December Recommendations

The theme today is female superheroes. Yay! It’s nice that there are so many options right now. Two of these are already getting a fair amount of attention so I wondered if it was worth it to discuss them here. But I will, because I like them and it’s my blog. Also, all three at least kind of loosely relate to TV.

1. Supergirl (CBS series)
Favorite thing about the series: Calista Flockhart as Cat Grant, Kara’s boss. She’s fabulous and smart and strong and successful and also a caring and supportive mom and frequently the most useful “mentor” Supergirl has. That’s even more impressive when you consider she somehow doesn’t know who Supergirl is and isn’t aware she’s giving that advice.

Or, you know, she’s pretending not to know. She has to be pretending, right? I don’t care how self-absorbed someone is, you don’t get that far as a reporter by ignoring evidence that’s right in front of your face. And the show’s done a pretty good job of showing that she is more observant than she lets on, she just puts on a mask of indifference because it makes her more intimidating.

She’s a flawed character for sure, but she wears those flaws well. She’s not a great person and at some point “this is what it takes for a woman to succeed” just won’t be enough to excuse her behavior. I personally haven’t reached that point for her yet, partly because I feel her moments of humanity and insight have more than balanced out her moments of meanness. Everything about her makes me happy and she’s at least half the reason I keep watching the show every week. “What amazing beautiful perfect new thing will Cat say next? Let’s watch and see!”

Least favorite thing: The writers’ attitude towards sexism. There’s a point where Kara (Supergirl’s mundane name) protests the “girl” bit of her title, saying it’s un-feminist. Cat gives a speech that is a thinly-veiled message from the writers to any fans who would give a similar criticism, saying that being a girl is awesome and if you have a problem with it that means you’re the sexist one! I get that they’re sort of stuck with the name and they want to defend it, but there are other ways to do that. They could have just not addressed it at all and that would have been better, or had Cat shrug it off and say Supergirl is just plain catchier than Superwoman. Because it is.

Drawing attention to it in a way that dismisses legitimate concerns and insults potential fans, not their best idea. And I really don’t think anyone would argue that infantilizing a male hero in the same way would be a compliment. But I still liked the speech. I just assume it really is that “Supergirl” is catchier but when called on it Cat is the sort of person who would deflect and make her critics wonder if they are actually the problem. (There’s a reason she doesn’t give that speech with her mom, who wouldn’t be as easily confused or shamed.) There are a lot of little details like this, just little bits and pieces that reveal some sexist assumptions but that you can explain away with the power of headcanon. Embrace the headcanon, you’ll need it.

The rest: It’s a very upbeat series, which is a nice change from the bulk of superhero TV and film these days. Actually it almost gets to a point where Kara annoys me with how cluelessly optimistic she can be, but I still like it and think that was the right choice for this series. Another thing that sets this series apart is that although Kara is technically an adult she’s been holding herself back most of her life and therefore is just now getting used to who she really is. Embracing her strengths and letting other people see them, speaking up when something bothers her, etc.

It bothers me just a little because the fact that she never planned to be a hero and was just trying to blend in means her weak/nerdy disguise was totally unnecessary. It winds up feeling like she does this because Clark does this. The glasses in particular started to annoy me so much once I realized she has no reason to wear them. So that’s a bit silly, but I do like the coming-of-age elements that get to sneak in here because of that and make this particularly good choice for pre-teens. It’s nice to see her start to express herself more and defend her work both as Supergirl and as Kara.

2. Jessica Jones (Netflix series)
So full disclosure, I’m only on episode 2. I have heard criticisms that it goes on too long and becomes less interesting later on, so it’s possible I’ll be less impressed by it later. But for right now, I like it a lot. It’s nothing at all like Supergirl and not much like other superhero shows, more like a crime drama that happens to involve superpowers. The titular character is a private investigator, not a cape. She lives in a run-down apartment that doubles as an office and she really likes breaking doors.

It’s kind of like Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23 meets Dresden Files meets Hawkeye (the Fraction/Aja series). What more could you want?

Luke Cage is also in this. He spends a lot of time looking pretty and making insightful comments. And slightly less time having sex. This is not a good show for younger viewers, in case you were wondering.

For adult viewers, though, there’s a lot to like here. Basically everything about Jessica’s attitude and personality, intense scenes handled with care, shiptastic character interactions, supportive relationships (as much as she’ll let them be). Something for everyone and every mood! Well, not so much the cute and cuddly moods. That’s when you go running back to Supergirl. This is pretty dark and sometimes painful. But I really do think it’s going to be worth it.

3. Angela: Queen of Hel (Marvel comic)
Hey, who misses Xena? I don’t, actually, but Lucy Lawless has popped up a lot in my shows and feeds lately, and just the other day I saw a rumor that Xena might be getting a reboot. Interesting.

If a reboot happens I would probably check it out, but I’m not searching for it. See, anything I got out of the original I’m already getting in this great new comic.

I actually started reading about Angela during the Secret Wars event, when she had a series called 1602: Witch Hunter Angela, a revisiting of Neil Gaiman’s story about the X-Men in an alternate 17th century. Very cool stuff. I had seen Angela comics but never really had much interest. When the person working at the comic book store recommended it and told me that she had started in Spawn, my interest dropped. But she convinced me to give it a try and I’m glad I did.

After a bit of legal drama, the character went to Gaiman (who created her in the first place) and he sold the rights to Marvel, so now she’s Thor’s long-lost sister. It sounds weird but it works. Hey, that makes her a princess! A warrior princess with a more artsy and sensitive companion/soulmate. Sound familiar?

Only here, the writers follow through and clearly refer to the relationship between Angela and Sera as a romantic one. Yay! Just…don’t pay attention to what the editor-in-chief says. It’s a problem I’ve noticed in DC as well – great writers who are excited about more diverse comics and throw themselves into it, nervous higher-ups trying to downplay if not actually undo all their good work. Sigh.

Sera’s witty and adorable, Angela’s fierce and amazing. I like the way she’s so potentially terrifying but Sera’s definitely calling the shots. The part in 1602: Witch Hunter Angela where she’s telling a story about “Angel…o. Definitely Angelo” when Angela objects to using her name is just wonderful, and Angela’s reactions throughout are hilarious.

It’s been years since I watched Xena, so I didn’t notice any similarities at first. And it’s definitely not quite the same, they’re their own characters. But I think everything I liked about Xena is here with less awkward melodrama. Yessssssss.

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That’s all I’ve got today. Happy December!

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