Stargirl: Indubitably a Review

Stargirl tries to be a modern Superhero-themed Buffy… but where does it succeed in being itself?

Stargirl: Indubitably a Review

I love superhero stuff, I really do. I’ve seen the classics, from silly weird things like Greatest American Hero to hallmarks of the new wave like Smallville. I’m also a huge fan of shows that buck the modern trend toward “doom and gloom melodrama”. Wandavision managed to offer something new: great writing, incredible acting, and enough mystery mixed with fun to be something special. I was less enthused with the The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which didn’t quite manage to offer anything new.

Then I encountered Stargirl, a silly little CW series I discovered on HBO that at least tried to offer something new, and I found myself hooked enough to watch the first couple of episodes in one sitting. This is a lot more than I managed to do with so many of the other popular shows around.

Just one problem I didn’t like the main character at all. I wanted to, I really did, but where Buffy managed to offer a heroine who walked the line perfectly between obnoxious teen/unwanted chosen one, Stargirl offers us someone completely unlikable and… and she doesn’t get better (at least not by episode 3 which was as far as I could stand to watch). I don’t really know if it’s the actress’s fault — I don’t think it is, at least wholly, because there are moments where she’s really on-point. But there are also a whole bunch where she is whiny, entitled, glossy, and totally devoid of any semblance of the realism and emotionality that made Buffy so likable (despite all her faults).

In fact, all of the things that made Buffy the Vampire Slayer work fall flat here, including the hot-boy-crush (with Angel, the whole point was to make fun of that stereotype). All of the self-awareness of Buffy is missing from Stargirl, in fact… and that’s a real shame because there is actually a lot about this show that really works for me.

The secondary cast in the film is superb, some of the directing and writing are utterly quality — it’s the moments where the “bad guys” are interacting that makes this one such a blast, despite of the total failure of other elements of the show. It’s almost as if the series creators were of two minds:

  • Create a modern superhero show that riffs off the classics and tries to cut a new cloth for the genre.
  • Make a terrible family sitcom drama with children who are utterly detestable because that’s what the public wants (…I guess?)

The show lost me about halfway through episode three, when the bad family drama, terrible characterization of the main character’s step-brother, and general continuation of a “meh” performance from the lead herself left me feeling put out.

It’s a shame, because there really was something special here — the seed for a different approach to the superhero genre, with the right sort of content for some deep and savage political and social introspection… but I guess that’s too much to ask from CW — maybe too much to ask from modern shows altogether.

Hi there! I’m Odin Halvorson, a librarian, independent scholar, film fanatic, fiction author, and tech enthusiast. If you like my work and want to support me, please consider becoming a paid subscriber for as little as $2.50 a month!

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