We learn a lot about life from the media that we consume, particularly TV shows and movies. They step in, fill the gaps, and offer us life lessons and advice that become part of who we are. In many instances the characters on our screens act as reflections of ourselves. And believe it or not, superheroes with a penchant for ridiculous costumes and danger, fall under this category as well.
Despite that, the people who create our TV shows and movies make certain things, like love, almost impossible to have. No one suffers this fate more than superheroes.
No matter what network you air on, the comic that gave life to you, or the planet you’re from in your origin story, when you’re a superhero there are a couple things that you can’t avoid:
- All the leather and spandex you never dreamed of
- Sidekicks that help you, obviously get kidnapped all the time, and who provide moral support
- A city full of accident prone citizens who like dark alleys
- A minimum brooding in the corner quota
- And a wide array of villains that want your head on a platter
There are also a list of things that you must give up:
- A sense of normalcy
- The absolute certainty that your family won’t get caught in the crosshairs
- Your nighttime activities, like yoga or that book club you liked
All your time is to be dedicated to the cause of being a superhero and saving the day as soon as you take on the mantle. And despite all the leather, sidekicks, and brooding, nowhere in there did you agree to stop being human or stop the most basic of human concepts, namely falling in love. But for some reason, showrunners and writers of some of the most popular TV shows think that love is an impossible and improbable feat for our superheroes.
It’s as if they don’t believe love can empower superheroes, make them a formidable foe to their enemies, or give us a story worth watching. It’s also as if the writers and show-runners think that all we want to see are superheroes running around with multiple men or women for seasons on end. Believe it or not, fans like monogamy. Fans want to see your power couple saving the day and working together.
Fans want this. But we’re not being given what we want.
Shows like Arrow, The Flash, and Supergirl, are guilty of this. They always have their main hero try their hand at falling in love, yes. But it doesn’t come easy to them. This is a love born out of many brooding moments, secrets, and, “I can’t be with you because it’s too dangerous,” lines being thrown left and right. On the off chance the couple does enter into a romantic relationship, everything is bliss for a little while. They will start working together and their dynamic will morph into something new and wondrous. Even better, for fans who have watched from the start and seen this hero make it through some of the hardest tribulations in their lives, we see them grow in unexpected ways as a person, husband, sibling, friend, or wife right before our eyes.
It’s at that point that writers and showrunners think that it’s time to shake things up like a magic eight ball of sucky decisions.
So they throw obstacles at them.
All-powerful villains return, secret love children come out of the woodwork, and the atmosphere becomes poisoned, specifically in regards to the significant other. And by the time we’re done reeling from the obstacles being thrown at them, and at the viewer, we can’t help but stare in dumbfounded confusion and wonder if the showrunners or writers really understand us, or what we want. Do they not understand or see that their viewers are mature men and women who want to see the superhero in a relationship like everybody else? Married like us? Having kids like us?
Just because they strap on leather doesn’t mean that they don’t/can’t fall in love, have relationships, eventually have offspring if they choose, or share a quiet moment in the morning where they whisper-shout to each other about how the Broncos are so much better than the Bears or vice versa.
It’s as if showrunners and writers fear the Moonlighting Curse will rear its ugly head and smash their creations to bits without realizing that they’re their own harbinger of destruction. They’re so out of touch with what viewers want, and are so afraid that if they put the main couple together we will stop watching, they’ve never stopped to think that maybe we want to see two people sharing every aspect of their lives with each other.
Arrow did that with Oliver and Laurel at first, placing them in the most awkward situations as a means of trying to progress their relationship, before bombing it all with the return of dead loved ones and relationships with best friends. It was a mess that I thought we were over with when Oliver and Felicity became a thing. But then the whole thing with William happened.
From then on it was a spiral, where the writers wanted us to believe that these two couldn’t be together at the moment and that they were better off without each other. And we had to watch them try to rebuild their lives with others in a poorly made attempt for drama, and to show us that the superhero couldn’t get married or be in happy and stable relationship.
Then there’s The Flash. Time and time again the most ridiculous things are thrown at Barry and Iris to keep them separate. Barry went back in time to save the city, or decided that Iris wasn’t enough and he wanted his cake and the ability to eat it too. To the viewers, it was as if the showrunners and writers once again didn’t understand that we’re more than willing to see them fight at each others side.
And finally there’s Supergirl, the most complex one in my book, and the one that gave birth to this editorial. The lack of female superheroes in TV and movies puts a lot of pressure on Supergirl’s shoulders. She has to be strong, independent, and an example to little girls everywhere. For many, falling in love and leaning on someone else nullifies all of that and makes her weaker. Combine that with the writers’ and showrunners’ Moonlighting Curse, where they tease us with romance but ultimately don’t deliver, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
No one stops to think that you can be a strong feminist icon while having a husband, a boyfriend, or kids. Being a strong feminist and doesn’t stop once we fall in love. And that makes the situation even more complicated with a superhero like Supergirl. She has the added weight and expectations of the people who want her to be one way. They don’t realize she could be anything she wants and be so dynamic that will stare in awe and wonder at her for what she does.
At the end of the day, superheroes are an extension of ourselves and what we are capable of. They teach lessons, and are exaggerated stories that are born from our own experiences and lives. Making it this difficult for superheroes to fall in love paints a narrow-minded portrait of what we can experience as humans — minus the crime fighting, tights, and leather.
Love is as natural as breathing. It shouldn’t be such an impossibility, or something that happens once in a blue moon to the characters we see ourselves in and connect with on a weekly basis. Love is real, complex, and part of all of our lives, whether you’re an archer who loves green or a supergirl with a love for capes. Erasing it, or making it a near impossibility in the lives of our superheroes, is frankly boring, and I’m tired of it.
I’m ready for a superhero who fights next to his/her love. I’m ready for a superhero who is empowered by the person he/she chooses to marry and have kids with. I’m ready for a superhero to navigate the crazy woes of fighting crime and dealing with a relationship just like the rest of us. And I’m ready to see it on my screen week after week.
It’s not as crazy as it seems, and I know that the writers and showrunners can do it. So get on with it guys and gals. Write healthy and complex relationships for our superheroes.