Television

Supergirl Has a Libertarian Main Villain, and He's Pretty Interesting

The series makes sure to show his actions as wrong, but not necessarily his ideology.

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The evil paternalist-industrialist who wants us to give up fossil fuels. Wait, what?
"Supergirl"

Warning: This blog post spoils plot points from Monday night's episode of Supergirl (as well as several previous episodes).

Supergirl represents CBS's efforts to wade into the superhero serial drama that is dominating both television and blockbuster films. It's the first of these hero shows from the DC Comics universe with a female protagonist, and, yes, it "leans in" to the feminism in ways that are sometimes effective, sometimes corny. "Sometimes effective, sometimes corny" is actually a good capsule review of the series after 12 episodes. It is entertaining, but often uneven (compared to more confident shows from the DC universe like Arrow and The Flash) and the dialogue is often lackluster. The solid acting tends to elevate the worst of the writing.

For casual viewers the show can seem like a young adult, gender-swapped knock-off of Superman. She fights a lot of space aliens. There's another crop of evil Kryptonians attempting to cause mayhem. There's a definite familiarity of style.

The show has its own version of Lex Luthor in the guise of Maxwell Lord (played by Peter Facinelli). Lord is a wealthy industrialist-inventor very much in the Tony Stark/Iron Man vein. He's also a hardcore libertarian who could have stepped right out of an Ayn Rand novel—he built a high-speed train, apparently without government subsidies. He is deeply distrustful and critical of government, explaining early in the series that his scientist parents died while following government-approved safety procedures that turned out to be inadequate. He doesn't trust Supergirl and doesn't think people should rely on her to keep them safe (the television show is tied to the most recent Superman movie, and Lord takes note of the tremendous destruction Superman's fighting caused in Metropolis).

As of Monday's episode, Lord is also certainly the primary antagonist of the season.  He experimented on a comatose young woman to give her the same powers as Supergirl—a "bizarro" version of the heroine, in a variation on the comic book version—and the two women fought. He also uncovered Supergirl's real identity and her foster family. As a result, Supergirl's foster sister Alex Danvers, a special agent in a secretive government organization that addresses threats from aliens, "arrested" Lord with no actual warrant and no real authority, and dragged him off into a secret detention facility with no legal representation. The show does not ignore the ramifications of this move like it might have decades ago. Lord, stuck in a high-tech prison cell, notes, "Holding people indefinitely against their will; can't get more American than that."

Once it became clear that Lord was heavily influenced by libertarian and objectivist ideologies, I decided to keep an eye on the show to see how he developed. It wasn't clear at first whether he was going to become a full-on villain or more of a critical antagonist who wasn't necessarily evil (in the comics Lord has gone back and forth between heroic and villainous attitudes). I also wanted to see how the show represented Lord's beliefs—did the writers understand the underlying concepts of libertarian thought? If Lord became a villain, would it be portrayed as an indictment of libertarianism itself or would it be driven by Lord's personality?

After watching the trajectory of Lord's development into a nemesis, I'm actually a bit surprised at the nuance on display (mostly because of the generally unsubtle writing). Lord has all the signs of a complex, interesting villain. The show doesn't paint his criticism and skepticism of government itself as wrong. Characters who disagree with his attitude are also heavily connected to the government, like Supergirl's sister, and not exactly dispassionate observers. Rather, what makes Lord a villain is how he acts in response to his ideology, which ultimately corrupts his own argument. There's nothing libertarian about experimenting on a non-consenting human in order to prove that he's not reliant on Supergirl to protect earth from evil aliens. It's a villain mentality reminiscent of the deeply complex X-Men villain (and sometimes hero) Magneto. Magneto, a Holocaust survivor, accurately notes that a huge swath of humanity is hostile toward his mutant peers. Readers/viewers are intended to agree with his perception. But then, his solution has frequently been to wage war on humanity in response. He's a villain the audience can "identify" with while still grasping the evil of his actions.

