2020 is a unique year to say the least. Not only is there a pandemic throughout the world, but cultural and political tensions have come to a boiling point as well. In the midst of all this, entertainment is struggling to find the right themes to display. More realistic shows are trying to juggle discussing these issues, while others are finding recent seasons to be suddenly inappropriate. One program that, despite its first season being made before 2020, seems to work in this regard is Stargirl. The DC show centers around a high school girl who discovers a cosmic staff and forms a society of young superheroes. Here are a few 2020-related themes that Stargirl focuses on
While the superhero fanbase may be full of people that enjoy dark themes, the last few years have made it hard to swallow such topics. It’s difficult to enjoy storylines about grappling with trauma during such chaotic times, especially after the pandemic started. Therefore, Stargirl represents 2020 themes by focusing on positivity. In one way, it does this by going back to the basics of superhero tales. A good group of heroes fights a bad group of villains. This isn’t to say that modern viewers can’t handle complex plots, or that the show is quite that simple, but it highlights Stargirl’s choice to partly delve into escapism. This is an especially conscious choice as its executive producer Geoff Johns has worked on previous DC films. These movies, such as Man of Steel and Suicide Squad, were dark (or at least colorfully dark) takes on classic comics. Ergo, there was assumedly an effort to make Stargirl more family-friendly and less entrenched in grim reality
Generational differences have always been a topic of conversation, but the past few years have brought these dichotomies to the spotlight. This is mainly in terms of environmental conservation. Younger generations are beginning to express anger over the damage that older ones have dealt with the earth. There are also discrepancies involving social and cultural issues, such as LGBTQ+ rights and feminism. The elder population is more likely to stick with older viewpoints on these topics. Many activists and politicians in the spotlight are younger individuals, such as Greta Thunberg and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. This generational divide is a topic in Stargirl. The main plot is that several high school students replace a former group of heroes. It’s about young people gaining control and changing things for the better. This theme is a natural fit for the age-based arguments permeating the world in 2020.
It’s difficult for any show to work in 2020 without displaying some form of diversity, no matter how small. Times are changing, so entertainment must change as well. Stargirl reflects this mainly by having a female lead character. Superhero stories starring male figures have become par for the course. Young girls are now eager to see women becoming heroes, and displaying it on a show provides a role model to follow. Stargirl also has multiple leads of different races. With racial equality becoming a high-priority topic as of late, particularly in terms of the Black Lives Matter movement, this is an essential aspect to display. Notably, it also features the first filmed transgender superhero. This is new for the genre.
This year has changed entertainment substantially, and these changes may last for a long time. Actors now have to stand far apart, which is difficult to explain if one’s show isn’t based in the present. Themes that were once normalized are now being exposed as problematic, and therefore must be avoided. So far, Stargirl has managed to weather this storm and fit in with the current state of the world. Here’s to hoping that it continues to do so.