Courtesy of CBS

Supergirl 1.3 Flight of Fight – Cat Grant & How Not to Portray Feminism

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Hi, Friends. I am so sorry for the delay in this week’s Supergirl post. Sometimes even Superheroes get sick.  So without further ado, let’s dive into Fight or Flight.

Spoilers ahead!!

This week, we pick up right where we left off, with Cat, car and all, on a roof and Supergirl ready for her close up. Well not quite close up. She flies around Cat while they talk, presumably to avoid being identified. Although I have to say, it seemed to me that the producers were just looking for a reason to have her fly or float as the case may be.

To kick off the interview Cat asks, “Who are you?” In response, Kara begins to tell her origin story, which bores Cat who has heard it before. “This is my story!” Kara asserts. Cat begins to pose deeper questions that are just dripping with disdain as if she’s bored and annoyed by Supergirl.

This incarnation of Cat Grant has been set up to be a role model for Kara/Supergirl and frankly her portrayal is far from that of a role model.

She does not have Supergirl’s best interests at heart, as any good role model should. She is only interested in Supergirl as a story that can enhance her career. Supergirl’s failure will serve Cat better, far better, than any of her successes. In fact, Cat seems to be rooting for Supergirl’s failure, as it will clearly provide a more enthralling story.

She is a perfect example of every negative stereotype that exists in media of a strong and powerful woman. She is one dimensional at best. It only reinforces the concept that a successful woman is a bitch and nothing more.

This is a concept that I am so tired of seeing over and over again. The producers had an opportunity to provide Kara with a role model who was not only successful, and powerful in her own right, but positive at the same time. A role model who wouldn’t revel in the failure of other women. They have failed at that, profoundly.

I hear you through my computer, every version of Cat Grant in the comics is exactly what Calista Flockhart is portraying. She’s not bad, she’s just written that way. Right? That argument does not hold water with me here at all. Why, you ask?

Two words. James Olsen.

Traditionally, and in every single iteration I have ever read or seen, Jimmy – not James, but Jimmy – Olsen is a geeky, awkward kid, who always seems to find himself in need of being rescued. Here, as I have said before, James is tall, athletic, handsome, and confident.

So they took everything we know of Jimmy Olsen, turned it upside down and made it pretty to look at. I have no complaints about that, but why didn’t the creative team reimagine Cat as well? Hmmm? Cat is another example, that bashes us over the head every time she’s on screen, that the producers here are unable to portray feminism and strong women positively or correctly.

So, I went off a bit there. Sorry. Back to the big interview.

Fairly quickly Cat gets to the question, “Any plans to start a family?” To which both Supergirl and I respond that no one ever asks that of Superman. In her, completely valid, complaint Kara lets it slip that the Man of Steel is her cousin. Oops. Cat grabs onto the familial ties. Flustered, Kara ends the interview and flies off.

Here again, Cat proves that she is not interested in anything other than the story. No self-respecting feminist asks another woman when she wants to have kids. So my dear producers, stop portraying Cat as a positive feminist role model. She’s not.

So just stop.

Anyway, the next morning, Kara is having breakfast. She is quickly joined by Alex who, once again, lectures Kara on the merits of maintaining a secret identity. Really, Alex is just wasting her time. No one in the FlArrowverse can keep a secret identity, so why should Supergirl? Anyway, just as quick, the duo becomes a trio when the ladies are joined by James. Adorable, and slightly awkward from Kara, flirting ensues and James is gone just as quick as he arrived. As Alex begins her lecture anew, the news of Cat’s interview with Supergirl breaks. Oops again.

At the office, after referring to the boss lady as a “super interviewing villain,” Kara discovers that Cat intends to write an expose on Supergirl in a special edition of their magazine. To celebrate the publication, there will be a party that Kara has to plan.

Meanwhile at the DEO, Director Henshaw is also none too thrilled with Kara having given an interview to her media mogul boss lady. Before his lecture can pick up speed, an alert for a code gray grabs everyone’s attention. As there are no aliens involved, Henshaw says the DEO won’t get involved, and starts to resume his lecture to no one, as Kara has flown off to help.

