Supergirl’s Maggie Sawyer was fated to have screen-time issues and the love-interest plot hurdles–but it should never have been a problem.
Floriana Lima’s Maggie Sawyer was introduced in season two, and a mixed bag of reactions flew about. Firstly, she wasn’t of the [
racial] ethnic origin the show claimed her to be, which prompted quick suspicions. Secondly, this was coming quickly after The CW’s biggest (we say this lightly) programmes went on an LGBTQ character mass-hunt.
So yes, people had reason to be wary. Except Maggie bucked the trend–for a few episodes. She was a good, badass detective. Clever, intuitive, hella pretty and smart, she oozed charm and dimples. Maggie Sawyer could do no wrong, until she did. And when she did, immediately she became more than just the attractive cop but someone on the verge of three-dimensional.
I never been a big fan of Maggie but this episode make respect her and make me open more in the LGBT world I just want to say to you thanks❤
— Mrs DiLaurentis (@mrsjennergustin) October 24, 2017
And that’s where it ended. Alex Danvers’ (Chyler Leigh) coming-out storyline was by far the best of Supergirl. The reality and the middle-ground it gave (rather than the overtly happy acceptance or the dramatic ‘I hate you, you lesbian!’ scenarios) was perfect. The romance Maggie and Alex had was patient and it never jumped the shark–even if it was cutting some slack on the definition of “slow burn”.
RELATED l Floriana Lima’s First Casting News Pre-Season 2
However, Maggie wasn’t a main character. But if Supergirl had made better use of time, intuition of characters and audience, then it wouldn’t have been difficult incorporating that same romance into a Supergirl-centric story. Whilst fleshing out Maggie’s character. It’s called the principle of running a television show with an ensemble cast. Hero-centric or cast-centric.
Just look at Root and Shaw from Person of Interest. Horrifically different, they worked together–albeit reluctantly at first–until mutually, they became romantically involved. Delphine and Cosima from Orphan Black spent episodes apart, and Delphine even got shot. But their mutual goal was always to understand each other. And to respect their professions. Cosima knew her area of expertise; Delphine knew hers. It worked! Developing Maggie’s character now is a waste when you had a whole season of opportunity. And it’s not even a dig at ‘Sanvers’: we love that pairing! Overlooking–though not disregarding–the many, educated critiques regarding the actress’ heritage and behind-the-scenes issues, we’d like to discuss basic storytelling. Therefore, here’s a run-down of their wrongs, rights, and badly missed opportunities–for Maggie.
Supergirl fed Maggie Sawyer fans breadcrumbs of her past, but never really accomplished a fully-fleshed character with much of a future.
Talk of Maggie’s past rarely comes from Maggie. It’s widely accepted that’s just who Maggie is: closed-off and distrusting. But it’s the way that information is retrieved that’s unnecessary. Her job is essentially Alex, 24/7. Her reputation as a great detective flies off with seventeen hours of hostage negotiation.
You can barely say Maggie is good alone, because she never is. “Far From the Tree” has Eliza and Alex persuade Maggie into contacting her father. Do they spend much time reconciling before his walk-out? No. Does her father witness her kick ass at work? No. Does Maggie tell the same story, plus a few sentences, at dinner with Eliza about her coming out? Yes. Does it ultimately end with Maggie moving on but deciding all she needs is Alex? Look, we love ‘Sanvers’, but that is a important yes.
RELATED l ‘Supergirl’ Roundtable [3×03]
Moreover, but we get nothing regarding Maggie’s future. There’s a thirty-second “marry me” from Alex, Maggie’s “lifetimes” speech, but no career-drive shown. Contrast to new character Mon-El (Christopher Wood), who juggles multiple stories, why isn’t one given to Maggie, DC’s legend and now girlfriend of the secondary lead? Do we know what Maggie wants to achieve career-wise, ten years from now? What about relocation? Any promotion possibilities?
If Maggie’s leaving for those reasons, fair play! But if she’s just ditching the city because of a relationship failure she’s literally a plot-device for Alex coming out. And her dad, now? For a weak “show, don’t tell” attempt at Maggie’s past? Lima’s acting combats the last-ditch fanservice here, but it’s too late.
