*Warning: This article will contain full spoilers for Stargirl Season 1, including many major plot points.
Dennis Prager once famously quipped that “Leftism destroys everything it touches.” This not only applies to governmental policies, but also to many cultural issues. And this poison has recently been rearing its head in an area that is incredibly dear to me: superheroes.
I love superheroes. They are undoubtedly my genre of choice, and while I am not an absolute expert, I am fairly well-versed. However, my hopes for an enjoyable, apolitical first season of Stargirl were quickly dashed, when I realized that this show succumbs to Prager’s wise dictum.
In the DC Multiverse—a collection of infinite parallel universes—the Justice Society of America (JSA) is essentially the Justice League for Earth-2. (Earth-2 is the second earth in the multiverse, and is succeeded in importance only by the main earth, Prime Earth, where the traditional Justice League resides.) Some famous JSA members include the Jay Garrick version of the Flash, as well as the Alan Scott version of Green Lantern, Hawkman, Doctor Fate, the Spectre, and Wildcat, just to name a handful.
The JSA is incredibly important to the DC Universe, but it has rarely been given the respect it deserves. Hardly any of the JSA’s characters have been given the live-action treatment and they’ve been underrepresented in modern comics, with notable (and limited) exceptions being a brief stint in DC’s Legends of Tomorrow Season 2and the excellent portrayal of Jay Garrick in The Flash. Thus, Stargirl is the JSA’s first significant jump into the mainstream.
Overall, the live-action rendition of Stargirl is not particularly impressive, but it’s perfectly passable as a superhero TV show. Most of the show’s characters are likeable, but Stargirl suffers because it kills off all of the JSA in the very first scene. This initial scene is far more interesting to the core fanbase than most of the show’s remainder. More than that, the second-to-last episode of Stargirl completely collapses upon itself, as it misguidedly pushes a contrived, and out-of-place, political message.
Introducing the Injustice Society:
Stargirl’s main villains belong to the Injustice Society of America (ISA). The ISA is made up of nine members when the show commences: Icicle, the Gambler, Sportsmaster, Tigress, the Fiddler, the Wizard, Brainwave, Solomon Grundy, and Dragon King. I will share a brief background of these characters, since comprehending them is important to understanding the show’s fatal flaw.
Icicle is the leader of the group. As his name implies, he possesses ice-based powers. Throughout the course of Stargirl, Icicle attempts to kill about 1/8 of the adult American population, while also murdering his colleague, the Wizard, and the Wizard’s child. He also attempts to murder the new JSA, after murdering the old JSA with the help of the rest of the ISA.
The Gambler is a master coder and strategist, who is incredibly wealthy. He cares more about his money than anything else. This is a major point of weakness for the ISA, as the JSA hack into his system and start distributing his money to charities, causing him to give up his defensive position to try and stop the loss of his wealth.
Sportsmaster and Tigress are a couple. They are brutal, sadistic killers who relish in the pain of their enemies. They do not have any specific powers, but use weapons in battle. They focus solely upon inflicting physical pain and spreading violence.
The Fiddler is featured minimally by Stargirl. She is the wife, and replacement for, the original Fiddler, whose fate is unknown. While she generally just aids the ISA, she does have one notable moment when she tells her son to murder his bully.
The Wizard is not well characterized, as he is murdered by Icicle shortly after he is first introduced.
Brainwave has telepathetic capabilities, meaning that he can read minds, cause visions, and move objects with his mind. His most important power is his ability to inflict his will upon others. Throughout the course of the show, we see a catalog of his mental deterioration, as his ability develops and he discovers the terrible thoughts that humans have. Brainwave begins to relish in murder, arguing that it makes the world a “better” place. He even murders his wife and child, despite the fact that he still experiences love for them.
Finally, enter Dragon King. He is a Japanese scientist from WWII who is known for experimenting on himself and his patients. Through his experimentation, he has given himself a reptilian appearance. He has survived since the 1940s due to the powers he gave himself, and is even able to cheat death after being executed for his crimes. He has also experimented on his daughter, and often keeps her locked up for disobeying his orders.
The Politicization of Stargirl:
The lineup of the ISA consists of attempted mass murderers, sadists, and literal war criminals. The natural conclusion of a superhero story with these villain archetypes is that they would want world domination or something along those lines. However, Stargirl goes for a different approach entirely, thus exposing its insanity.