At the scene of the massive accident, Supergirl easily saves the driver and gets her onto a gurney. Suddenly, out of nowhere, she gets blasted by our villain of the week, who looks like a whole lot like an evil Iron Man. (His name is Reactron, by the way.) They begin to fight and Supergirl holds her own. She uses a car door as a shield from his blast and then tosses it at him causing his suit to malfunction. Defeated, he flies away. A win for Supergirl! Kinda. But I’m taking it!

Back at the DEO, Henshaw refuses to help Kara with Reactron, because he is a human using tech and not an alien. As I shout at the screen, “Then what good are you?” Henshaw suggests Supergirl call her cousin, since he fights for “truth, justice, and the American way,” successfully earning a place on the list of characters that make me angry every single time I see them on screen.

Ever the busy lady, Kara heads back to work to fill Cat in on party details. Cat is struggling to write her expose and reminds us that Calista Flockhart can actually be funny. Winn calls the Superfriends into an abandoned office in the building to show the team their very own Arrow Cave, I mean operations center, filled to the brim with advanced tech.

Where did Winn acquire all this equipment, anyway? Was it from Cisco and Felicity? Just curious. And, clearly, Winn is eager for a crossover with the FlArrowverse.

James knows all about Reactron from his time in Metropolis and fills in the rest of us. The biggest bit was that Reactron nearly killed Clark.  At which point, Winn adorably fanboys, “Clark Kent is Superman.”

James suggests Kara call Clark for help on this one. To which she answers she is “not just Superman’s cousin, I’m Supergirl. If I’m going to be defined, it’s going to be by my victories and my losses. No one else’s.” To which I say Amen and Hallelujah sister!  James gives her a sexy smile while commenting that stubbornness must run in the family.

Meanwhile, Maxwell Lord is building a high-speed train for National City. Isn’t that nice? As he starts to tell us how awesome this will be, Reactron comes into the lab through the roof. He wants to talk to someone with a background in nuclear fission.  Lord offers up his services so Reactron doesn’t hurt anyone. However, twenty-four hours later, Lord is still missing. While Winn insists that this isn’t on Kara to fix, big sis Alex shows up and wants to help.

The trio head to the secret office. Secret Lair? Super room? Room of Justice? This lair needs a name. Anyone have any suggestions?

Anywho, Alex fills Kara in on the details. Basically, Reactron is a man named Ben Krull. He blames Superman for the death of his wife from a nuclear reactor breakdown.

At Reactron’s pad, Lord offers to help Reactron get a normal life. “I had one, it didn’t work out,” laments Reactron.  He insists that Lord fix his suit. After demanding, in a very Tony Stark-like-line, a bunch of supplies and a Dr. Pepper, Lord agrees to help.

Back at CatCo, Kara has read Cat’s Supergirl article and, shockingly, doesn’t like it one bit. She finds the tone nasty and is not a fan of Supergirl being described as a lazy millennial. Cat insists that she has given Supergirl context in yet another example of Cat keeping a sister down instead of propping her up. To which Kara insists that she is every bit the hero Superman is, she just needs to prove it. This is where I yell at the TV, “So stop talking about it and do it!” She must have heard me because she flies off to confront Reactron and save Lord.

She releases Lord from his bonds and sends him off.

At this point, I know that Reactron and Supergirl are fighting. The problem is, I can’t tell who’s winning because the camera won’t settle long enough for me to see what’s actually happening. From what I can tell, Supergirl is getting her tushie kicked.

As it looks like Supergirl will meet an untimely end, in flies Superman! Krull flies away, and I lose my mind. My husband then pauses the TiVo because now I’m yelling.

WHY DOES SHE NEED TO BE SAVED BY SUPERMAN??

Seriously, we spent the first half the of the episode saying this is her story and she wants to find her way, without being compared to her cousin. I believed it. So, let’s have him fly in and save the day!? No. Not cool. Not cool at all.

After I calm down, we unpause the show and find ourselves back at Kara’s apartment. She’s passed out on the couch, as Alex and James look on clearly very worried. She’s been out for a few hours and wakes to find Lord on TV saying he owes everything to Superman. I yell at the TV again, and the hubby pauses again while I call Lord a jerk, among other things not fit for the sensibilities of decent human beings.

We start again to find out that James called in Superman. This is where I yell, “Why James? Why?” Turns out that huge watch he has contains an emergency Superman button. Handy, sure but why does new and improved James need saving from the Man of Steel? 