Watching Alex and Maggie evolve has been great. But series stretch on for a long time. If writers make the mistake of plotting season by season, plot holes stretch. Just make an anthology series like Black Mirror. Don’t boast about positive LGBTQ representation when you offer a one-sided relationship, with one perspective, and a love-interest with minimal career interests. That isn’t representation. That’s producing a great coming-out story for one character, and bludgeoning tragedy onto another with zero repercussions made somehow worse with a last-minute character-centric episode that…really did nothing except to highlight the hurt we already knew Maggie Sawyer had been through.
The one episode Maggie is allowed to use her detective skills, the vocation she’s trained her whole life for, she unnecessarily proves that she’s a very good cop.
In the episode “Alex”, Alex is kidnapped. It’s a tense, if stupidly resolved episode. We start with Supergirl nullifying Maggie’s job mid-hostage negotiation and flies off. Though Supergirl/Kara argues that she saved people, which is correct–Maggie’s point is 100% valid. Both were rude. But if someone swipes your job–your living–away from you so arrogantly, do you defend yourself or let it slide?
Maggie: “Police-work requires a more…delicate touch.”
Kara: “A delicate touch?!”’
Maggie: “You broke a guy’s arm and you gave another one concussion.”
Clearly, “Alex” is set up for them to clash. But having to physically remove Alex in order for the two to work in confidence is a cheap plot point. Secondly, it only stresses the importance of the DEO when Supergirl is so useless with interrogations. She’s the brute force; Alex and Maggie have the detective brains. And honestly, whilst Kara is often likeable and sweet, if Supergirl’s duty is defending the city, then why be the sole cocky asshole about it? Why render Maggie’s job so useless at the start?
If anything, this episode proved Maggie’s necessity. Supergirl is the superhero, but Maggie is the detective. And it’s Maggie who displays rationale and calm when she’s in just as much turmoil. Maggie asks the right questions; presses the right buttons; squeezes the right info. And frustratingly, multiple times during the episode, Kara ignores Maggie’s level-headed advice despite knowing her girlfriend loves her–and does “what she thinks is right”.
Throughout, Supergirl behaves exactly like Teri Hatcher’s character, who was lambasted because she believed aliens superior to humans. Eventually, Supergirl and Maggie reconciled. Vigilante and cop. Old meat, recycled, yet somehow still far too late.
Alex Danvers’ coming-out storyline was beautifully executed, but a relationship involves two–and Maggie was not exactly spearheading representation.
Alex’s story is so important it’s essential to season two. Clearly, whether Lima’s purposeful or not, Maggie’s evidently interested in Alex. Yet she uses her own experience in encouraging Alex to find herself. And she does. Perhaps reading comprehension fails here, but what Maggie says is actually rather selfless:
Maggie: “Everything is changing for you and everything’s gonna feel really heightened and shiny…and you should experience that for yourself. Not just to be with me.”
But what lacks is Maggie. What does Maggie think? Apart from one line about being “scared”? Alex doesn’t even let her talk when they argue at work. Maggie’s hatred of Valentine’s Day is seen purely as irrationality briefly explained by her real coming out story. The tragedy scarring Maggie’s past is deep, and Alex’s choice to help her heal is healthy. However, apart from a minute reconciling with her ex, we don’t see Maggie healing. But we see Alex seeking naive vengeance–not Maggie confronting her issues.
Maggie’s past could’ve been used not only to understand her better, but to make active headway in character progression thus relatability. Yes, she moves on from her father–only to the conclusion that she only needs Alex.
1.6 million* LGBTQ youths experience homeless annually in the USA. 40% of LGBTQ youth. Maggie’s past is important because she overcame it. She’s a cop. That’s hope for these youths; that is representation. Supergirl had a golden opportunity to use this story to inspire, not utilise it as a tragic plot device for a shell of a character.
But representation is not a one-way street. Alex’s story was beautiful. Maggie tells her she deserves it; that she’s real. So is Maggie Sawyer, and she deserved beautiful representation too.
She could have been more than just a clash with Kara over her girlfriend: clearly, the DEO and the cops aren’t buddies.
Supergirl revolves around Kara Danvers, but such centric shows don’t automatically disqualify good character development.
What Supergirl can’t physically do is achieve that for all characters. Winn is literally comic relief; Mon-El is a love-interest; James/the Guardian is…well, who knows, okay? The development this season came impressively from Alex and J’onn, whose extended storylines both included Kara and were hugely important in self-discovery.
