All that power, and they can’t even stand up to their bosses. It must run in the El family.
On CBS’s new hit show, Supergirl, the titular character’s earthy alter ego, Kara Danvers (Melissa Benoist), has followed in her Kryptonian cousin Superman’s red-booted footsteps and taken a job at a news corporation. And just as Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman has to contend with a cranky, demanding boss at the Daily Planet, Zor-El/Kara/Supergirl is subjected to the megalomaniacal whims of CatCo Worldwide Media’s CEO and founder Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart).
As Cat’s personal assistant, Kara spends most of her day going on coffee runs, delivering messages and files, and being berated and threatened with termination by her boss. Cat can’t even be bothered to learn Kara’s name, calling her “Kira,” and she mocks Kara’s suggestion that Supergirl should be referred to as “Superwoman.”
To be fair, Cat doesn’t seem to mind Kara mysteriously going on lunch break every time a skyscraper catches fire or a new supervillain starts wreaking havoc in National City. But otherwise she’s a wholly unpleasant character who treats her staff like Cruella de Vil treats Dalmatian puppies. General Zod should take notes.
Action and fantasy TV shows and movies often feature a secondary villain whose purpose is to thwart the protagonist’s attempts at defeating the main villain or, more broadly, to prevent the protagonist from realizing her own potential. Oddly, despite being a superhero herself, Kara does not recognize Cat Grant as the secondary villain of Supergirl. About every third episode, Cat experiences a moment of humanity and starts to feel bad for the way she treats people, but Kara is right there to talk her out of it. “Ms. Grant,” she says, “don’t you realize how much you inspire me and make me want to do better?”
Sorry, Supergirl, but someone who treats you like garbage and criticizes you no matter what you do is not a good leader. A good leader balances thoughtfulness with decisiveness, and she makes expectations clear and provides guidance while empowering people to take ownership of their work. And she learns her personal assistant’s name.
It’s understandable that Kara wants to maintain a dual identity (not really; why do superheroes do that again?), but, super-girlfriend, you gotta get out of that toxic environment. Try something new. You’d make an awesome EMT or firefighter. If you prefer to avoid exploiting your powers so blatantly, how about construction worker? FEMA disaster-site coordinator? Circus acrobat?
The best way to succeed is on your own terms. Not all of us are cut out to be great managers or top salespeople. Not that many of us can fly and shoot lasers from our eyes. Some of us may even love the idea of being the personal assistant to a media mogul. If you want to love what you do, whatever it is, do it with your head held high.