There is a big trap I expected the show to fall into when presenting a libertarian as a villain: The misrepresentation of libertarianism or objectivism as a selfish philosophy that cares only for individual success and achievement and has no interest in social cooperation. So far, to the show's credit, it has not fallen into this trap. In fact, I've been noting an interesting trend that libertarians might actually identify with: Lord is perceived as selfish and self-interested by the "heroic" characters on the show even as he talks about using his skills in his own way to help others and mankind (without the yoke of the government) and supporting the concept of spontaneous order. Watch this clip below from early in the series, before it became clear that Lord had some sinister intents:

That's Alex Danvers, Supergirl's sister, he's talking to. Note that she doesn't actually engage in his argument at all that he's helping people without using the government (or a gun). She just accuses him of not trusting anybody. In a later episode, Supergirl temporarily loses her powers and isn't available to assist in response to an earthquake. Lord uses the situation to argue to the public that they can't depend on the government (or Supergirl) to protect them, and that they need to rely on each other in times of crisis. This is characterized by Supergirl as "sowing panic," even though Lord is also shown desperately trying (and failing) to save the life of a person injured in the disaster. He's also, interestingly, pro-renewable energy, complaining at one point about the media reporting about plunging gas prices and reinforcing dependency on fossil fuels, meaning they're also avoiding the characterization of the libertarian industrialist as reinforcing the wealthy pro-oil status quo and the anti-Koch sentiment that drives a lot of anti-libertarian criticism.

It's possible for the show to still fall into this trap of turning Lord's beliefs themselves into caricatures, but for now it's being remarkably thoughtful about them. It is not clear from last night's episode that we are supposed to support the decision to hide Lord away in a secret prison, even though he does represent an actual threat to the safety of Supergirl and her family. I have my own theories as to where Lord's story arc is going to end up taking him. For now, I'll give the show credit for making a libertarian villain who is not a mockery of libertarian philosophy.

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  1. Watched the first few episodes, didn’t care for it. And I’m a sucker for superheroes.

    1. Watched the first episode, thought it sucked.

      1. I have zero interest in watching this tv show, but I enjoyed reading Scott’s intelligent review.

      2. I only watched the first episode because it led into SCORPION!!!!!

        Didn’t like it enough to bother again.

        1. It got better.

          1. The only thing better than SCORPION is new episodes of SCORPION!

        2. Scoripion lost me in the first episode with the stupid “fly the airplane a few meters off the runway and drive under it in a sports car and connect a laptop to the plane while still moving” horseshit.

          For one, the landing speed of a 767 is ~160 mph, so it should have stalled and crashed on top of the car. Second, the whole reason they had to do that was because, allegedly, the plane was flying too fast to transmit to the airport tower, yet the car, which was going just as fast as the plane, was able to instantaneously transmit the data back to the very same tower. Bull. Shit.

          Also, I forget where, but the “math genius” made a math mistake at one point in that episode as well.

      3. I liked Scott’s analysis, but that clip got really awful when they started defusing a bomb or some bullshit.

  2. You lost me at Supergirl.

    1. They lost me at CBS.

    2. They had me at Melissa Benoist’s leaked nude porno pics.

      1. Is Benoist pronounced Be-noist, rhymes with moist. Or is is Beno-ist?

        BTW – Would

      2. You have my attention…

  3. It’s the first of these hero shows from the DC Comics universe with a female protagonist, and, yes, it “leans in” to the feminism in ways that are sometimes effective, sometimes corny

    Nothing ruins a female protagonist more than repeatedly pointing to her and saying, “Look a female lead. Did you notice? Female lead. Did we mention the lead is… female?”

    1. The worst part is her boss, played by an ambulatory skeleton Calista Flockhart. “I’m a rich, powerful woman, kicking ass in a man’s world! Yeah, grrl pwr!” Every…other…episode.

        1. Sew…not Calista Flockhart?

          1. How did they not bag Kim Cattrall?

            1. Can somebody who was an adult at the time explain to me how Kim Cattrall not get more box office run in her heyday?

              1. Canadian.

              2. While hawt, she is a pretty lackluster actress.

                It was hard to tell hen she was the live mannequin vs. the actual mannequin in that movie she was in…

                The name of which seems to have gotten away from me…

                Also, she never showed skin, until it was old and leathery.

