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Evolution of Societal Norms in “Supergirl”


As social norms evolve, popular entertainment media, such as Supergirl, have developed stories highlighting traditional and emerging family or relationship arrangements. Among the prominently observed structures include conventional families, single-parent households, and same-sex couples. The emergence and subsequent proliferation of these family and relationship formations have transformed the traditional social view and family definition. Consequently, the portrayal of non-traditional structures is becoming increasingly flexible and diverse, defying the conservative composition. According to Strong and Cohen (2017), a family is a dynamic social establishment constantly undergoing a substantial transformation in its organization and functions. Thus, families’ existing beliefs and values are metamorphosing, and people are becoming accommodative to cohabitation, single-parenthood, and same-sex relationships.

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Same-Sex Relations in Supergirl

Today’s family compositions and frameworks have changed entirely from the structures. Traditionally, almost all families had a heterosexual organization of a man, his female companion, and their children. Although polygamous units existed in other cultures, they have been declining steadily over the years (Mabaso et al., 2018). However, in Supergirl, an American TV science fiction program, the orthodox composition is undergoing transforming and coexisting alongside newer forms, which transcend the binary construction of gender (Strong & Cohen, 2017). Although the TV show’s cast involves creatures from outer space, they live among the people, adopt their lifestyles, and inevitably establish diverse relationships with humans.

Maggie Sawyer and Alex Denver are outstanding characters in Supergirl, who end up in a same-sex arrangement. Sawyer is a detective attached to the National City Police in the larger Department of Extra-Normal Operations (DEO). She takes a profound interest in cases revolving around meta-humans and aliens, a path that leads her to Denver. In the program, Denver meets and befriends the police operative, progressively developing feelings for Sawyer as they probe an assignation attempt on President Marsdin. Since the two collaboratively interrogate the matter, Denver’s emotions towards Sawyer intensify. However, Denver unsuccessfully confronts her sexuality, initially denying she is gay. Still, her passions rapidly evolve into a deep-seated romantic attraction towards Sawyer, dating back to their flirtatious friendship.

After a passionate and earnest conversation, Denver finally gathers enough courage, admits her sexual orientation, and confesses to Sawyer. Surprisingly, Sawyer encourages Denver to acknowledge her sexuality and reveal it to her family. Days later, she manages to “come out” to her sister, Kara, who expresses shock but has no problem with it, just like her mother and friends. The occurrence amplifies the declining rigidity in the traditional structure of relationships and epitomizes the changing cultures, attitudes, and perspectives on their composition (Strong & Cohen, 2017). The societal norms and expectations are becoming flexible and accommodative, as depicted by this scene. The conventional arrangements’ influences are reflected by the couple’s eventual breakup, instigated by their differences in having kids.

Traditional Families

Supergirl series explores the traditional family set-ups manifested by characters in heterosexual two-parent households. James Olsen and Lena Luthor, Lois Lane and Clarke Kent, and Mon-El and Imran Ardeen are impressive couples reflecting the traditional composition of a family, bringing together a man and a woman. The three couples depict the dominant family form, which is experiencing invasion from the continually evolving household norms. Luthor is a competent and talented scientist. She enters into a romantic affair with Olsen after developing affection for each other at a holiday party, where the two exchange flirtatious glances. Initially, Oslen was engaged but later breaks up with his fiancée, Lucy Lane. Luthor comes from a conventional household and is Lex Luthor and Contessa Erica Del Portenza’s daughter.

Furthermore, Clarke Kent and Lois Lane advance the thematic depiction of conventional households comprising a man and a woman. Their arrangement conforms to the various traditional and cultural expectations, such as reproduction. Strong and Cohen (2017) contend that procreation is traditionally a unique married-family function, which can only be realized by a heterosexual couple’s union. Mon-El and Imran Ardeen perpetuate this heteronormativity belief in their relationship, which is predicated on the orthodox sexual and marital relations of the opposite gender. Duncan et al. (2019) posit that emergent societal norms have not completely eroded the heteronormative attitudes in communities. Therefore, Supergirl amplifies the coexistence of conventional and emerging family structures by portraying characters in different types of relationships.


The Supergirl series explores diverse types of relationships, which characterize the dynamic nature of social norms. Although same-sex couples and traditional families dominate the program, other relationship organizations, including single-parenthood, blended families, and transgender relationships, are depicted. In this regard, the TV show extensively explores the metamorphosing concept of human relationships and the potentially diverse family organizations’ ways. Conclusively, the family structure is subjective and is inherently impacted by changing social beliefs, norms, and values.

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Duncan, S., Aguilar, G., Jensen, C., & Magnusson, B. (2019). Survey of heteronormative attitudes and tolerance toward gender non-conformity in Mountain West Undergraduate students. Frontiers in Psychology, 10(793), 1-11. Web.

Mabaso, M., Malope, N., & Simbayi, L. (2018). Socio-demographic and behavioral profile of women in polygamous relationships in South Africa: A retrospective analysis of the 2002 population-based household survey data. BMC Women’s Health, 18(1), 1-8. Web.

Strong, B., & Cohen, T. F. (2017). The marriage and family experience: Intimate relationships in a changing society (13th ed.). Cengage Learning.

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