Supergirl Tackles Transphobia in “Reality Bytes”

Supergirl Tackles Transphobia in “Reality Bytes”

When I saw the trailer for this week's episode of Supergirl, "Reality Bytes," I was a little worried about how it would handle the subject matter. While the show has done a fantastic job with how it's treated Nia Nal and trans-related issues, this subject in particular needs a lot of nuance, so I was concerned

When I saw the trailer for this week’s episode of Supergirl, “Reality Bytes,” I was a little worried about how it would handle the subject matter. While the show has done a fantastic job with how it’s treated Nia Nal and trans-related issues, this subject in particular needs a lot of nuance, so I was concerned about how the writers would deal with it. My worries were alleviated though when Nia’s actress Nicole Maines tweeted that she’d been brought into the writer’s room to advise.

Supergirl 5.15
“Reality Bytes”

Armen V. Kevorkian (director), Dana Horgan and Jay Faerber (writers)
Melissa Benoist, Mehcad Brooks, David Harewood, Chyler Leigh, Nicole Maines, Jesse Rath, Azie Tesfai (cast)
March 15, 2020

Having a trans voice in the writer’s room was absolutely critical for this episode, and having Maines there to advise is evident in the grace and dignity that the show tackles such an important issue with. Transphobia and violence against trans people, and trans women of color in particular, is an all too real problem for the transgender community, and one that many of us live in fear of every day. The fact that Supergirl chose to address this issue means the world to me and makes me proud to be a fan of this show.

It is clear that the writing staff, specifically credited writers Jay Faerber and Dana Horgan, did their research on the issue. Real facts were referenced about the violence perpetrated against our community, as well as the real concerns and fears of trans people I know and love. Hearing Kara and William talk about the statistics that are a part of my daily life was harrowing, especially William’s statement that those numbers are probably low due to misgendering of the victims by media, police, and family members.

Nia (Nicole Maines) and Yvette (Roxy Woods) report Yvette's assault to Detective Rivers (Doron Bell)

Nia (Nicole Maines) and Yvette (Roxy Woods) report Yvette’s assault to Detective Rivers (Doron Bell). Copyright The CW/DC Entertainment

Maines’ performance in this episode was raw and visceral, and resonated with me on a very deep level. The emotions were very real, from the fear to the anger and especially the guilt. As someone who has spent a great deal of time doing advocacy work for the trans community, I know how painful it can be when you feel like your actions brought the worst kind of attention to the community. Every time my home state proposes a new piece of hateful legislation, a part of me feels like it’s my fault for working to protect the community. In “Reality Bytes,” that connection is more direct, with the bigot directly targeting people because of Dreamer.

The villain in this episode is nothing special, and that’s what makes him absolutely terrifying. He’s your run of the mill, everyday hate-monger. One that thrives in the anonymity of the internet, and one who’s emboldened enough to target victims in real life. The vile things he says are familiar insults hurled at trans women every day, and I’m very thankful that the “T-slur” wasn’t thrown out of his mouth, though that would have been entirely believable.

Kara (Melissa Benoist) and Nia (Nicole Maines) have a heart to heart.

Kara (Melissa Benoist) and Nia (Nicole Maines) have a heart to heart. Copyright The CW/DC Entertainment

While the “Reality Bytes” title was more directly related to Alex’s B-plot where she entered Obsidian’s virtual reality to save a man from an escape room gone wrong, the truth is that reality is truly hard for many in our community, and many of our struggles are ignored by the general public. It’s only fitting that Supergirl has given us such direct visibility right before the Transgender Day of Visibility. I’ll be forever thankful to this show, and while this episode may be too heavy for me to revisit often, I know that I can always look to Nicole Maines for inspiration.

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