Stephanie Farnsworth examines why the popular new ship ‘Sanvers’ is a deeply toxic relationship.
Supergirl is the show that queer girls are flocking to post-Clexa. For those who were lucky enough to have somehow lived in a void in 2016, The CW’s popular show The 100 featured the “bury your gays” trope – and to a disastrous reaction. Clexa has been one of the most popular and lauded ships in history and so killing off the lesbian part of that duo wasn’t the best move. Yet, ironically, The CW has sought to cash in on that, but Supergirl shows that the network hasn’t really learned anything at all; and the worst part is that fans are falling for it.
The CW has been quick to smirk at its own shows, with Supergirl depicting lesbian Maggie being potentially fatally injured but her new love interest saving her life (something Clarke failed to do on The 100), but this arrogant tone ignores the fact that it was CW who themselves were responsible for the harm that was caused by Lexa’s death. They’re trying to pull the wool over the audience’s eyes and paint themselves as strong allies rather than showing that they’ve listened and learned.
Yet, ironically, The CW has sought to cash in on that, but Supergirl shows that the network hasn’t really learned anything at all; and the worst part is that fans are falling for it.
The biggest problem with the new queer ship? Sanvers just isn’t well written. Clexa worked because the writing was the best of any queer relationship in TV history, and that’s why Lexa’s death got the backlash it did. The writing behind Alex and Maggie on Supergirl doesn’t come close.
Alex is a throwback to bad and tired 90s writing of gay characters. Her main storyline has revolved entirely around her coming out and that’s the standard when straight writers don’t know how to develop a queer character. We should be way beyond exploring the coming out storyline. It’s been done in every show and there’s so much more to LGBTQ+ characters than that. Not only that, but Alex’s has been particularly cringe worthy to watch. The straight people in her life, managed to make Alex’s coming out all about them and how they couldn’t believe that she never trusted them to be accepting. Such a reaction isn’t exactly uncommon in real life but unfortunately it risks reflecting on the concerns of the writers; that the straight characters get cookies.
The worst element of Alex’s storyline is that the writers made her entirely weak. She sought validation from a lesbian who has been entirely disrespectful and erasive towards her. When Alex came out, Maggie basically laughed in her face and told her she wouldn’t go with someone just out of the closet. It was completely dismissive of Alex’s feelings and her vulnerable state, and it was also entirely ego maniacal. It brushed close to the ‘gold star’ lesbian trope.
It was completely dismissive of Alex’s feelings and her vulnerable state, and it was also entirely ego maniacal. It brushed close to the ‘gold star’ lesbian trope.
The sad reality is that a lot of lesbian women are like this and it is inherently queer erasive, misogynistic and even though Alex is gay, it risks biphobia. All arguments that you’re not quite queer enough are gate keeping tools predominantly used against nonbinary people, bisexual people and newly out queer people. Maggie didn’t listen to a word Alex said; she was too lost in her own ego to care for Alex.
There was, briefly, a glimmer of hope when Alex went to confront Maggie. For a second, it seemed the writers would allow Alex to call out Maggie on her horrendous views and walk away with the knowledge that she was good enough and she didn’t have to prove herself to any ‘expert lesbian’. It was a scene quickly blown to shreds and it descended into farce as Alex practically begged Maggie to like her back.
This was a theme repeated in later episodes. Alex would grovel and she even thanked Maggie for her coming out to her mother. It wasn’t Maggie’s achievement- it was Alex’s, but Alex has never been allowed any strength; she simply exists to pander to Maggie. Clarke and Lexa worked as characters who were strong in their own right but everything Alex has done has been to bolster Maggie while receiving little respect in return.
Clarke and Lexa worked as characters who were strong in their own right but everything Alex has done has been to bolster Maggie while receiving little respect in return.
Once Maggie’s ego had been flattered enough, she decided she did actually want to be with Alex but again, this was on Maggie’s terms. Her declaration “life’s too short not to kiss the girls we want” wasn’t romantic. After weeks of treating Alex like dirt, she didn’t even ask to kiss her but just went for it. She never considered Alex’s feelings on the matter. She just took what she wanted.
Perhaps it’s because CW are targeting Supergirl predominantly at a teen and young adult audience but they deserve better than condescension and poor writing. They do however, know their audience; there’s so little representation of women in same gender relationships that a lot of people will take almost anything on offer, but let’s not treat Supergirl as progress. ‘Sanvers’ has included some of the most poor writing in an otherwise relatively good show. Yet I think audiences should aim better than just keeping the lesbian characters alive; we deserve good stories too and Sanvers isn’t it.
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