This article contains spoilers for the Stargirl TV show. If you aren’t caught up, please stop reading until you are.
I’m going to preface this by saying I still love this show. But everyone has missteps.
And the Brainwave, Jr. plotline is a misstep in today’s climate.
What, Exactly, Happened?
The overall plot of the first season of Stargirl is the formation of a new Justice Society of America…and of course they’re all teenagers.
One of the characters we meet is a Hispanic girl named Yolanda Montez, who is destined to become the new Wildcat (due to, of course, her boxing proficiency).
Yolanda is angry and isolated. She’s bitter, she’s cynical, and she clearly hates her life.
And it’s all Henry King, Jr.’s fault.
He was dating her. She sent him topless photos. He shared them around…and this resulted in them being posted to the entire school.
This ruined Yolanda’s life. Her parents have grounded her forever and stated that she has brought so much shame to the family she can never be forgiven. This is misstep #1.
I am really tired of it being girls of color who are treated this way. Tired of it. Can we please have the next one be a white girl who’s family have gotten caught up in Purity Culture or something? But no! It’s because she’s Hispanic and they’re “like that.” (I think the CW knows better and just overlooked how this would read).
Then we come to misstep #2.
Brainwave and Brainwave, Jr.
The bad guys in the arc are, of course, the Injustice Society. Unlike the JSA, though, the originals have survived.
This gives a great plucky underdog feel; the kids of the JSA have to fight against adults. (Which is classic YA).
Brainwave, the Injustice Society telepath, married Starman’s sister and had a child.
Which is Henry.
Henry develops his father’s powers while his father is in a coma (induced by the interaction between the Cosmic Staff and Brainwave’s powers).
His father then wakes up. The Injustice Society is in the process of using something which resembles a primitive Cerebro to take over a good chunk of middle America with amplified technology.
Henry wants to both stop and save his father. Stargirl decides to work with him, apparently not thinking about what this might do to her friend, Yolanda.
And then grargh.
Look, I get where they were going with this. The kid goes up against the father and dies. It’s a wonderfully dramatic comic book moment, even with the trope of the good guys having to watch from behind a forcefield.
But for it to work, Yolanda has to forgive and work with her abuser.
She resists that, but then of course she does.
Because saving the world or whatever is more important, natch.
It reminds me of all the time people have been told not to out their abusers because, well, it would “cause too many problems.”
It would prevent the saving of the world or whatever.
I don’t think they thought this storyline through, but in a YA show in particular, I’m disappointed that we got the message of “Forgive your abuser or bad things will happen.”
Thankfully, both Brainwaves appear to be dead.
But this is a comic book, so it’s not unlikely that they’ll be back…
Don’t have victims work with and forgive their abusers. We don’t need that right now. It undermines everything people, especially women, are working towards to get that kind of behavior stopped.