When Kara left to fight Reactron, James pushed the button to call for reinforcements. Bad James! You and your sexy smile have betrayed me! But he has an excuse: he made a promise to Clark to look after her. But Kara feels like he doesn’t believe in her and kicks him out. He heads for the door but tells her, with his puppy dog eyes, that he’s sorry she’s mad at him but not that she’s alive.

Alex defends him. He was only trying to protect you, she tells her adoptive sister. Kara knows but voices her frustrations. She was sent here to protect Clark, not the other way around. She then poses the question we all have, “How do I become a hero if Superman keeps saving me?” Didn’t I say that!? Yea, I’m sure I did.  

Your story is just starting, says Alex and someday you’re gonna be the one saving him. Go Alex with the pep talk!  It’s almost as if the producers are saying, “trust us, we will make her the heroine you want. We just want to show you how she gets there.”

I’m trying, but you aren’t making it easy because you know, Cat Grant. 

We have no time to dwell on how to be a hero, Kara has a party to get to and nothing to wear!

Once again, big sis Alex to the rescue. Apparently she has raided the DEO closet and brought a cocktail dress, you know, just in case.

Part of the DEO's Fall Line. Image via CBS
Part of the DEO’s Fall Line. Image via CBS

Is anyone else curious as to why the DEO has a closet full of evening wear? Just me? Okay.

The party is in full swing. Waitresses are dressed as Supergirl, there are ice sculptures and huge posters of the magazine with Supergirl on the cover. Winn’s in a bow tie looking sharp and he creates an excuse for Kara’s tardiness when Cat comes to yell at her.

Maxwell Lord is present and we learn that he and Cat have some kind of history. Also, he’s quite interested in Supergirl. While Cat gives him nothing, he’s clearly being set up as another big bad. I wonder if Lord and Aunt Astra will join forces? And while we are on the subject, where was Aunt Astra this week?

Back at the DEO, Henshaw gets all glowy-eyed and goes to find Alex. She’s someplace within the DEO she’s not supposed to be, trying to help Kara stop Reactron. She can’t separate humans and aliens anymore she tells him, and he agrees, a bit too easily for my taste, to help her.

At the party, Winn and Kara are still dancing when James comes in looking fine in a suit. Anyone else feel sorry for Winn here?  

Poor Winn doesn’t stand a chance. Image via CBS

James wants to explain why he pushed the button and called for Superman. It wasn’t about her, it was about him. Turns out when the going gets tough James calls Superman. “I was scared I was going to lose you,” he says. While Kara likes that James cares, she tells him that he as to, “care enough to let me fly my own path separate from his. Trust that I’m going to save the day.”  

He tells her that she is amazing for leaping to the sky headfirst without a fear of falling.”What’s so bad about falling?” she asks him, as I once again yell at the screen, kiss him!!

Sadly, Reactron comes in and ruins everything. He even blows up a poster. Oh, scary, kids. Reactron zeros in on Lord, while Kara runs off and slips into something more durable. She returns and just knocks him down. As we watch what is a decent fight, Henshaw and Alex are suddenly in Kara’s ear telling her that she needs to destroy the core on the suit. She uses her x-ray vision to find some lead to make a glove so she can touch the nuclear core.  As if he needs to prove to Kara he has 100% faith in her, he gets Reactron’s attention and runs off with Reactron giving chase.

Once she has her lead glove, Kara makes straight for Reactron and destroys the core and Reactron.

Back at the DEO, Henshaw agrees to help Supergirl since Alex, “can’t follow orders.” This makes Kara want to celebrate. And how do we celebrate? Let’s go find James!

At CatCo, Kara finds James in his office, but he’s not alone. James introduces Kara to Lucy Lane, Lois’ little sister. The girls make friendly, polite chatter and Kara leaves. Once out of the office, she super-eavesdrops. Turns out that James and Lucy were a couple, things did not end well and no one is happy about it. So, they agree to have dinner to talk it out, but now, Kara is sad and not in the mood for the super sleuthing that Winn has in mind.

While she’s at her desk, Clark sends her an IM. Clark praises her for stopping Reactron, which is something he could never do. He tells her, “it was a job for Supergirl.” Marking the first time I don’t mind the show co-opting a Superman catchphrase.

Now it’s time for the Danvers sisters Chinese food night, which includes face melting threats for the last pot sticker.  This is a fun scene, and the chemistry between these two women is beautiful and a pleasure to watch. Alex read Cat’s article on Supergirl and thinks Cat respects Supergirl.

