Want strong LGBTQ+ representation? Supergirl isn’t the ship you’re looking for

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.

Follow Stephanie on Twitter (@StephFarnsworth)

22 thoughts on “Want strong LGBTQ+ representation? Supergirl isn’t the ship you’re looking for

  1. Maybe you should watch the show instead of just trash talking it. We’re all upset Clexa was fucked up the way it was, but a bunch of y’all need to start being ok with people that move on to new ships instead of tearing those ships down for no reason whatsoever. You wanna keep on being bitter about Clexa? That’s fine. I think deep down we all are. But some of us don’t have the luxury of getting stuck in that mindset, simply cause that may result in spiraling down some deep dark roads. So stop this nonsense. And let people enjoy this non toxic ship. I honestly do hope you stretched before reeeeeaaaaching, though.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I can’t believe i had read this, how you can say sanvers is badly written with the argument of Alex’s storyline revolves around coming out when you know the almost all gay ppl have to come out and it’s really difficult, also claiming the cw has to do this for repair the damage they did with clexa when the producers and writters have tell that alex being gay was estabamos from season 1 when the show was on CBS and if they would have stayed there they would go for the same plot. Your article don’t make sense at all and I’m not going to refer to the toxic part because is just so stupid. Clexa was great and everything you want but this is another story which is I can say well written and with a wonderful coming out arc, so please before writing something like this just think a little.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. There are so many things I want to address with this atrocious article. I probably won’t get to them all but I’ll try.

    Point 1: “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.”

    Here’s a little thing you don’t seem to understand. The network and writers and creators of the show are all different people. The CW themselves had nothing to do with crafting this arc or relationship. They might have the final say so on whether something does or does not air but they don’t create the story.

    Point 2: “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.”

    I have to ask if you’ve even seen season 1. We learned several things about Alex before this arc. Not to mention the fact that this isn’t all we’ve seen of her all this season either. She’s also been kicking alien ass, or hadn’t you noticed?

    Point 3: “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.”

    If by “the straight people” you specifically mean Kara then sure. Except she didn’t make the whole thing about herself. She listened. She was accepting and kind. She was forced to examine her self centered behavior up to that point and realize she had not been there enough for Alex. Having a realization about a character flaw does not mean she made the whole thing about her.

    Point 4: “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.”

    Maggie did not in fact “laugh in her face” she tried to let her down gently and was very conscious of Alex’s feelings. Did you listen to what she said at all. It wasn’t about Alex not being gay enough. It was about her just starting to learn about this part of herself. About rushing into something she wasn’t prepared for and very likely also about Maggie’s own insecurities.

    Point 5: “Alex would grovel and she even thanked Maggie for her coming out to her mother. It wasn’t Maggie’s achievement-”

    She thanked Maggie because what she’d said, and Alex’s feelings for her, were a catalyst for her realization. Because Maggie’s kindness gave her strength to admit it to herself and others.

    Point 6: “she simply exists to pander to Maggie. ”

    One of the most important parts of the show and in mine and many other people’s opinion, the most important relationship of the show, is between Alex and Kara. Their sisterly bond and support for each other is the glue holding the whole thing together. If Alex exists to pander to anyone it’s her, which was an aspect of her storyline again explored in season 1. Alex doing everything to keep Kara safe, living her life for her, because of pressure from her mother. Alex existed before Maggie. it’s not as if she was created to facillitate this arc and character growth, it is in fact the other way around. Maggie doesn’t exist outside of Alex at the moment on the show. She doesn’t have her own storylines, she hasn’t been properly developed and THAT is a real problem.

    I could go on but this piece doesn’t warrant anymore of my time. It honestly didn’t even deserve this much. Whoever wrote this jumped at the opportunity to compare one femslash ship to another with a clear bias. They went into this show and pairing having already decided how they felt about it regardless of facts and also clearly didn’t watch season 1. This article is ignorant, slanted and terrible and should never have been posted. That’s my honest opinion.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I agree with everything you said but season 2 is lacking a lot of Danvers sister moments in general. Or at least it feels like it? I don’t know, someone should do a pie graph of the first half isf s1 vs s2 so I know if I’m just crazy or if that’s true.

      If I’m not crazy, and it is true, like, it’s not like they can’t do both, but they literally had Maggie and Alex’s within half a season. They could have stretched it out a bit so we have room for what makes the show work, aka danvers sisters (and space dad J’onn). And MonEl is a whole other story, Kara doesn’t have a storyline of her own. Not really. It’s so focused on him and why is he more fleshed out than Maggie? Like Maggie is being treated as a love interest ususally is but Mon El has so much more background story to him.

      But honestly the amount of people who watch this show and never bothered to watch season 1 because apparently they feel alex is only worthy watching when she’s already on the track to gay romance is quite large so I wouldn’t be surprised if you are correct in saying this person who wrote the article didn’t bother to watch season 1.

