It’s been almost a week now and the Internet is still swooning over the new preview trailer for CBS’s Supergirl series. Check it out below:

The Twitterverse is practically gushing over this 6 minute teaser, describing it with terms like “bright”, “cute” and “hopeful”. In some corners of the internet, this in itself might be viewed as cause for concern. After all, in a fun game of “film-word association”, “bright”, “cute” and “hopeful” would probably land you somewhere around here:

In fairness, the Supergirl trailer does bear a striking resemblance to rom-coms, with many people comparing it to the SNL Black Widow trailer and The Devil Wears Prada. This in itself is not necessarily a problem, although it did put me off-side since I don’t like the way rom-coms characterise women as weak, vulnerable and dependent on heterosexual romance. Unfortunately, it seemed like several of these tropes were reinforced in the trailer, which left me feeling annoyed and uninspired. For example, for most of the trailer, Supergirl seems timid, uncertain of herself and keen to impress her love interest, who by the way assumes that her apparent disinterest in him must be because she’s a lesbian. If I’d wanted to watch a television series about a timid woman in her twenties struggling to make it as an office-hand under the rule of a tyrannical boss whilst courting the attention of a self-important “nice guy”, well — wait, I wouldn’t. Ok, that’s harsh, but it sort of gets to the heart of my discontent.

Much of what irks me about the new Supergirl trailer (don’t worry, I’ll get to the good stuff, too), is that it feels like the series has been given the CW treatment to make it more appealing to a mass audience. I respect the fact that CBS is boldly breaking the mould on gritty-realism – a now tired approach to the superhero genre – but the rom-com packaging gives me pause. Feminine, emotionally-driven stories are great, but packaging them as rom-coms is problematic given how the genre historically debases women and celebrates the triumphs of men; mostly to win a female prize. The genre also typically casts men as aggressive, stoic, ladish and ambitious (i.e. “masculine) and women as emotionally unstable, dependent, shallow and desparate (i.e. “feminine”). This false dichotomy severely limits the potential for meaningful character growth in both.

I was also a little concerned by the false feminist sentiment demonstrated in the “what’s wrong with being a girl?” scene. If you revisit it, you’ll note that Supergirl opens the conversation by saying, “we can’t call her Supergirl, shouldn’t we call her…woman?” A fair objection. Our heroine is, after all, 24, as stated in her opening narration. Rather than use this moment as an opportunity to interrogate why women are sometimes referred to as girls (chiefly, to infantalise them), or to demonstrate how business whims often eclipse social justice issues, our heroine is shamed for asking the question and indirectly accused of belittling girls, as if she were diminishing their value by comparing them to boys. This is clearly not what our heroine was doing. In fact, her objection created a space for meaningful dialogue, but the moment was used as an opportunity to put her “back in her box” so to speak. I found this very disappointing. I was also vaguely annoyed by the tagline “it’s not a man”. I understand how his is situated within the Superman canon and making the distinction is a nice way of threading back to the original text; however, it also serves to define Supergirl by her alterity, that is, what she is not rather than what she is. It’s a minor gripe though, as I get how this coheres with existing motifs in the franchise.

Here’s what I liked about the trailer. Firstly, after considerable discussion and debate with friends, its occurred to me that the show might be borrowing rom-com tropes in order to riff them for satirical purposes. Think, delightfully kitschy with social commentary. So, The New Adventures of Lois and Clarke meets Buffy. Neat. That’s something I would definitely watch!

lois-and-clarkbuffy rocket launcher

Also, I love that Supergirl loves her powers. She wants to use them – and to help people, no less. It doesn’t even occur to her that she should be concerned about revealing her super-identity until her sister confronts her about it. Nor does she, I assume, contemplate the opportunity for powerful stakeholders (see: tyrannical boss) to exploit her. It’s in this sense that her “low profile” as an everyday woman works well. She’s relatable in the sense that when her seemingly hum-drum life is interrupted by the discovery of awesome super powers, she just wants to use them. Damn straight! Wouldn’t we all??

I also found it touching that our first glimpse of heroics involved Supergirl saving her sister (and the rest of the crew and passengers) from a crashing plane. This is a nice way of inverting typical narrative tropes. Not only was this not a man saving a women, it was a woman saving a woman. The fact that there were no romantic affiliations associated with her first courageous act and that it was instead inspired by familial ties was beautiful. Also, as an aside and on a wildly subjective note, I found the way she “kick-started” her flight utterly adorable. She seemed at once fragile and powerful. That’s how you write a good character.

In short, the new Supergirl trailer’s got me torn. There were things I hated about it, but also things that I loved. At the end of the day, it’s just a trailer, so who knows what the series will bring. I’m hopeful that when Supergirl lands she’ll give me something I’ll love.

Feature image via