Sorry Alex, I completely disagree. But I’ve covered that already.

Overall this was a very enjoyable episode. It was fun to watch. The world has been established and we are off the ground. To me, Supergirl is heading in the right direction, even with the horribleness that is Cat Grant.

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12 thoughts on “Supergirl 1.3 Flight of Fight – Cat Grant & How Not to Portray Feminism

  1. I think there’s something odd that all the women in the show are basically in opposition to Kara and, yes, that includes her sister. Dinner nights aside, she’s been in opposition too. Meanwhile, it’s the men around Kara that encourage her. I don’t know how this woman made it through college without acquiring any female friends. (Or any friends whatsoever, given how she relies on Winn and Jimmy.)

    It’s also problematic that with the women in opposition, that her boss is a feminist parody. What does that teach girls? That’s there’s only one way to be a powerful woman and it’s the adorkable way? (See Felicity, Patty, Caitlin.)

    I won’t even get into the fact that not only is Cat is a bitch, she’s an incompetent one. She has Supergirl’s complete attention and instead of drawing her out, she drips disdain. How did this women ever get to run a company???

  2. I was a little wondering how a bulletproof dress that doesn’t cover such vital organs as the heart and lungs really needed to be invented. Lucky Kara is bulltetproof too.

    That last scene between the 2 sisters was a different level of writing – it was comfortable, casual and fun. I also disagree with your assessment of “James”. He’s is a wimpy person. He has no faith in himself or Kara. He blows SUPERMAN’s cover. I get the feeling he left to try to be someone he wasn’t, but on the inside he’s still quaking in his boots. He just hides that behind nice clothes and a gorgeous smile.

    1. “I was a little wondering how a bulletproof dress that doesn’t cover such vital organs as the heart and lungs really needed to be invented.”

      That wasn’t my biggest problem, scientifically speaking. The bit about his suit (a) being powered by Th-232, (b) Th-232 only existing in one place, and (c) that place being a nuclear power plant annoyed the hell out of me.

      First, Th-232 is not fissile. Unless his suit had a reasonably large breeding plant built into it, “powering” anything with it makes no sense. (Incidentally, when you hear about “thorium power”, that’s what they’re talking about: breeding thorium and burning the product as nuclear fuel).

      Second, Th-232 is the only naturally occurring form of the species; you can just call it thorium.

      Third, it’s literally everywhere. Dig up a cubic meter of dirt and you’ll get about a teaspoon of the stuff.

      Last, with one exception (an experiment in India), thorium is not, at present, used in _any_ running commercial reactors. There’s a lot of work going on to change that right now, but thorium’s the _other_ path humanity took on its quest for breeder reactors. We focused all our efforts on breeding plutonium instead (because that’s where WWII research had focused, so we knew a lot more about it).

      I dunno. I guess it’s plausible that Kara lives on Bizarro Earth, but it just made me cringe.

      1. This is what happens when we don’t get to be involved in television writing, ha ha! We need to get in on the action and set them straight. I’ve been meaning to start Supergirl and binge watch up till now, but I don’t handle lack-of-science in the writing well, especially when it comes to nuclear reaction processes, so maybe not?

        I guess, as you suggest, I just have to assume this is a parallel universe where we invested our efforts in using thorium in reactions instead of uranium/plutonium….

        1. ” I just have to assume this is a parallel universe where we invested our efforts in using thorium i”

          Yeah, but then it’d be available in a lot more places than just one nuke plant.

  3. Cat Grant is supposed to be a role model? That’s not what I’ve seen. The extent of role modelyness that I’ve seen was Kara asking her for advice *once* in episode two. Besides that, as the author observes, her nature is entirely unrolemodely. We haven’t even seen any indication that Kara particularly likes Cat at any point in the show. Kara asking Cat for advice was an indication that she was confused and at her wit’s end over her proper life path, to the point where she would seek advice from the last person she would normally go to. If you’re really determined to take life lesson from this show, instead of looking for an example of a perfect role model (there’s no such thing as a perfect role model in real life), take it as a lesson that there’s something to be learned from everyone, even generally crappy people. Also, I wouldn’t try take life lessons from TV shows. It’s really not a good idea.