If you gave everyone in Supergirl a rich story, there’d be no time for Kara. And that’s a valid argument. However, this season spends considerable time developing male superheroes…on a show about Supergirl. You want to waste more time? How about a musical crossover? You can afford that if you had Buffy’s ten billion seasons, sure! But look at shows like The Gifted–a family-led show with an ensemble that’s more developed than any of Supergirl’s supporting characters. And they’re halfway into their first season!
RELATED l ‘The Gifted’ Four Episode Challenge
So instead of having Maggie argue with Supergirl in order to set up Alex’s kidnapping storyline, why couldn’t she have had a story arc of her department versus vigilantes interfering the entire season? Why not make use of residual, reluctant resentment? For something as pointless as the Guardian, why wasn’t Maggie the one to chase after him–on-screen–to amp up the drama? None of these alternatives divert from Kara and Alex’s screen-time–they just make Maggie more competent. Is that really so difficult for a story?
Rather than using Maggie’s detective skills when they needed to save a main character, Alex, how about using them during the season? In conjunction with Supergirl and the DEO? Maggie Sawyer is legendary; Floriana Lima has proven multiple times that she can be phenomenally moving. So why reduce her competency to just a plot device when it’s so vital?
People were frustrated at Maggie’s lack of substance and they were right–yet Supergirl’s writer’s room lacked the intuition or ability to rectify it whilst maintaining a Kara-centric season.
We’ve established that screen-time for Kara and Alex, the leads, does not need to be reduced by increasing Maggie Sawyer’s utility. Supergirl being Kara-centric isn’t affected by that either. In such a case, the show should probably look at its male ‘superheroes’ instead. And there’s a gaping plot-hole in terms of the cops versus Supergirl. Because don’t they work together? But why, if Supergirl is as cocky as she is in the opening sequence of “Alex”? Do other cops feel similarly to Maggie? Instead of alien after alien, what if the cops or the DEO saw Supergirl as a threat–momentarily–in a Batman/Jim Gordon type hunt?
Some intuition is needed when you write seasons of twenty-something episodes. Intuition regarding your audience, your actors, and the characters. But look at Person of Interest or Lost Girl. Creators saw they had opportunities and jumped at it–mid-shoot. They were adaptable–not fan-servicing. On Supergirl, it seems like it’s hammered down.
For example, look at Amy Acker’s Root (Person of Interest). Built deliciously slowly, she didn’t appear in all episodes. In fact, she wasn’t even a regular until a few seasons in. She had character-centric episodes–yet John and Finch remained central. Always. If the writers were intuitive and natural, they wouldn’t have jumped to “let’s make Alex gay this season” or been unable to foresee this. They would’ve given appropriate perspective episodes, let Supergirl remain Kara-centric, and written Lima a proper, fleshed-out character and exit.
Frankly, Lima proved in “Far From the Tree” she’s better than Supergirl. She can lead a series.
For shippers, they failed “Sanvers”. For character development, writing and the actress: they failed Maggie Sawyer and Floriana Lima.
SUPERGIRL airs MONDAYS, at 9/8c on The CW.
*Statistical figure corrected from 1.6billion to 1.6million (28/10/17)
Maggie Sawyer could have been one of the most important lesbian characters especially on The CW, but they fudged it. It’s understandable: the coming-out story belonged to Alex Danvers, a series regular. But why bother introducing a career-driven recurring cast member if you won’t utilise her? Follow more of our Supergirl thoughts with our weekly livetweets and roundtables.
Slow clap. You hit the nail on the head in some many points. Supergirl execs/writers did Maggie dirty. The first gay character to headline their own book, one of the first to come out, and this is what this CW show did with her. They used her as a plot device, as a disposable lesbian. We are not disposable or interchangeable. Maggie’s story matters, and she deserved better than what they did with her. I’ll never forgive Supergirl for this.
#MaggieMatters and #FlorianaDeservesBetter
THANK YOU FOR THIS!! FINALLY SOMEONE SAID IT TO THEIR FACES
I’m so pleased with this article. This isn’t shipper-biased or Sanvers-biased and it’s not stanning Chyler or Floriana. It’s just a criticism of season two’s poor writing and giving alternatives to how to solve it, and in that you implicate how important Maggie should have been. Applause.
“she wasn’t of the racial origin the show claimed her to be”
uugh yes she is
She is a woc as much as racists want to claim otherwise…
When people will stop policing her racial and ethnic identities and invalidate her experiences?
