I have a problem with Winn from Supergirl. I know that superhero shows come standard with a love triangle. Arrow had it. The Flash has it. Smallville had love geometry all over the place. It’s a package deal that we viewers have to put up with in order to enjoy our heroes saving the day and besting the bad guy. There have certainly been problematic love interests before – I’m looking at you Arrow – but I want to talk about why I really dislike Winn for Kara.
When we are introduced to Winn in the pilot, he’s proposed to us as the plucky sidekick, the source of humor, the nerd with a crush. And, intentionally or not, he’s shown to be the standard in American male entitlement. He immediately acts like the only reason Kara isn’t interested in him is because she’s gay. He acts as though him liking her means that she owes him something, that she is a prize that can be given away to him at a moment’s notice. The feelings of entitlement are propped up by cuteness, by intended jokes, which just makes the behavior all the more disturbing in the end. His possessiveness, his subtle belief that the only way Kara wouldn’t be interested in him was because she was gay, and his continued pining in silence, with fits of competitiveness and jealousy thrown in for good measure, screams unhealthy and unjustifiable love. (No wonder she threw herself off a roof shortly after his comment.) It tells viewers to sympathize with him when he’s done very little to actually woe/deserve her. He helps her, certainly, but because of his pining it’s unclear if he does it because of his attraction, as a way for her to see him as something more, or because he genuinely wants to help.
Unfortunately, that’s the standard for many shows on television. A woman’s story cannot be told without a love interest, and those love interests are, at some point, possessive/and or aggressive as a rule. The writers act as though Kara is a prize to be won or a thing that needs convincing in order to simply see what’s in front of her. Attraction doesn’t work like that. It doesn’t just appear because you will it into place. Even an alien can’t be made to fall in love if there’s nothing to guide her to it. Whether intentional or not, Winn’s behavior screams that his view of the relationship is completely selfish.
Winn’s declaration of love towards Kara in episode 10, Childish Things, was another fail for me. It came at the tail end of his father’s escape from prison and attempted murder of several hundred people. It was emotional, and I don’t blame Winn for feeling the need to get it out at that particular time. But the entire speech, the whole declaration of desire, was about him. It wasn’t about her. It was his need to be honest. His need to declare his feelings. It was him not wanting to be like his father. Nowhere in there were words about Kara or about why he loves her. He didn’t explain how she had come to be under his skin, or even what made her so special to him. His love was tearing him up and making him crazy, and he was tired of being a coward. That was the speech. Every word that came out of his mouth only served to explain his needs, his wants rather than Kara’s. I’m surprised that she was even mentioned at all.
Do I think Winn is a bad person? No. I don’t. He’s helped Kara. He’s tried to save people and face his demons in a way that not everyone can. I respect him for that, but if the writers are trying to make him appealing romantically, they are failing miserably in my eyes. It’s not chemistry between the actors at all, either. It’s straight-up writing woes. If Supergirl were a Hallmark movie, Winn would be the villain. He’d be the entitled man who tries to steal the girl away from the hero. He would not be the person we all rooted for in the end. No woman wants to truly end up with a man who thinks of only ever himself. We have nightmares about that sort of thing.
For a show about the empowerment about women, his love is in no way about Kara. It’s about him. It’s about what he thinks he deserves without respect to who Kara is as a person. I don’t watch shows entirely for the romance, but when I do, I like to watch it as it balances respect, real effort, and consideration for who each person is as, well, a person. His quirky moments only end up leaving a sour taste in my mouth as they present typical unhealthy male behavior as a reason why Kara should give him a chance. It tries to be funny. It ends up missing the mark. If the intention is to have Winn come across as flawed, kudos to the writers. They’ve managed to paint a picture of a man who has done nothing to earn Kara’s love and still feel entitled to it.
If they want me to believe in Winn as a viable love interest, they need to make him work for it. They need to tone down the sense that’s owed anything. They need to show more of the good that is within him without Kara. They need to make him less like the caricature of men that is so often on television and allow Kara to come to him as an equal. Anything else is absurd.
His latest advice to James in Bizarro also fell a bit short after spending so much time in a huff after Kara’s refusal of him. Being distant to your “best friend” because she’s not in love with you is not healthy or supportive. Kara still owes him nothing; he still acts like she does. She did not hold him at gunpoint and tell him to love her. I know that he’s hurting, but that does not give him the right to act like Kara did something wrong by not returning his feelings. She did absolutely nothing to deserve his coldness. (Hear that, ladies? You don’t owe a man a thing just because he’s attracted to you! Can I yell it louder to the ladies in the back? You don’t owe a man anything because he’s in love with you!) Either he values you enough to find a way to still be in your life or he needs to check out. Either way, not on you. And it’s not on Kara either.
Kara, and Melissa Benoist’s portrayal of her, is the Supergirl we need. And like any woman, she deserves to be treated as more than a prize at the fair. She deserves to be loved unselfishly and without qualifications – or without a second love triangle belonging to the charming but indecisive James Olson (Mehcad Brooks). If the writers can’t produce that mutual respect in any of the love triangles they have in their current superhero geometry, may I suggest shipping Kara with herself? She’s damn worthy of loving herself first. Just like we all are.