Supergirl Revisited: Darkness and Light in Storytelling

SupergirlLikesDonutsIn October of 2015, CBS launched “Supergirl” for a 13-episode order. I even published an article about it. Maybe it was a bid by the network to lure in younger viewers or maybe an appeal to older ones, but one thing was certain: this Supergirl was going to be a force for hope, good, and all that stuff. In a television and movie landscape now dominated by dark and sometimes murdering superheroes, this one was going to remain incorruptible in spite of many temptations.

You know — the way Superman used to be.

Actor Christopher Reeve was quoted with saying, “Once you choose hope, anything’s possible.” It isn’t clear if he was saying that in-character or not, but it was probably both.

SupergirlAndAlexHappy so far, CBS bumped the show to a full-series order: a total of 20 episodes. The show hasn’t been perfect; from a front-loaded overstuffed pilot to a world where science seems to serve the weekly plot and physics be damned, the one consistency has been Melissa Benoist. The “Glee” actress has so completely embodied the character of Supergirl and brought so much of her A-game, you’d think she was going for an Oscar in a feature film if she didn’t look so honest doing it. Considering that two other actresses on the show — Helen Slater and Laura Vandervoort — have both played the character, it’s hard now to imagine anyone better for the role than Melissa Benoist (yeah, she’s that good).
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The Darkness and the Light in Storytelling: Contrast and Supergirl

I’m a horror writer. I prefer weird fiction. But not everything has to be blood, guts, and gore all the time; not everything has to be evil. In fact, the beauty of the Dark is that it balances the Light. Without the Light, there is no contrast.

So today I champion the Light.

Yes, I’m talking about general concepts. The Light is seen as being bright, positive, and giving of itself while the Dark is supposed to brood, call attention to the flaws of the world, and celebrate the non-conformist standards that feel a world away from childhood innocence. Ever notice how “good” is spoken of in simple terms while “bad” contains an inherit complexity, ideas that come with experience: life isn’t fair, good guys don’t always win, and not everyone gets the boy or girl?

DoctorHorribleCaptainHammerThe flip side of that coin is what those who embrace the Darkness often understand better than their counterparts: the Light is acceptance and being accepted, those who gain attention. Beautiful, strong, privileged, and loved…never mind it can all be a mask. “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” may be the best-ever example of showing heroes and villains in the simplest terms of how backwards things can get when our expectations are taught rather than learned. The hero is villain; the villain is the hero. We are meant to relate to being the loser who is destined to lose.

Storytelling is drama; it creates meaning to all of life’s randomness. Fate, Destiny, Kismet, and all that. But the Darkness is a place that the Light fears to tread, and rightly so. When love and affection is taken away; when the means to support yourself within the established system can’t be meant; when life must be lived on the fringe and fought for every day both within and without.
Continue reading “The Darkness and the Light in Storytelling: Contrast and Supergirl”