                And the movie I was looking for… Police Academy.

              3. explain to me how Kim Cattrall not get more box office run in her heyday

                Considering the fates of the rest of the cast, Cattrall was the breakout star of Porky’s. And she was 31 my the time Mannequin came out.

    2. Exactly, you dont get that on Agent Carter. She would kick your ass if you pointed that out.

      1. Enjoyed Agent Carter. Haven’t watched Supergirl.

      2. and how about that Chinese Yinzer Ming-na Wen as Agent Melinda May? Over 50, still smoking hot, and she’ll kick your ass.

  4. Interesting. Unfortunately I am absolutely burned out on superheroes, especially ones with more sweeping powers, or I’d check it out (the fact that it’s CBS is also a major issue, as their shows are terrible). I can handle Daredevil and Jessica Jones because they are impeccably written and have very limited powers, but that’s about it.

    1. Also, Krysten Ritter is pretty hot

      1. You can have her, I’ll take the Rachael Taylor any day of the week.

          1. You people are insane. Though Taylor is really hot too.

            1. Krysten Ritter is not “really” hot, she’s just hot.

              1. We have to draw the line somewhere people.

              2. I agree Rachael Taylor is hotter than Krysten Ritter.

                If I saw Ritter on the street I’d be like “she’s cute.”

                If I saw Rachael Taylor I’d be like shiiiiit son.

                1. I’m really, really, really struggling not to follow you from thread to thread calling you a racist, as a joke that would only be hilarious to me.

                  Like, I feel like it’s overcoming a heroin addiction difficult not to do it.

                  But I endeavor to persevere.

                  Just so you know.

                  1. I saw your one on the Donald Trump thread and laughed. I liked this.

                    “It was a joke. I’m completely on board with Irish’s hatred of black people.”

                    1. When you first said that about Krysten Ritter being hot, I was going to reply, “Geez, I’d have thought you only went for the blonde hair blue eyes types. Her black hair means she might have negroid blood in her lineage.”

                      And making some snide comment like that in every single thread.

                      But then I didn’t because I’m a nice guy.

                    2. My whole family has dark hair, though. Race mixing goes both ways. We need to stay black haired white people and keep our bloodline clear of those obstreperous northern Europeans.

                2. Look, I don’t want to get in a pointless argument about which really hot chick is slightly hotter, but…you’re all fucking retarded and I hate you and you smell.

                  1. Jesus Epi you are an anarchist. Pointless arguments about which hot chick is hotter is an important part of the human experience.

                    1. I’ll be whatever I wanna do!!!

                      So I guess this means we have to talk about Melissa O’Neil from Dark Matter now.

                3. I’d think that the reaction to seeing either on the street would depend a lot on how they were dressed and made up.

              3. I had to Google to find out.

                Ritter’s OK, Looks like a Katy Perry knock-off with less looks and boobs.

        1. Peggy Carter FTW.

        2. Why can’t it be both? At the same time………making it all about me.

      2. She’s insanely hot, but I figured that went without saying. And so is Deborah Ann Woll. Huh, I see a trend in the superhero stuff I like…

        1. And so is Deborah Ann Woll

          yeah I’m in on that stock.

        2. Woll is distractingly hot. Which is probably a good thing, since she shares so many scenes with Foggy.

          Taylor is gorgeous.

          1. Have you seen Woll on True Blood?

            1. I still dream of Deborah Ann Woll in her Little Red Riding Hood outfit…

            2. I did not watch that show, but I knew 1) there was a hot redhead, and b) she was the only one not to get all HBO.

      3. Plus, if I were a chick, I’d be on Mike Colter faster than Nicole would be on Tucker Carlson.

        1. Bow ties, hot in an affected, fussy kind of way.

        2. In before Gojira:

          “Unfortunately, Mike Colter is probably a criminal and also if I went to the beach with him he would likely drown.”

