Mon-El: disruptive character

Mon-El of Daxam… Yes, this is another blog post about the character on The CW show, Supergirl, and another unfavorable one.mon-el1

It’s not about the comic character which I have just now looked up and find little fault with. I just wanted to have a look at where he comes from, creatively, what happens to him and how he connects to Supergirl in the comics. There’s little on the latter. There seems to only be one instance where they meet and, like early on in the show, it’s a rather violent encounter.

But let’s talk about the one that insults so many sensibilities, the bone of contention, if you will, for something that already feels like fandom war.

Mon-El’s (Chris Wood) arrival was already foreshadowed in the season 1 finale, when a pod – much like Kara’s (Melissa Benoist) – falls to earth, just as the extended Danvers family was celebrating having survived a year of herodom. This also marks the show’s switch from CBS to The CW, a network that’s also showing other superhero shows from the DC Universe (multiverse?).

This switch brought several changes: Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart) left National City (it seems this is due to Calista Flockhart not wanting to leave L.A. for an extended amount of time), Lucy Lane (Jenna Dewan Tatum) disappeared, but I guess you could say she got replaced by someone with the same initials: Lena Luthor (Katie McGrath). Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh) turned out gay and got a girlfriend, another new supporting character, Maggie Sawyer (Floriana Lima). And Kara broke up with James Olsen (Mehcad Brooks) with karolsen1a completely random ‘I’m trying to find myself as Supergirl’-explanation before turning around and… well, encountering a new love interest: Mon-El of Daxam.

Now, all of these changes are important. And some of these changes might already lessen the appeal of the show (I, for one, miss Cat Grant; I’m happy about Alex coming out and finding love; I guess I’m good with Lena Luthor, she seems to have more of a story than Lucy did, though I miss that character too) for some. Personally, I was super-good with all that was happening around Alex and maybe I didn’t pay too much attention to what was developing on the Kara-front.

Early in season 2, people started to complain that Kara was losing her appeal as hero because her only storyline seemed to revolve around Mon-El. I didn’t find him too important at first, but as he was given more and more screentime, I got annoyed. Because he wasn’t interesting. His storyline of being new to earth was amusing at first, but nothing to write (home) about. He was just a dude like we’ve seen before.

Now, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to gather that Mon-El was set up as Kara’s love interest. I was just hoping against hope that they wouldn’t do that, that they wouldn’t just dump Mon-El on us and expect us to like him because he was male and straight and white and cis. Fact is: Mon-El was completely unnecessary.

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Look at the show at the end of season 1: Kara has Alex as her greatest supporter, her best friend; James as a love interest, someone who supports her and is just as adorably giddy to fall in love with her as she is at falling for him; Winn (Jeremy Jordan) was a little bit of a fuckboy, but still a friend – a friend who sometimes screwed up, a nerd friend, and a white dude; Cat was her mentor, J’onn (David Harewood) a stand-in dad; and then there was Eliza (Helen Slater), a supportive mom. Add random villains-of-the-week, an absentee cousin who sometimes helped her out. The show had all the pieces.

I’m not saying that the show should cling to all its components because they worked. But I wish the show runners had exhibited a little more discretion in its changes. Because shooting down James as love interest just to introduce another love interest whose only qualifier is being white is fucking racist! And the shippers of Karolsen are right to be pissed about that. From the beginning, Kara and James had great chemistry, a friendship that grew, hearteyes, the works. The CW could have at least waited to see how it played out between them. This early on the show, probably nobody thought they’d be together forever, maybe they could’ve been set up as endgame with a long interval of… whatever happens when you’re that young. But the network decided that it was better to bring in… a generic white, straight dude (and don’t even give me that line that on Daxam everybody is basically pansexual because ‘the more the merrier’ – I’m not buying that shit, because it was a throw-away line that stands in direct contrast to what Mon-El said in The Darkest Place about arranged marriages).

A generic white, straight dude without any merit other than being a love interest. And while his undeveloped skills at becoming an earthling may have been moderately entertaining at first, they soon became tedious as he was given more screen time than his underdeveloped character deserved.

I’m aware that there’s a backstory waiting to happen at some point. But the show runners keep putting it off and Mon-El doesn’t get any more interesting without it. (This actually seems to be a pattern, since they’re doing the same with Maggie. Lena Luthor has been given more backstory so far than Mon-El and Maggie put together.)

His lack of character, story or relevance are already off-putting enough, but the show is making Kara revolve around his (lack of) story. He seems to be going through phases that kara-supergay1need her immediate assistance: first call-home-but-not-communicate phase, then being-daxam-enemy-of-kryptonians-everywhere, then interested-in-Kara-but-basically-an-ass, then now-wanting-to-be-a-hero-to-get-into-Kara’s-pants, then still-being-an-ass-but-now-they’re-selling-it-as-being-cute-or-something (I haven’t figured this one out yet, probably because it’s the shittiest piece of crap I’ve encountered on any show for awhile).

