There was something that didn’t happen in last week’s episode of Supergirl that I think demonstrates that in terms of sexism, pop culture is getting better.
The episode was “Human for a Day,” and it was a story most comic book based TV shows (and most comic book based movie series) do at some point: the superpowered hero loses her powers. In this particular case Supergirl (civilian identity, Kara Danvers) fought Red Tornado in the episode before, and she was only able to defeat the android by expending a “super flare,” which is basically her heat vision turned up to 11. Doing so expended all the solar energy Kara, as a Kryptonian, stores in the cells of her body. Therefore, no powers until she absorbs enough yellow sunlight to get them back. Recovering powers after a super flare is a process that we’re told takes a couple of days for Superman, but after two days Kara is still powerless.
Here’s what didn’t happen in the episode that surprised me so much: There wasn’t a scene of Kara sunbathing in a bikini in an attempt to absorb more yellow sunlight. No one even made a joke about it. It’s tough to imagine anything vaguely related to Hollywood passing up the opportunity to get the main character in swimwear ten years ago.
The other night I went and saw Spectre for the second time, and I was struck how the title sequence for that film didn’t continue the old sexual power imbalance of portraying Bond as a silhouette in a suit surrounded by silhouettes of women wearing nothing at all. Instead in any shot where the women were naked Bond was naked as well, and if Bond was in a suit the women were in dresses.
Just for fun I looked back at the opening sequences for all the Daniel Craig Bond films. Casino Royale featured no female silhouettes at all, only men in suits fighting. Quantum of Solace‘s title sequence is kind of half-ass, like everything about that movie, and features naked women forming out of sand dunes, but they’re never directly transposed with Bond in a suit. Skyfall‘s title sequence also skips the naked woman imagery except at the very beginning, when a figure appears that I assume represents death and/or Vesper.
I’m not suggesting sexism is over or anything. There’s a long way to go. But with the positively feminist action movie Mad Max: Fury Road and Jessica Jones getting year-end awards attention it feels like 2016 may be a turning point.