From my point of view, Marvel has been dominating the superhero movie business. Doing my best to raise a better nerd, I’ve showed the best movies to my son (Avengers, Cap, Iron Man I and II, Ant-Man, etc). I’ve heard good things about Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter, but I’m not sure if I’d enjoy it with no superheroes. So what’s left for Papa + Boy + popcorn movie night?
I’ve been hearing great things about DC TV: Arrow, Flash and Supergirl. Arrow comes with a PG rating and my son hasn’t been desensitized to violence yet, so I parked that one and all the bullet casings used in its filming.
Then I thought: should I start with the Flash or Supergirl?
I knew he would love the Flash. That’s a no-brainer. Even talking about someone who can run faster than the speed of sound is something that gets his heart tripping. But, thought I, if he loves the Flash, what happens when I show him Supergirl? Will he feel it’s a step down?
There’s also a bit of an experiment in sociology in this.
Like most emotionally-mature adults, I thought that the Star Wars Force Awakens policy on no toys for girls was appalling, but a tiny bit of me feared: what if, for some reason toy executives (and TV executives) were right, and that boys won’t like a female lead?
Step 1: As an ex-scientist, my first inclination is to test assumptions, so I said to him one day “Hey buddy, would you like to watch Supergirl with me? It’s a new TV superhero show.”
His reaction? Meh. No thanks. That was a bit interesting, that the name of the show didn’t set his heart beating faster as it would have if I’d offered him the Flash.
Step 2: I said “No problem, I’ll watch it by myself.” So I put on the pilot beside him while he was doing something else.
If this was a clickbait article, I could say “And what happens next will astonish you!” but it’s not really all that astonishing.
After two whole seconds of the opening, he was glued to the screen. I mean, come on. Ten year old boy + superhero TV show = hypnotism.
What is great about Supergirl? Well, she can fly. She’s indestructible. She’s super-strong. And she has heat vision. That right there is the catnip for 10-year olds.
But in her secret identity, Supergirl is also uncertain, failing, growing, striving and hopeful. Kara works in the news industry getting coffee and making appointments for a tough-as-nails Ally McBeal, beside a sculpted model photojournalist named Jimmy Olsen. There are romantic sparks, and pining love triangles.
Kara also has a family. Her sister works at a secret anti-alien spy agency, and her aunt is a Phantom Zone escapee (taking on the dramatic role of the traitorous General Zod).
The spy agency has more secrets, about her past, and about other aliens on Earth, and Supergirl’s rogue’s gallery slowly grows, as does her social circle. The reason I mention tone is that Supergirl is pretty much perfect for popcorn night between father and son (or any parent-child combination that works for your life).
For the hardened comic book reader, trying to figure out who the villains are before they’re announced is a big Easter Egg hunt (unsurprising spoiler: Maxwell Lord plays the dramatic role of Lex Luthor in Supergirl).
But really, it’s just super-fun to watch together and then wait for the questions, about motivations, relationships, and second-guessing what the superhero or supervillain ought to have done. As a father, it’s also fun to see how much he’s aware of which characters are crushing on each other.
I can comfortably say that as good as Marvel is doing movies, DC is doing TV. Between Supergirl, The Flash, and the new DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, we have a lot of fun superhero TV to share. And if DC does more TV, we’ll certainly tune in.
Tone-wise, I’m pretty sure I would call this a Young Adult show. The violence and social conflicts are pretty tame, as are some of the problem solutions, thematic messages and villainous plots. I don’t imply that tame is a bad thing either.
Supergirl is in his age wheelhouse right now. My son is only 10 and the Flash is definitely a step up in age group target, with most of the Flash’s inner struggle coming from the murder of his mother and the unjust imprisonment of his father. But we watch Flash too, it’s just that he understands less of it.
But don’t take my word on The Flash. Because this is a conversation about superheroes, I really want to end on a cliff-hanger. This blog post is doing a cross-over with Marie Bilodeau’s, so tune into Black Gate on Friday, February 19th for the exciting conclusion of this conversation, when Marie talks about The Flash!
And, because we want to do more than a cross-over (we want to do an event, maybe we should call it Crisis on Infinite Black Gates?), check out Black Gate on the 26th of February for Violette Malan’s post on Agent Carter!
If you want to check out Supergirl, it airs on CBS on Monday nights, and the show tweets from @supergirlcbs.
If you’re a fan of modern action television, follow along with all the installments in Black Gate‘s Superhero TV series:
Watching Supergirl With a 10-Year Old — Derek Kunsken
Remembering Fun: The Flash — Marie Bilodeau
Exploring the Dark Mysteries of Gotham — John O’Neill
That’s Agent Carter To You — Violette Malan
Legends of Tomorrow — Derek Kunsken
Arrow — Derek Kunsken
See all of our coverage of Movies & TV here.
Derek Künsken writes science fiction and fantasy in Gatineau, Québec. He tweets from @derekkunsken.