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  4. I already responded to this in a couple of tweets, but I’m just going to leave some additional comments here because there are bigger stakes than either this one article or even Sanvers and Supergirl.

    Please stop using “toxic” to refer to any queer ‘ship. Homophobes almost always refer to queer relationships as “toxic,” around which they try and hang a series of “reasons” which appear to validate their antipathy which came before they even verbalized any of those “reasons”.

    This is a well-known game in fandom, and it’s disappointing to see that vocabulary repeated here, on a website that calls itself queer.

    But it also seems to be the method of this article’s author, because the “reasons” cited here just don’t withstand much scrutiny. So it reads like they hated Sanvers, or maybe just thought that Sanvers shouldn’t replace Clexa, and then looked for reasons which would confirm that antipathy.

    Here’s the thing: maybe there’s no comparison to be drawn between Clexa and Sanvers? I’m not going to go through all of the details, most of which I just disagree with (calling Alex ‘weak’ just seems like you didn’t watch all of the same episodes as I did). And speaking as queer, I don’t get these accusations of queer evasiveness, biphobia and misogyny? Lexa was a lesbian (afaik), Clarke was bi. Danvers has only used the word ‘gay,’ so I’m going with that for her, and (afaik) Sawyer has only said ‘non-str8,’ so that could be pan, bi, lesbian, queer, gay or mebbe something else. For now, who knows, and I’m not sure I can be made to care so much. I’m ok with any of those. If you’re queer, you should be too, because queer also means other queers are not going to be the same as you, right?

    So, I don’t get it. Not everyone is obliged to like every queer ship. But it’s one thing to not like a ship and quite another to write an article claiming that a ship is not LGBT+ rep, or even queer rep.**

    As for CW post-307, my position is and has always been that the most effective way to get better rep is for those media platforms that screw it up to lose value. That’s still my position. If they screw it up we burn it down – figuratively, of course. I’m sure I could come up with some criticisms, I’ve seen others talk about casting Latinx women to play Latinx characters, for instance (and that’s a valid crit, much as I like F. Lima). But that hasn’t even registered with you.

    Anyway, I’m supportive of the Sanvers fandom, many of whom are also Clexa fans. Not everyone thinks it’s one or the other.

    ** By the by, I don’t know if the editor or author are using LGBT+ rep as if it were singular in the title, but in case you were. Queer rep can be singular, also lesbian rep can be singular … etc .. but the trend to using LGBT+ as if it were singular is an anti-queer trend that just garbles the meaning of LGBT+.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. maggie was hesitant to be with alex not because she wanted to treat alex like dirt, but because she was hesitant… and for the right reasons? she wanted to help alex through her journey as a friend; a bad end to a romantic relationship could be the end of that. and where would alex be? maggie is the only gay person she knows. she’s be alone. and we don’t know why yet, but it’s obvious maggie has baggage and has issues with commitment. something she’s willing to face for alex.
    and alex’s coming out story is one of the realest things i’ve seen. literally, one of the writers is gay herself? this story isn’t straight people assuming and assuming wrong. it’s someone who’s writing from her own experience. just because it may not fit your own experience to a t doesn’t mean other gay people haven’t experienced what alex has. i know i have. i look at things alex goes through and am like, “oh my god, someone’s finally getting it right.” you compare alex’s coming out story to something that’s one dimensional, something that hasn’t been worked on, but it’s obvious SO much thought has been put into this! her coming out isn’t a joke, or a punchline, or a gotcha; it’s a legitimate part of her character development.
    also, maggie has been NOTHING but supportive of alex. were in you in the bathroom when maggie said “it’s real. you’re real.” when alex was wondering if it was a phase? she’s been on alex’s side since day one. the ONLY reason she didn’t want to date alex head-on was because a) as mentioned before, her character seems to have commitment issues! and b) she didn’t want to date someone who was JUST discovering their sexuality. that can be hurtful for BOTH parties involved, and maggie wanted to be alex’s friend, and said no because if something went wrong in the romantic relationship, she was paranoid alex wouldn’t want anything do to with her.
    and… it’s not like alex was forced to kiss maggie? in fact, ALEX KISSED MAGGIE BACK. A SECOND TIME.
    lastly, that “gold star lesbian” line is just SAD. do you even know what that means? because with the definition MOST people know, by alex having relations with men in the past but realizing she was never truly into it, she directly CONTRADICTS gold star lesbianism. lesbians realize their attraction to men was compulsive all. the. time. that’s not biphobia, that’s years of unlearning ingrained social expectations.
    like, i get you want to demonize f/f relationships, because they’re already 100 times more scrutinized in media than m/f or even m/m relationships are, but at least use some sound reasons. these are just ridiculous. you must have back pain from all of that reaching.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think this article is wrong, completely wrong, you just say it’s ” toxic” because they are having a different approach, there’s not many tv shows that’s show a character coming out, when you meet the character they have already defined who they were, and what they liked, seeing Alex struggling with her feeling and starting questioning what she believed in wasn’t a poor writing, it was an approach we hadn’t seen before. And Maggie she wasn’t just too busy with her ego to pay attention to Alex, she was afraid to give Alex the opportunity, she thought it would be better to just ignore the way she felt instead of taking the risk and probably getting hurt, but with time she realized that her feeling for Alex weren’t going anywhere but still she was afraid to try it, and it only took a little push for her to finally realize how fast everything could end, so she took the chance, she risk it, and I don’t think that’s poor writing, I think it’s a somewhat slow burn. So yeah you are wrong, sanvers is not a “toxic” relationship, it’s actually pretty accurate to what we go through on a daily basic and that why we ship it, not becouse we’re weak or something.

