The DC ArrowVerse has always been somewhat progressive when it comes to diversity.
Now in its fourth season Supergirl, is taking on the modern political landscape with a story arch that is a paper thin analogy for modern America.
Season 4 of the hit series deals with the rise of anti-alien sentiment, see what they did there! This is embodied in a terrorist group called the children of liberty that recruits disenfranchised people especially those who have suffered from alien attacks.
Unlike previous seasons the lead antagonist this time round has no super powers. Ben Lockwood is an ordinary man, a bitter man who has lost a great deal from the alien attacks. The greatest weapon he possesses is his voice, his charisma and his ability to tap into the hearts and minds of the general public. What makes Lockwood a compelling character is that he’s well educated and makes compelling arguments which are much more difficult for the heroes to combat.
Whilst Lockwood is obviously not the leader of the free world its hard to deny that he has one thing in common with President Trump and that his ability to make the majority feel like a minority. Whether or not you agree with Trump and Lockwood its hard not to see the comparison. Since taking office Trump has turned his attention to illegal immigration, the LGBT community and in particular the transgendered community. Lockwood has kept the focus on aliens of an extra terrestrial nature but his message is the same. They’re coming here and they’ll put an end to your way of life.
Season 4 also introduces the first transgendered character to appear within the ArrowVerse. Nicole Maines who is herself a transgendered actress, plays Melissa Benoist. A character working at Catco media but clearly set up for a more prominent role going forward. Given President Trump’s crackdown on transgendered rights, the introduction of this character seems to be a calculated response from the show’s writers.
The third character introduced this season is Manchester Black. This is where things get really interesting. Black is an extremist, he’s out to tear down the Children of Liberty by any means necessary. In short he’s a stand in for what many classify as the intolerant left; a growing movement both in America and globally. This political faction isn’t interested in opening a dialogue. They want results and are happy to tear down their political opponents. In reality this usually happens through language, but in Supergirl Black uses violence, torture and murder to achieve his ends. The message is clear, when we use extreme methods to achieve our goals we become the exact thing that we hate.
From a narrative perspective this season actually makes a lot of sense. When you’ve got a show that has spent the last three seasons dealing with aliens both hostile and friendly landing on Earth; its only a matter of time before the question needs to be asked does humanity want aliens on the planet. Would Earth be better off without the aliens. More importantly how do hostile alien attacks impact on the every day people living on the streets?
One significant aspect of this story arc has been James Olsen and his search for the truth. As much as he may oppose the Children of Liberty, he also knows that as a journalist he is obligated to report both sides of the story. To that end he is compelled to meet with the leaders of this movement and hear them out. There is a fine line here. How much should one listen to their opponents? By giving them equal air time are you giving them a platform? But perhaps most importantly do you run the risk of being converted to their way of thinking?
The stance that Supergirl has taken is clear even for those of us without X-ray vision. The path forward is one of optimism and hope. Embrace immigration, open your hearts to those that are different but steer away from violence when it comes to dealing with those that don’t share your values. Be willing to listen to your enemies and try to understand them.
It takes a lot of guts to put out a story arc that is this politically charged. The writers it would seem are betting that the majority of their audience will either be fully onboard or at the very least be willing to stay onboard. This move does carry significant risk especially given the fan backlash against other geek properties such as Doctor Who and Star Wars which have been accused of pandering a political agenda.
For those of us who routinely watch the ArrowVerse its hard not to notice the left leaning writing at times. This season of Supergirl thus far is probably the strongest example of this but its also the best written. Questions are being asked, the different view points are being examined and the main villain is compelling because to a certain degree his arguments are carry weight. Where the series goes from here is anyone’s guess but it will be fascinating to find out.