Gender in the Media: “Supergirl” #3

How does the TV show Supergirl represent gender? Part #3

In the 6th episode of Supergirl, titled “Red-Faced,” protagonist Kara Danvers/Supergirl learns how to control her anger and emotions. When she has an outburst at work, her boss Cat Grant tells her, “Whatever you do, you cannot get angry at work, especially when you’re a girl.”

She continues, “When I was working at The Daily Planet, Perry White picked up a chair and he threw it out of the window because somebody missed a deadline and no he did not open the window first. If I had thrown a chair, or, my god a if I had thrown a napkin, it would have been all over the papers. It would have been professional and cultural suicide.”

Taking Cat’s advice, Kara goes to release her anger by using a car as a punching bag. Her friend James says, “You know, I never really noticed Clark having to get his rage on.” (Referring to Superman/Clark Kent)

“Because he’s a man. Girls are taught to smile and keep it on the inside,” Kara replies.

James then brings up the point that not all men are “allowed” to get angry. He says, “Well it’s not like black men are encouraged to be angry in public.”

The expectations of a woman vs. a man’s in the workplace is certainty nothing new. In 2015, Academy Award-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence released a statement addressing the unfair salaries between genders.  When Jennifer brought up the topic to a man she was working with, she said she spoke her mind and communicated in a “blunt” manner. The man then responded as if she had overreacted.

“All I hear and see all day are men speaking their opinions, and I give mine in the same exact manner, and you would have thought I had said something offensive.”

She continues, “I’m over trying to find the “adorable” way to state my opinion and still be likable! F*ck that. I don’t think I’ve ever worked for a man in charge who spent time contemplating what angle he should use to have his voice heard. It’s just heard. Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale, and Bradley Cooper all fought and succeeded in negotiating powerful deals for themselves. If anything, I’m sure they were commended for being fierce and tactical, while I was busy worrying about coming across as a brat and not getting my fair share.”

The media tends to push the idea that women should be polite, understanding, nice, and obedient. If a woman even releases a little bit of anger, she is quickly labeled as being overemotional or as Jennifer Lawrence said, a “brat.”

As the Supergirl clips demonstrate, if women do release anger, they are expected to apologize, or find other ways to release their frustrations.

This is because women have been known to solely play the love interests in media, and rarely the protagonists. For example, the Marvel cinematic universe has characters such as Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Captain America, and Spider-Man. Each of these prominent characters has their own movies with a female love interest right by their side playing the “damsel in distress.” To this day, there is no Marvel movie with a leading female actress.

This sends a message to media consumers that women are meant as nothing more than eye-candy, and thus, are often labeled with stereotypical “female” traits such as weak, submissive, passive, non aggressive, and highly dependent on men.

The “angry black man” trope is also a reoccurring theme in media that is meant to be comical and entertaining. Since a black man’s anger is seen as a joke, the character is usually never meant to be taken seriously.

In an interview with The Guardian, the Daily Show host Trevor Noah discussed the different attitudes towards angry black and white men.

He says, “I grew up learning one thing: it’s way easier to be an angry white man than an angry black man. White people – for the most part – have always had their anger heard. When white people complain shit gets done, it gets changed. Black people have learned you need to find subtle ways to get your point across. It’s very easy to say, ‘Why aren’t you angry about it?’ Oh, an angry black man? You want me to fall into that?”

It is clear that many media texts and films are highly misogynistic, and often side with rich, white, heterosexual men. The episode of Supergirl shown above does a fine job of bringing awareness to the unfair treatment of both women and black men.

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