    Also, the discussion of secret identities was probably for the benefit of viewers who are newer to superhero stuff. Say the extent of their previous familiarity with superheroes was the MCU movies – not entirely unfeasible – they might not be accustomed to the idea of secret identities. Besides that, Flash and Green Arrow *do* have secret identities. Yes, people joke about everyone knowing their identities, but actually only the people close to them know. Everyone close to Kara (all three-ish of them) knows too. And Barry has been encouraged to keep his identity secret as well (Oliver does it naturally because he’s a psychopath addicted to secret-keeping).

    “Is anyone else curious as to why the DEO has a closet full of evening wear?”
    Probably for undercover operations.

  4. “This incarnation of Cat Grant has been set up to be a role model for Kara/Supergirl and frankly her portrayal is far from that of a role model.” err… no? Cat Grant is her main non-metahuman antagonist. She’s NOT a role model, she’s a selfish shark. And she’s great.

    I know in some feminist utopia all women are perfect and without men will hold hands and sing kumbayah, but guess what: Women are human beings, too. The can fail, they can be evil, jealous and greedy. Cat Grant is such a person. Just like Maxwell Lord, but hey he’s a man so that’s fair ground?

    Cat is a terrible person, not a role model. Lord is a terrible person, not a role model. The end. They promote conflict, and that’s what makes good drama.

    1. Cat by herself would be okay. But as Bryan points out above, Cat is the rule, rather than the exception. The women on the show are in opposition to Supergirl, while the men are supportive, save Henshaw. Last night, watching the women argue was just..painful. And the whole Lucy/Jimmy/Kara thing is not so good.

      Like Bryan, I want to like this show so, so much. But, obvious writing is obvious, and sometimes even cringe-worthy. :sigh:

  5. This is not to defend the choice, but Cat Grant’s character in this variant of Supergirl is not meant to be her role model; it’s a riff on the “sensei” and “CEO” tropes; the person who _isn’t_ into the student’s best interests, and sees them as a bother – which slowly melts into respect as the student progresses. Meanwhile, as the “CEO” trope, she’s shrewd and impatient.

    That’s distinct from actual CEOs, incidentally, who range from much, much shrewder to pleasant and socially responsible.

    I agree, this is all very… tropey… I’ve got a lot of feminist and non-feminist problems with Supergirl (the overplayed “sister” junk, the portrayal of literally the most powerful woman on the planet as a scared little girl, the Sci-Fi that’s _just_ close enough to real science to be _obviously_ wrong, the dependency of Kara on her boys; the ham-handed, almost creepy semi-romance between Kara and James).

    I keep watching. I want so bad for it to get good. The superhero genre _needs_ a watchable female lead – but I keep pausing halfway through to try and let the cringe die down. Hope remains, though.

    And tropey or not, you have to admit: Cat gets the best lines.

  6. Its ironic that the only thing I can find not gushing about Cat Grant is someone complaining about her portrayal of feminism. Cat is a PERFECT example of modern feminism. Stereotypes, while often exaggerated and taken to the extremes are typically not just made up. They are based on real attributes of a group. A black and white comic strip has no trouble getting readers to know the race of a character by drawing said character with features common to that race. While the artist more often than not have no racist agenda, it is still recognized that groups have things in common…thats why they are considered a group. The issue is not that the stereotypes of modern feminism are inaccurate, but that the movement itself has easily recognized features and those supporting the movement do not like people seeing them as the are. Its like complaining that a nazi was portrayed badly’ why oh why must you use the tired old stereotype of nazis?’ Why cant the producers show a good example of a nazi?’ um because thats not what nazis are, just like thats not what modern feminism is. The vast majority of women today do not call themselves feminists. A fact proponents of the movement try to ignore an pretend not to know. This is not due to some ‘bad publicity’ (an ironic notion in and of itself since media fights tirelessly to cover up and excuse the negative attributes of feminism) its that modern feminists have been loud and clear as to what they are about and most ppl simply arent impressed. To see any of the stereotypes you hate in Cat simply look at the feminist reaction to anyone that does not agree with them, especially a woman. If anything this show with the ‘sweet’ moments has worked to soften the image of feminism and try to make it better than it is

  7. Late to respond to the show (I’m doing a binge watch), but I learned something from watching LOST some years ago. And that is not to assume too much, rather enjoy the unfolding. Articles like this one always amuse me because it seems that the author has not learned her lesson.

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