The ISA launches satellites to project Brainwave’s mind-controlling powers over half of America. Their goal is to inhibit the free will of all adults, knowing that one quarter of the population will resist and perish, as a result. The ISA does this in order to impose an ideology defined by three goals: the forced adoption of solar and wind power; the elimination of racism, sexism, and homophobia; and the implementation of universal healthcare.
I had a hunch that the show was heading in a politicized direction, considering that the codename of the ISA project is “Project New America,” but I assumed that the villains would be conservative, because our left-wing entertainment industry often pushes the self-serving narrative that “conservatives are evil.” However, the show instead decides to have its villains push for primarily left-wing ideas.
Surprisingly, the show actually makes the villains represent the very ideology that it wants to push, which is a confusing and convoluted way to support a political agenda, never-mind the fact that the villains are murderers and war criminals. These goals are not what a group called the Injustice Society of America would strive for. Yes, eliminating racism is a good thing, but is it really going to be done by a deranged madman and an evil scientist? Doubtful. And why would a Japanese war criminal want to forcefully implement universal healthcare? The villains’ goals and motivations are completely nonsensical.
The show nonetheless chooses to explicitly promote the villains’ ideology. When the JSA find their manifesto, they remark that the villains’ ideology is “good.” The JSA support the ISA’s ends, just not their means. This cements both the heroes and villains on one side of the political aisle, while simply fighting over the means of promoting their ideas.
Not only does the show push left-wing ideas, but in so doing, it fails to even consider an alternative viewpoint. The ISA pushes the idea that anyone who disagrees with them is evil, as explicitly stated by Icicle in the final episode of the season. This neatly parallels many of the problems of our contemporary political climate, which is marked by widespread intolerance. There is not a single character who vocally disagrees with the ISA’s political agenda, specifically the controversial parts of universal healthcare and the energy plan.
This creates a conundrum that the show does not even try to resolve: If the message is that being a conservative is bad, why is there not a single conservative character? And why are the villains so liberal? If the message is that the methods of the villains are bad, then why even involve a political message? Why not make the villains desire to dominate the world, as most generic villains do? Part of the problem of the show’s sudden political message is that the ISA’s motivations and ideology are never really delved into. The JSA discovers the ISA’s plan at the end of the second-to-last episode of the season, and most of the final episode is composed of fighting. Therefore, there is very little exploration of the ISA’s ideas. They lack any sort of depth. And the politics of the show are contrived and confusing.
A Potential Fix:
The show could have been saved from politicization by making the ISA a bunch of generic villains, or a horde of anarchists.
If the ISA were to be composed of generic villains, then they would simply be the bad guys seeking world domination. The superheroes would have to stop their actions. Would it be generic and a tad uninspired? Absolutely. However, it would be far more entertaining than pushing a poorly constructed political agenda. The writers should have focused on fleshing out the ideologies of a few key characters, in an apolitical manner. Doing so would have allowed Stargirl to more closely investigate the villains’ motives, without the intrusion of political propaganda.
However, if the writers wanted to go ahead with a political message (which I would not advise), then they could have at least fashioned the ISA as a horde of anarchists. This would have made the show unlikely to alienate a large portion of Americans, as anarchists are far fewer in number than conservatives or liberals. This would also have enabled the show to construct much more compelling villains. Moreover, the writers could have represented an ideology that is seldom explored. They could have posed thoughtful questions to viewers, and actually caused them to contemplate their political views.
The confusing and contrived nature of the villains’ political agenda, along with the flatness of their ideas, significantly limit the quality of this show. In short, Stargirl‘s politicization leaves it burdened by its own message. I love these superheroes, so I will give the writers a second chance by watching Season 2, with the hopes that it will be better. However, the first season’s political-agenda-pushing completely ruins everything that the show tries to achieve—political or otherwise. In so doing, Stargirl fulfills Prager’s dictum that leftism ruins everything it touches.
*The views expressed in this article solely represent the views of the author, not the views of the Chicago Thinker.
Chad Berkich is a Senior Editor for the Chicago Thinker. As a junior at the University of Chicago, he is majoring in mathematics. He is a Christian and conservative, and his other interests include superheroes and science fiction, video games, and rock music. He is also the president of the University of Chicago's chapter of College Republicans.