It never occurred to me growing up to not like a story just because it's about a boy.
(After all, as a female, if you weren't watching a story about a boy, then there wasn't much else to watch but I digress...)
So now, as a mother, it was disheartening when my son - at the ripe old age of 5 - decided that he could no longer watch the movie, Frozen, because it was a "girl movie." Apparently, none of the boys at school liked it either and as I listened to his reasoning, it became clear to me that he now believed liking a story about a girl somehow made him less of a boy.
As a writer who loves female driven stories (Yay! Stories that I can really relate to!), I've never agreed with this long held societal belief and I definitely didn't teach it to my son but yet, somehow, running around the school yard, it took hold of my sweet little boy that once adored Olaf.
The memories of the two of us singing along to Frozen and knowing those days are over seriously brim my eyes with tears.
But then this past year, I saw hope in the new CBS TV drama, Supergirl.
I've always loved a good superhero story. My favorites are Christopher Reeves as Superman and Linda Carter as Wonder Woman.
(Note: I'm well aware that I may be revealing my age here but it's so you know I truly mean it when I say I've been waiting for a new rendition of Wonder Woman for years! So I was particularly excited to see that Supergirl was actually making it on the air.)
The first female driven superhero TV Show on CBS in 13 years (which should be unheard of in this day and age but special thanks to Nina Tassler for making this happen...) and the only chance I could watch something with my son that I could relate to like Frozen but was also masculine enough that my now 7-year-old son could feel comfortable watching without feeling his boy parts were at stake.
My hope was it would be a fun, exciting show with a positive portrayal of women that we could watch together and connect over. It's just nice to watch something we both really want to watch!
But I was disappointed at first because when I pitched the idea of watching the pilot episode, he wasn't interested. Again, the idea of watching a TV show about a girl didn't seem so appealing even if she was a superhero.
Until I started watching it on my own as he played Minecraft nearby...
Within minutes, he was next to me watching it. When Supergirl saved her sister Alex by landing that airplane in the bay, he was hooked. By the end, he was whizzing around the living room flying around like a superhero.
And I was in love from first episode, so to speak.
I love how watching Supergirl together allowed me to witness my son being inspired by a woman. He wanted to be strong and save people - like her!
He didn't resist being "like a girl" because Supergirl does a wonderful job relaying the message that being a strong, courageous hero has less to do about gender and more to do about character.
I also love how the writers take this message even further by showing - as in real life - that needing help isn't a boy or girl thing.
For instance, in the third episode, Fight or Flight, Supergirl resists calling her cousin for help when she faces the notorious villain that Superman hasn't been able to defeat for years, Reactron. Supergirl believes getting help will give the wrong message - that she's not as strong as Superman.
So, as all good stories always do, our heroine ends up having to face her fear, when she does in fact need help and gets rescued by Superman.
But instead of regurgitating the same old damsel in distress stereotype (that I would have had to attempt to undo with further explanation to my son about outdated notions regarding gender roles), Supergirl learns that she didn't need help because she's a woman nor is getting help a sign of weakness.
But rather, needing help is nothing more than a sign you're alive. The fact of the matter is nobody alive has ever survived let alone thrived without the help of others.
I also love that Supergirl wasn't just sitting around waiting to be rescued nor did she let needing help discourage her from facing the enemy again. On the contrary, getting help allowed her to live another day so she could rise again and successfully defeat Reactron in the end - alone.
Since the pilot episode, my son and I have watched each episode twice and on several occasions, we've had in depth conversations about the reasons certain characters are our favorite. Right now, in the hero category, mine is Supergirl; my son's choice is Supergirl's sister, Alex (Do you see what I mean? This is so cool for a mom!). In the villain category, mine is Livewire, his is Vartox.
This bond we now share over a TV show is the kind of stuff that makes me love writing stories, film and television. Because we are connected as a people by the stories we share, creating understanding and empathy between us.
I want my son to be able to empathize with me and other women because it will allow him to connect with us at a much deeper level. I firmly believe this will not make him less of a man but on the contrary, it will make him a better man for it. After all, have you ever noticed how the word 'relationship' has the word 'relate' in the beginning?
So being able to relate to my son on this new, deeper level is why I love watching Supergirl with him.