On the CW, anyone can be a superhero. The circa-2006 broadcasting company, known for its popular TV shows revolving around DC Comics characters, is stepping forward to bring representation from the heroes they celebrate on screen.
The network has announced that the first ever transgender superhero to ever appear on television will be introduced in the next season of “Supergirl.” Superhero Nia Nal will be played by transgender actress and activist Nicole Maines. A transgender hero, portrayed by a transgender person? The CW is becoming a perfect example of inclusive and empowering representation. Take notes, Hollywood.
If that wasn’t awesome enough already, the network has also announced that a new series about Batwoman is in the works. Batwoman, also known as Kate Kane, was the first openly lesbian superhero in DC comics. An entire show dedicated to a gay woman who spends her time keeping crime off the streets sends the signal that other superhero franchises need to watch and learn.
Why is this so important? Superheroes are portrayed as the pinnacle of humanity, the ultimate role model that children seek empowerment from as they ascend into adulthood. They’re the ones ridding cities of crime and corruption, defeating villains in epic battles and saving the world. Even as the children who look up to them find that acquiring superpowers like super strength or invisibility is unrealistic, those kids still feel inspired to do good in whatever scope they are able when they see it in comic books and on movie screens.
All superheroes share the common goal of eradicating the world of evil, but what the person on the screen looks like matters to the children who are watching.
Let’s look at a classic example, the person who probably first comes to mind when the word “superhero” is uttered is Superman. Everyone is familiar with that royal blue muscle suit, embellished with a flowing red cape and a red and yellow insignia on the chest. His strength and commitment to keeping evil forces at bay are admirable, and he has definitely been a positive influence for scores of young men.
When I look at Superman on the screen, I see a strong individual fighting villains and saving lives, which I applaud. However, I also see a white man who looks nothing like me, a woman of color.
It is true that inspiration and motivation to do good and become a powerful force of change can come from a variety of sources, and those sources do not have to be your mirror image. However, seeing someone that looks like you or shares aspects of who you are on a screen as a picture of benevolence makes a difference. It can provide that extra push to enliven those voices in your head that say “Hey, maybe I can do that too.”
Hopefully the CW is a trailblazer on a path that is followed by many.