By Rachel Krotseng | Staff Columnist
The focus of Supergirl has always been equality and change, and now it is making history by casting Nicole Maines for the role of Nia Nal, a cub-reporter at Cat-Co Worldwide Media, television’s first transgender superhero.
The current political divide between people on matters of immigration is reflected in the divide between humans and aliens on Supergirl. With the arrival of Supergirl on Earth, aliens felt comfortable with being who they are instead of hiding behind human disguises. The rising crime rate between aliens caused humans to start to resent them instead of being fascinated by them.
The common rhetoric of the villain on the show is that aliens are stealing Americans’ jobs and that they shouldn’t have the same rights as humans because they’re different. With the current cases of children being ripped away from their families at the border and transgender rights being constricted, Supergirl is aiming to portray the unreasonable and unacceptable violence and hate that faces immigrants and members of the LGBTQ community.
LGBTQ representation in television and movies has recently been merely adequate, leaving viewers wanting more. Representation itself isn’t always good, either. Writers have a commonality of queer-coding their villains, which may seem like representation but actually enforces the idea that gay people are evil. Minorities need to be cast in ways that don’t frame them as villains and contribute to their marginalization, and the perfect way to do that is by casting them as heroes.
Thankfully, the writers of Supergirl set two precedents when it came to writing and portraying Nal’s story.
Not only is Nal’s narrative genuine, so is Nicole Maines’. Rather than casting someone cisgender, they chose a transgender woman to play a transgender woman, a distinction that is extremely necessary. Casting crews often make the mistake of casting gay characters with straight actors and transgender character with cisgender actors, making the experience these people are supposed to represent seem halfhearted and cringy.
Rather than having her throw her identity around willy-nilly, the writers gave a reason for it, making it more meaningful. Often, when a character identity is thrown about without a care in the world, it is seen as insincere representation from the writers. It becomes more of a bone thrown to the community rather than actual representation. Saying a character is gay or transgender is one thing, showing their journey with it is another.
Since the writers introduced Nal after she had transitioned, there wasn’t really a story to show, but there was a story to tell. News of Nal being transgender was announced back in May, and ever since viewers have been anxiously awaiting how the writers would share her story.
Supergirl, along with many other shows that tackle political and social issues, has its ups and downs. While they’ve almost always had representation, they often deliver content that is less thrilling than they make it out to be. LGBTQ viewers especially didn’t want to be disappointed with Nal’s coming-out story, and hopefully, they weren’t.
Nal only decided it was time to come out when she thought she needed to. After witnessing someone being discriminated against, Nal went to the editor of Cat-Co, begging him to write an editorial declaring the company’s stance on the matter. After being told that her concerns were real but he couldn’t do anything, Nal said she is a transgender woman. To convince the editor to write the editorial, she says, “I know what it’s like to be attacked and denied because of who I am.” She tells him she had to “hold a mirror to that bullies face” to make a difference, a message we can all take to heart.
Action is what is needed to get people to see that we are all equal, despite our differences. Hopefully, other shows and movies will take a page out of Supergirl’s book when writing their next minority character, and hopefully, people will learn something from Nia Nal.