Super Issues: the critical eye of sci-fi

Sci-fi is at its best when it holds a mirror to our society. Films like Minority Report, Children of Men, The Day the Earth Stood Still, District Nine, and Star Trek are all great sci-fi films that have strong messages at their core. It’s one of the reasons that the science fiction genre resonates with people so deeply. Through the lens of sci-fi, creators can discuss real-world issues that affect us all. Sci-fi can show us what’s wrong with our world by telling an entertaining story that gets us to drop our guard so there’s the opportunity for us to learn.

Recent political events in the U.S will surely provide sci-fi writers with decades worth of content. But one show, almost by pure accident, has beaten everyone else to the punch. That show is Supergirl.

supergirl_poster.jpg
Poster for the TV series Supergirl

While Supergirl is a superhero show, it also plays with sci-fi conventions and tropes. I believe this puts it an unintentionally perfect spot to critique recent events.

For those not in the know, Supergirl chronicles the adventures of Superman’s cousin as she tries to become a superhero in her own right. While the show is about Kara Zor-El a.k.a Supergirl, it has the genuine optimism and hope that you would expect from a Superman movie or show. Since the premise of the show is about an alien living among us trying to make a difference, Supergirl deals heavily in science fiction.

The story of Supergirl is one of an immigrant coming to a new land.  Just like her cousin, Kara comes to Earth, a stranger to our ways, and learned not only how to be human, but how to be one of the best people on the planet.

Her story is one that every immigrant can relate to. The feeling of isolation when you first arrive. The struggle to fit into a new culture. And finally being accepted and thriving in your new home. The lens of sci-fi can show the real-world struggles that immigrants face with the guise of a superhero’s adventures.

Supergirl, being a story of an immigrant, has been using its second season to explore the issue of alien immigration to America.  In the case of the show, it is literally aliens from distant worlds immigrating to America. But the allegory to real life is surely not lost on anyone.  The story has reached a point where the President of the United States has opened the doors of American immigration to all alien lifeforms seeking refuge. The message is hopeful and positive. While during the episode, some try to convice the President that opening up to immigration will be dangerous and huge threat to national security. However, the President persists and she makes the bill for immigration of aliens to Earth into law. Now while the episode ends on  cliffhanger that the President has been replaced by an alien, that facts doesn’t take away from the overall message of the episode. Just like the title character, the Supergirl series consistently believes in hope and optimism.

It’s a hope and optimism that is desperately needed in the real-world. While Supergirl fights to make the world safe for humans and aliens alike in her fictional world, the real world seems like it’s going in the opposite direction. Real American politics seeks to close their once open and welcoming boarders. People seem to be buying into a fear of the unknown, of the different.

But that is how Supergirl  can succeed as a sci-fi show. Kara’s position as an immigrant to a new land put the show in perfect position to comment on recent political events. It can show how being open and accepting of those who are different is a good thing. Supergirl  can reflect back how idiotic it is to be afraid of immigrants and, instead, show the positives of immigration and the courage of immigrants.

Recent political events make it seem like the whole world is scared of the unknown, of those who are different. But, of all things, a superhero show can be the one to provide a counter-argument. Supergirl can stand apart from all other superhero properties by having making a statement. The producers of this superhero – sci-fi hybrid can stand up and say the unknown isn’t something to fear but to be embraced. Immigrants have so much to offer and when we open our arms to them, we all become better for it.

What do you think? Is Supergirl the right property to explore such intense real-world issues or do you think it should juts be fun entertainment? Sound off in the comments below or find me on Twitter @bloodyrojas21.

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