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Radicalization, Hate, and Racism on SUPERGIRL

Supergirl’s third episode (“Man of Steel”) gave us Agent Liberty’s origin story. Presumably, we’re supposed to understand, as the audience, how a seemingly reasonable, kind man can turn into a hateful, xenophobic bigot. It checks all the stereotypes: blue-collar racist dad (Xander Berkeley), well-educated and learned person, loving family, generally seems to try to do good. While the hatred was well depicted (especially the steel workers rage misdirected at the alien plant), I wasn’t impressed with Ben (Sam Witwer).

His great tragedy was trying to protect someone innocent from a crazy mob and accidentally getting hurt in the process. Spoiler alert, dude: sometimes, standing up for people means putting yourself in harm’s way. His father, when he wasn’t slinging insults like cockroach, seemed to have zero redeeming qualities. His sometimes drunken rants revolved around eviscerating and attacking Ben, so when he essentially committed suicide (that was a truly bizarre plot point) by putting himself in harm’s way…um, that was not a super poignant moment: “Stand tall. Stand proud. Be a Lockwood. Be a human. … Stand up and fight for what’s yours.” Sigh. Sir, this is why we can’t have nice things.

Perhaps to a hate-monger, it would be a convincing argument and turning point. But while I’d never relate to it, I also wasn’t moved by it. Granted, it was brilliant to see Ben slowly unravel—from a seemingly decent guy to “What’s wrong with those who wish to protect themselves from the outsiders?” and “Did you tattle on me, snowflake?”—tied back in to major events from the show. I very much enjoyed how that was threaded and woven in, using Lena, Jimmy, and Alex (in the world’s worst wig – perhaps borrowing from Oliver Queen?). The footage of Cat Grant obviously made me miss her more, and I hope to hell we see her again this season. But anyway, the construction of the plot was excellent. Tying the dean back into the plot line, essentially showing how she changed, when she begins to see herself as a victim of the Other was a nice touch.

That said, I did not expect Mercy to have been the limo-riding mastermind who recruited Ben. I did, however, laugh that Otis was driving the limo, because he doesn’t appear to be instrumental. He seems to be his sister’s flunky. It’s clear Mercy wears the pants, but I hadn’t previously thought she did. I assumed her and her brother were lackeys for Agent Liberty. I’m curious to see if someone else is spearheading the operation. Incidentally, I have a final, shallow question: is Ben aware he’s wearing what appears to be a replica of the iron mask from the movie with Leonardo DiCaprio? It’s either that, or it’s the mask that raises the dead, from Buffy, with a little shiny paint. The revelation of how he acquired his look was a bit underwhelming, I’ll be honest.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have an inexplicable urge to watch the Rocketeer. It’s still okay to punch Nazis, right?

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