          There. Try to find something racist about that.

          1. Everyone knows black men can’t swim.

            1. -1 buoyancy

            2. Especially if you tie a cinder block to their ankle…

              is what a racist would say. Irish.

              /joke

  5. I’m surprised they decided to make this statement in Supergirl as opposed to Arrow, where it would have made sense.

    1. Yeah, Arrow started off as being potentially Occupy Star City, but was pretty traditional comic book by the second season.

      1. Not traditionally Green Arrow, which has a prog bent, I just mean generic whoop baddies of the week.

  6. I couldnt get past the relationship drama. Her secret identity is always pouting. In the vein of Superman, is this how Kara sees human women? Weak and obsessed with men?

    But I will tune back in to see the libertarian unfold. It cant be worse than Atlas Shurgged movie part 3.

    1. I will tune back in to see the libertarian drill Supergirl’s ass, else he ain’t no huckleberry.

    2. Plenty of chicks are weak and obsessed with men.

  7. He started out being interesting but then became less so, which is actually more than you can say for the show in general. It’s a wide open spigot of cliched dialogue and uninspired characters. Whoever plays the sister needs to dial it down a few notches. The only reason I’m watching at all at this point is the rumored Flash and/or Green Arrow crossovers.

    1. I thoroughly enjoy Flash and Arrow. And I thought they might exist in the same universe, but Central City is just coming to terms with “metahumans” and Oliver and Team Arrow are still struggling with Damien Darkh and “magic”. I would think if an all powerful alien, (and her even more famous cousin) existed on the same planet, metahumans wouldn’t be so hard to digest.

    2. Would they do a cross-network crossover? I don’t think Constantine’s cameo on Arrow is really indicative of anything, given that the show had already been canceled.

      1. I SAID IT WAS RUMORED. RUMOR SOURCES ARE UNIMPEACHABLE.

  8. He experimented on a comatose young woman to give her the same powers as Supergirl?a “bizarro” version of the heroine, in a variation on the comic book version

    Does Bizarro Supergirl live underwater? Is she black? / Elaine Benes

    Anyway, haven’t seen this show, but Gale from Breaking Bad (major spoilers) is the best libertarian TV character I can think of.

    1. I was crestfallen when gale got shot.

    2. I remember spotting early on that he has a Ron Paul bumpersticker.

  9. I actually enjoyed the first couple of seasons of green arrow. Is flash actually good?

    1. Yes, generally. Some have not liked the direction of Arrow after season two, but that show’s crossover episodes with The Flash have been some of either show’s best. And The Flash has a likable lead and supporting characters.

      1. Yes, generally. Some have not liked the direction of Arrow after season two,

        I’m of that opinion.

      2. I think Arrow was the best way to introduce a new “universe”. Let fans buy in to the possible (yet extremely unlikely) premise of the billionaire thought dead, come back and be a hero with no superpowers. And then slowly (starting with Flash) introduce the more powerful comic word. Then came the Lazarus pit, and Damien Darkh’s magic (that episode with Constantine was very cool!).

        Now we are totally fine with 4000 year old Vandal Savage, over 200 times reincarnated Hawkman and Hawkgirl, a suit that shrinks a guy, and a time traveler. BTW: I am enjoying Legends of Tomorrow. If you like Flash more than Arrow, you will like LOT. If however, you miss the first 2 seasons of Arrow, not so much. It is a lot of fun, just don’t think about it too much.

    2. I concur with FoE. I’ve come to enjoy Flash more than Arrow, even, though I still watch both.

  10. CNN Reporting, Clinton wins Iowa.

    1. TWO WEEKS AGO CALLED IT WOULD LIKE ITS HEADLINE BACK.

  11. But I’m Batman!

    1. Gotham is better than all of them, with not a cape in sight.

      1. Gotham is shit, if only because they are feeling the need to shoehorn every single Batman villain into Jim Gordon’s origin story.

        For Christ’s sake, Bruce is only like what, 11 in the show?

        1. he’s about 15. Cat Woman’s old enough to get boobs now.