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  6. Are you sure you’re taking about the same Supergirl that I watched? Did you just skim a summary of the episodes and read a couple quotes out of context? I could point out a thousand WRONG things here but I’ll just do one.

    “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.”

    Umm… Kara told Alex she was sorry that she always made their growing up about her. SHE APOLOGIZED TO ALEX FOR NOT CREATING A SAFE SPACE FOR HER TO TALK ABOUT THINGS LIKE HAVING FEELINGS FOR GIRLS THIS WHOLE ARTICLE IS TRASH.

    Liked by 5 people

  7. This is disappointing. Instead of what could have been a proper takedown of The CW and their showrunner’s behaviour toward their queer/minority audiences, you choose to compare two ‘ships’ that really have nothing in common (other than they are two queer women) and accomplish through what is mere subjective opinion the dangerous act of all media: to divide an audience against itself instead of looking for the commonalities of reason (why are they shipped at all) and building a dialog with your readership. Your ‘review’ simply cuts it all down without much development. There are bigger issues that you hint at with a network manipulating an audience, but you choose to attack the work itself as unworthy because of this manipulation. Look at the bigger picture. The whys and wherefores of the network and its writing teams. The lack of trust. The active audience that woke this past year due to discriminatory practices is the same one watching Supergirl and lauding it for representation and the relatable characterisations through a coming-out narrative. Did you do any interviews with producers/writers/network people or even with other fans to help broaden your insight? Just something to consider for the future. Maybe find an editor who can help you explore the greater scope of all this.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Everyone else in the comment thread made intelligent points, so instead of trying to add to them, I’m just gonna be succinct.

    Alex Danvers’ coming out story is more relatable to me than any I’ve ever seen on television. Sanvers is adorable. And girl, you cray.

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  9. I started writing a comment before I finished the article because I was like, “what is this person smoking? I must correct her!” I ended up deleting the whole comment when I realized this person has actually been watching bizzaro Supergirl instead of the one that actually airs on CW.

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  10. Reblogged this on KDWilliamsonfiction and commented:
    I ended up in an intense discussion on Facebook about this article. Some of the response on the blog itself is spot on in my opinion. I have to wonder if the writer saw season 1 at all or even did research to support her view point. A lot of it sounds like pure bitterness concerning Clexa and I am appalled that the coming out process seems to be belittled. I’m convinced that Alex’s story is similar to quite a few and until its safe for everyone to just be those experiences should never be panned. IMO AD’s coming out and experience was one of the best on TV considering what is and what has been out there.

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  11. Very interesting article, whilst I do not think Sanvers is “toxic”, I do thinks been poorly written. Not Alex’s coming out scene/s, I personally thought they were incredibly vulnerable and real.

    But I agree mostly with your opinion of Maggie, she seems incredibly selfish, but my biggest gripe with her is her 0 development. We know absolutely nothing about her (nor does Alex) but we are expected to care about a couple we’ve seen work together maybe twice? I just can’t believe they can know if they like one another yet, and it seems that Alex only fell for Maggie because she’s also gay, not because she has anything in common with her.

    Not my only frustration with Supergirl as a whole. Their relationship writing last year was so woeful it meant it destroyed any chance of the needed interracial relationship they were trying to build (the most hounded/critically panned relationship in years – and it truly was that bad). This year they’ve put Kara with a white boy… and believe it or not, written it well; critics are loving them. Says it all about her writers capabilities really, when the only relationship they’re capable of making believable or interesting to audiences is the straight white one.

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  12. I can’t add anything to the wonderful comments excoriating this article and supporting the Supergirl team than my hearty support and rejection of each of this article’s theses.

    The Representation Sanvers creates is important. The storyline has been handled with such care. And Alex isn’t just a supporting character, but a co-star! It’s poorly done for this author to tear it down–using entirely specious arguments–just to mourn Lexa. Let’s not eat our young, in queer fandom. We have enough outside forces to prevail against.

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  13. FYI Supergirl’s producer is a lesbian. Sounds like you shipped Clexa hard and now you’re lashing at the network. Get over it and get over yourself.

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  14. “Life’s too short not to kiss the girls we want” actually was romantic. People keep forgetting that “Romantic” is subjective. Whether or not something is romantic is a matter of opinion and individual expression, not objective behaviors or morality.

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