Tonight, the CW’s Supergirl (formerly CBS’s Supergirl) returns for the second half of its second season. If you’ve been living in a pop culture void, you might have missed the big gay storyline of the season’s first half. But, seriously, that must have been a damn big void, because they’ve been teasing this big gay storyline since the Television Critics Association Panel back in August.
Anyway, Alex is a lesbian. Spoiler alert.
Now, when creators of a show introduce a new lesbian or bisexual character, there is this tendency in the LGBTQ community to rush to praise. Look, I get it. I grew up without ANY lesbians on TV, like at all, so I get how exciting it is to have characters who represent us, who feel and experience what you do.
I’m here for it.
The problem with the immediate embracing of LGBTQ characters in mainstream media is that, more often than not, shit goes wrong. Dumb choices get made, and storylines go south before you can say, “grits and gravy.” Instead of wrapping our collective arms around a storyline that has yet to fully play out, I think we should make creators earn our affection every episode.
That said, Supergirl has earned some affection from me.
Here are five things the Alex coming out storyline has gotten right.
1 – Alex admits she’s had feelings for women before.
It sounds like a given, but, really, it ain’t. Mainstream media has this tendency to portray coming out as meeting a person you want to jump so badly it changes your sexuality. Like, if you didn’t happen to bump into that chick with the perfect knockers on the subway one day, you would be happily hetero forevermore.
The truth is, when you meet someone who draws you out of the closet, that person really is a powerful force in your life. But it’s not because you’ve been altered somehow. It’s because you met someone you want to jump so badly, it’s worth facing all the crud you have to put up with for the super snogging and sweet cuddles.
2 – Maggie tells Alex everything is going to feel really heightened and shiny.
Oooh. Nothing makes a reluctant straight viewer of an “alternative storyline” madder than telling them gay sex is super, super good.
Maybe that’s why coming out stories on TV are riddled with misery. Shame. Fear. Rejection. Taken at face value, it makes being something other than a man-loving-woman look pretty damn bleak.
It’s rare (if ever) that a coming out story actually acknowledges the good with the bad. Like, how people who come out late get to feel the flush of first love all over again. Or even for the first time.
3 – Alex’s feelings for Maggie actually are heightened.
All mandatory coming out nonsense back-burnered for a blessed moment, we finally get into the good stuff. Supersister talk.
When Kara asks Alex to tell her about Maggie, Alex gushes. She is so enamored. And it’s clear she’s never felt that way before.
Finally! A scene that says coming out isn’t just, “Oh noes, I’m gay!” It’s also, “Holy Hell, this feels fucking amazing!”
4 – Alex’s mom says mothers know these things. And… uh… she actually does.
In a fine bit of foreshadowing, and a subtle ‘love is love’ statement, Eliza, Alex and Kara’s mom, tells Kara Mon-El likes her. “Believe me, a mother knows,” she says.
So, when she actually does know about Alex, noticing how much she talks about Maggie, it makes a simple but powerful statement that she views her two daughters’ current relationship statuses as the same.
5 – Kara apologizes to Alex.
Ah, the biggie. The Mount Everest of coming out dialogue. Seriously, I’m only half kidding. This may well be the most important moment in a coming out story on television to date.
Coming out stories are rife with character shock, family members and friends surprised to learn they have a non-heterosexual in their midst. Almost always, these stories are told in a vacuum, acknowledging the other characters’ surprise, without ever confronting why they feel that way, or why they don’t already know.
When Kara tells Alex she feels like she owes her an apology for not creating an environment where she felt like she could talk about her sexuality with her, it acknowledges something pretty much every show ever has failed to acknowledge – that coming out is only necessary because people make false assumptions, and people often fail (or wait) to come out because they have no safe place in which to do so.
And, for that I say, Good work, Supergirl, on disrupting the narrative.
Until next week, that is, when I totally rake you for the shit you’ve done wrong.