          1. Catgirl is hot jailbait currently.

  12. This villain is not going to be good for libertarianism, because the viewing audiences have proven time and again that they are by and large unable to discern nuance and lack the capability of abstraction.

    Take a look at how movies and pop culture have distorted the ignorant viewers’ beliefs about firearms. A majority of people that have never fired a gun actually think that they are like instant death talismans–point them in the general direction of some humans, pull the trigger, and they all die, with nary a reload or bolt-lock.

    They also believe that silencers (suppressors) actually silence gunshots down to “pftt” and that fully-automatic machine guns and “assault rifles” are widely available to the public and every bad guy.

    The same will happen with this villain–libertarianism will be inextricably intertwined with his obviously sociopathic decision making, and these viewers will remember “evil” when they hear people speak of the same beliefs the villain espouses. I hold the producers, director and writers of Supergirl responsible for maligning libertarianism.

    1. At least it’s on CBS where no one will see it.

    2. Maxwell Lord is not a libertarian. Other than the monocle polishing and the drinking of orphans blood for recreational purposes.

    3. My biggest peeve with movie guns is the “no ontological inertia” bullets they use, where if they miss the intended target they simply vanish from the universe. Worst example of this is the climax of Iron Man 2 where, if you recall, War Machine gets hacked by the bad guy and starts chasing Iron Man around over New York city firing a Gatling gun at him for about five minutes. He doesn’t hit Iron Man so the movie acts like this is no big deal, but the scene out to be horrifying given what’s implicitly happening to all the people in the high density apartment buildings behind and beneath them.

  13. I really only watch it for Melissa Benoist. She’s so wholesome. She makes me want to cum on her face and then wipe my dick off on the American flag.

      1. The dick wants want the dick wants, motherfucker.

      2. Such as, what is the hat doing during all of this?

    1. I think Postrel just rolled over in her grave.

      1. Who killed Ginny?
        *looks at warty*

      2. Freedom ain’t glamourous.

    2. I loved her work in The Fappening.

      1. I’ve loved it several times. It was tough love, but…………..

  14. I’m sure they’ll manage to evolve the libertarian protagonist into someone who’s only slightly better than Hitler in short order. They can’t help themselves.

  15. Max Lord in the comics is an authoritarian asshole. And this guy isn’t very libertarian. He may be all for less government, but he has no problem trying to kill innocent people to push his agenda, which is very much against the NAP. Therefore, not libertarian.

    1. Anti-Government = Libertarian

      That’s where proggie thought begins and ends.

    2. I figured Max getting hauled in without due process would rankle some people here. Then again, if an asshole with that kind of money threatened my family like that, the gloves would come off. He would be dead on the spot.

  16. Good time OT:

    Having lived through a couple of “homelessness crises” under the watch of two different parties, look how nuanced homelessness is described when it happened under Party B’s watch:

    Ed MurrayVerified account
    ?@MayorEdMurray
    The reasons for #homelessness are complex and ending homelessness will not be solved easily or quickly. There are no simple solutions.

  17. This is the only network show I watch. She is very hawt. She did a nude scene in the second episode of Homeland. Google it; it’s on YouTube. Whoa!

    1. She was also in the cell phone cloud hack from a couple of years ago. She is doing some very non-Kryptonian things.

  18. I smell the redeemed anti hero coming on.

    Someday as Supergirl fails to save the world, he will rush in to take her place. He will fight heroically and extravagantly, and in the end will fall, but only after giving Supergirl time to recover.

    Before she flies off for the final victory, they will have time for a chat, because there is no rush about that saving the world thing. She will say ” I could always feel the good in you. When the earth needed you most, you answered the call. ”

    With his dying breath:
    ” if only I had understood sooner that the Koch Brothers were evil…”

    1. The show almost writes itself.

    2. “WIth my last breath, I blame the Koch brothers!”

      1. The main villain next season is a giant, planet eating Kochtopus.

  19. A google image search on each of the hawt! actresses mentioned in this thread tells me they are all too skinny. Who wants to hug a girl that feels like a bag of antlers.

