stated that Maggie is a lesbian, it’s shown loud and clear. She is also a lesbian in the comics (one of the two consistent lesbians I mentioned earlier) so her presence was no surprise to me. There is no dramatic moment of her coming out as gay, and that level of normalcy is exactly what lesbians need in media. Over the next few episodes Alex and Maggie become closer, Maggie goes through a breakup, and Alex realizes that she’s gay as well. The process of Alex uncovering her sexuality is confusing, new, and something she’d never considered before. It is an all too familiar process that so many lesbians have gone through, and it’s wonderful to watch this unfold on screen in a show that isn’t explicitly about lesbians. When Alex comes out to her sister—aka Supergirl—she explains that thinking back, she has always had these feelings. She loved her childhood best friend as more than a friend, but never realized what it actually was and buried that memory, along with any others of that nature, up until this point. Later on in the episode, Alex also admits that she had always assumed she just wasn’t into dating, that it wasn’t for her and she just wasn’t built that way. Once she met Maggie, all of these feelings changed.
Now I left off only an episode or two after Alex came out as gay so I’m not sure how everything will turn out, but one conversation between her and Maggie hit me especially hard. In season two, episode six (titled “Changing”) Alex says “Maybe it’s just a phase, you know? Maybe it isn’t real.” This is during a moment between herself and Maggie, when Alex is regretting her decision to come out to Kara. This hesitance is threatening her newfound resolve to be herself; the constant onslaught of society’s assumption that lesbians cannot be is urging Alex to go back into the closet and retreat to a life without romance, without completion and without allowing herself to be free in her sexuality. I’m not going to lie, in this moment I nearly cried. I was so upset on Alex’s behalf, so heartbroken that even the tiniest setback (which I won’t give away) would be enough to push Alex back into the closet, because I know how hard our reality is. It is so hard to find representation, so hard to feel that it’s real, so hard to be confident when society is constantly pushing the idea that lesbians cannot exist. And then Maggie’s response came, “No, it’s real. You’re real. And you deserve to have a real, full, happy life.”
This storyline is a treat I did not expect. Going into Supergirl, I had no idea I would fall in love with a main character as she fell in love with another woman. I didn’t expect a lesbian character to arrive just as nonchalantly as all the others, and I didn’t ever dream that I would watch an organic relationship between two women blossom before my very eyes. Void of men being left behind, void of ex-boyfriends, void of a love triangle involving any relation to a man. This is a female centered love story that began not from anything to do with emancipation from a man, but between two women and two women only. Alex isn’t a canon comic character or a hero with powers, but she is the sister of a major character, on a television series, and telling a lesbian story without the tainting of a man being scorned, or left, or relevant at all, and that is a huge win in my eyes.