I’m not sure what the show runners are trying to accomplish at this point because they’re sending mixed messages. While the tropes and themes and stereotypes we know read that Mon-El and Kara will be a couple, banter and be cute and loving, the sheer truth of what is being said and done seems to contradict all that. Because one is perfecty clear: Kara is not happy about falling for Mon-El – if she is indeed falling because it just doesn’t feel like love. It’s not generic, it’s forced, it’s fucking painful to watch how she warps herself into someone who could be with this needy boychild. If what happened at the D.E.O. in Mr. and Mrs. Mxyzptlk is supposed to be banter then some of the writers need serious lessons in how to write banter because Kara and Mon-El were outright yelling at each other. That was a disturbing example of what that relationship starts out with, I dread to see how it progresses. And some of the things being said about Mon-El by James and Mxyzptlk (Peter Gadiot) seem to echo fan-sentiment too blatantly to be completely random or accidental.

It almost seems that Mon-El doesn’t just split the fandom, the show itself tears itself apart over him. Maybe because he’s not a supporting character like everybody else, supporting in their function toward the main character. Maybe he’s a disrupting character. Not an antagonist, but a character that changes the fabric of the show so much that he destroys it? The show is called Supergirl, it prides itself on its feminism, a female-positive, catgrant1female-empowering, female-supporting show. And yet here we have a character who’s trying to possess the female lead, gets jealous and pouty until she attends to his needs. His half-hearted attempts at adapting to Earthly cultures and habits have taken up at least half of the season while aliens who’re just as foreign as he is, without the benefit of being able to pass (on sight) as Earthling, seem to be adapting quite well.

And just as food-for-thought: has anyone realized how he tips the gender-balance of the show toward male? You can most easily watch this in Luthors, when Alex comes out to the superfriends… you have Kara sit at the table with James, J’onn, and Winn; then Alex and Maggie join them and the numbers are even – until Mon-El brings more drinks and is included into the inner workings of this quasi family. Why do show runners feel the need to do that? It’s a female-lead show, why not have at least an equal number of female protagonists, if not a greater number (*cough, cough* like in season 1). But then frail male egos among viewers would implode, right?

You can now accuse me of being salty. I am. What they’re doing to Supergirl (both as a show and a character) is not right. And on the note of being salty: this is not about me (or other fans) wanting Kara to be with Lena or Cat, or just basically being a bisexual/lesbian. While I wouldn’t mind either of these scenarios, I’m not really invested in Kara’s love life. She could be with a doorknob if she only had great chemistry with it and could still be a superhero, still have emotional connections that extended beyond having a boyfriend. This character is important for future generations of women and girls, just as Xena and Buffy were important to my generation. I hate to see young girls and women being let down by a female hero that should make them feel good about themselves. Sure, Xena and Buffy weren’t perfect, but it was never argued that they were the heroes of their own show (not seriously, anyhow, Buffy had her moments, but she usually came out of her boyfriend-trouble a tougher chick).

We hate Mon-El because he lacks substance; because he’s misogynistic and undermines the essence of Supergirl, both as a character and a show; because he’s not good enough for Kara Zor-El, not a good match; because he’s like white bread – bland, tasteless; because we’ve seen characters like him a gazillion times and are sick of the likes of him; because we’re expected to like him despite his lack of appeal; because his entitlement enrages us; because in defending him, some fans show how much it is about him and not about Kara being happy; because he’s completely and utterly useless and mainly a meninist claim on a female-positive show. We don’t hate him because Kara being with him keeps her from being with a woman (we’re queer fans, we never expect ONE happy same-sex couple on a show, much less two; and while some of us may ship Kara with a woman, we’re all aware that there’s snowball’s chance in hell of it happening; believe me, we’re used to that kind of disappointment).

And to those who will now undoubtedly ask me why I still watch the show if I hate it so much: I don’t hate the show, I love the show. And as someone who loves the show, I want it to be its best. Parts of it are so good they make me cry, other parts are so bad… they also make me cry. Part of being a fan is to criticize one’s fave where it’s wrong – and not being persecuted for it by the rest of the fandom. I have a right to criticize because it’s my show too.

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[On a different note: I’m aware that this post sounds like I see nothing wrong with Supergirl as a show beyond Mon-El being part of it. This is not so, and I’m planning on adressing some other issues at a later date – if I decide to keep watching the show.]

 

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