    1. I see John got himself a burner handle.

      1. I resemble that remark ! I’ve been posting here for (checks calendar) at least 7 years.

        1. Just what a John burner handle would say…

          1. John is playing the long game…

            And when I say John, I mean Epi, because we’re all his socks anyway.

    2. There is an ass for every seat. Some asses require two seats.

      1. or both hands

    3. I have no idea what most of this conversation is about. You nerdy bastards watch too much TV.

      I did see part of a Supergirl once. My wife eats that shit up. Five minutes in I thought….yay girl powezzzzZZZzzzzzzzzz. Oh! I must have drifted off. What did I miss?

      1. Nothing. You got the gist.

  20. The only superhero show I watch is Teen Titans Go!

    It’s a funny show.

    1. Meh, Teen Titans was much, much better.

      1. This. TTG is insulting.

    2. The only superhero shows I watch star our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the only superhero I need.

      1. Jesus is just all right with me.

        1. Tom Johnston is no Michael McDonald!

      2. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

    3. They canceled Young Justice for that pile of shit.

  21. How does Jezebel feel about calling her SuperGIRL?

    1. Cat Grant picked the name, therefore it’s okay.

  22. I thought last night’s show went off the rails. Lord was more nuanced before — now he’s a Luthor-type all out villain.

    As for secret prisons, the one on The Flash is worse. Solitary confinement, only fast food to eat, and the occasional illegal medical experiment, all performed by people with no connection to the government, except for cop/foster dad Joe West, who runs the prison under color of law without notifying the local DA or allowing any appeals, phone calls, contact with lawyers, etc.

    On Supergirl, the DEO at least reports to the President, not themselves.

    1. Appeals, phone calls, and lawyers are all things we guarantee because the system isn’t perfect and we can’t trust cops to always grab the right guy. Flash side steps that by only locking people up that are actually in the process of trying to harm people (their guilt and danger to society isn’t in question). The state of their confinement was justified by what the hell else are you going to do to contain these guys, unless you are just going to shoot them. Lot less justified now that suicide squad exists in this universe, so there are facilities now capable of holding these guys (Flash crew might not be aware of their existence though. I stopped watching after I realized what they where going to do to Wally).

      1. Yeah, what else do you do with some of those metahumans? Other than execute them.

    2. At least on the Flash, there is the practical argument that the normal justice system isn’t actually equipped to deal with metahumans, so those with the means to do so should take matters into their own hands. But Lord is just a guy.

      1. Plus they’ve referenced the extrajudicialness of the whole situation on multiple occasions.

        1. Which is ok when dealing with actual extraterrestrials. Since they are definitely not citizens. Except maybe to Obama.

    3. On Supergirl, the DEO at least reports to the President, not themselves.

      Only in the sense that Torchwood theoretically reports to the Queen. Which is to say, both anti-alien organizations are completely without supervision or accountability.

    4. Central City loos so Canadian to me. That, or Caprica.

  23. It’s a shame we can’t have more bad guys like the one in Leverage (actor plays Crowley in Supernatural), where in reality he’s actually a good guy but he and the protagonists just don’t get along (plus he always wins, to the benefit of everybody). Villains have a tendency to be either straightforward wrong or converting to the protagonist’s side at the earliest convenience. I’d like to see more incompatible world views combined with both sides trying to spare civilians and innocents.

    1. I think you may be looking for some Victor Hugo. Not as hawt as the girls in the shows though.

  24. I clicked on the comments just to see why some random tv show themed article had so many….looks like 100+ comments arguing about hot tv actresses.
    I had something witty to say but I think my IQ was halved just by glancing through it

  25. For casual viewers the show can seem like a young adult, gender-swapped knock-off of Superman.

    That’s kind of what it seemed like to me, which is why I couldn’t get into it. Too much emo tween drama. It was like Twilight meets Smallville.

  26. Meh. As much as I liked comics when I was younger, I’m still not terribly impressed by superheroes on the small screen. I’ll probably end up watching this five years down the road.

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