Hi d. Apologies if that was misinterpreted. Firstly I don’t have an opinion on Maggie’s or the actress’ ethnicity. I myself am Chinese – I’m so used to people speaking mandarin rather than Cantonese to me. Hence when I am labelled “WOC” yes I accept it, but really, I am Hong Kong Chinese. So from my understanding people – and from research because I had to Google a lot – people expected her to be Latina. In the latest episode her dad is from Mexico. Lima is I believe Portuguese, Irish, English and Spanish but that geographically is what I interpret as Caucasian – nothing to do with her skin colour, by the way, just to state. But I hope that clarifies things and I hope you understand I’m not invalidating it personally. The actual sentence comments on the uproar(ish) of her “not being latina” — not whether she is or not. So what I say is “there was a mixed bag of reactions” –> “Firstly, she was not…etc” implying that the mixed bag of reactions — and of the many evidences I saw, which I can certainly collate if you wish though unsuitable for an article — were heavily complaining about this specific “Latina” remark — further instigated by her father being Mexican. So it is more a commentary on the chronological basis of these fan reactions — and nothing to do with my own (simply because it’s not my place — I’m here to critique the show’s storytelling and character failure, not racial issues). Hopefully that clears things up.
Racial implies race. Latina is not a race. Caucasian race is based on skull shape, and Caucasians range from very white to dark brown. Brown race, (a made up race by white racists with only purpose to discriminate against skin colour) is the race she belongs. She is a brown woman by skin colour alone.
That being said, those so called fans have attacked her not just for the Latina thing but also say things like “she is white in brown face” which is extremely racist by itself, and ignorant.
So using words like “racial origins” leads to that second thing and not the Latina issue.
If you are referring to the Latina thing alone then you shouldn’t use words that involve race.
On the Latina issue, again we don’t know fully her roots, her close friends refer to her as Latina, so maybe they know more than all of us?
And if we want to nitpick that much with nationalities and ethnicities, then what about David? He is a British actor, taking a role that could have been for a black American. (you know if we go to nitpick everything it turns way too ugly, so it would be nice if people like you who write articles and influence people, would refrain from mentioning fandom idiocy, that led to endless bullying of the actress in social media.
Maggie said she is non-white in 2×03, the actress is a non-white woman, so their racial origins are perfectly aligned.
Hi again and thanks for the educational insight & yes you are right – I worded it insensitively and where I didn’t see it before, I see it now. Believe me when I say I know the sensitivity of racial and ethnic issues. As for Floriana’s ethnicity, I don’t find it important in an article that critiques the story telling failure of a character. There are lots of articles out there criticising this situation and this is not one of them.
As for “black American” could you clarify what the criteria would be? If he were black yet with an American accent, is he not black … With an American accent? The faults I pointed out lay with the many articles critiquing the way the channel handled her casting – nothing to do with character or actress! Maggie in the comics is white and blonde! So as a “WOC” I take zero offense – it is commentary on a large proportion of critique I have researched and if you seek offense in that I apologise but I only aim to report what I factually read, be those facts or not.. does that make sense? I would report them because it is fact but by no means justify them as fact.
I don’t believe I influence anyone to be frank – I am of British nationality with Hong Kong Chinese ethnicity. I am well aware of the difference between race, ethnicity and nationality. I sincerely apologise you took offence to an article that does not take into account a character’s ethnicity as it does her lack of utility in season two, and it is my great shame that that message did not carry across. For articles — you needn’t worry, I have no intention of following Supergirl. However I recognise the sensitivity of this topic and its wording. I will keep it to recognise any error you point out — I won’t pretend I’m infallible. It is very fuzzy in the sense that federal law actually combines race and ethnicity i.e. the government legally allows, in the US, to have a Hispanic individual identify as any race. They are ethnically Hispanic but can be racially anything. Of course say if they were in Britain over ten years they’d be nationally British — so that’s where lingo from different countries (here I’m British and ethnically Chinese) crossover. But I understand, and I can’t guarantee I won’t slip up again — but I appreciate the education from your standpoint. Again, I want to clarify this article has zero relevance to her Latina origins or not — it is a critique on her character arc and the story. But yes, thank you indeed.
Just to clarify with my own comment as it probably came off angrier than I wanted it to be,
You see it is the first thing you mention in your article, which I find it unfortunate, and I totally accept your explanation on why, but because of the impact it had on the actress, I just felt it was just wrong to be there, that’s all(I don’t feel offended by it). I didn’t criticize the rest of your article, and in fact you have valid points about the character and the show. But I want you to understand also why this comment about racial origins is unfortunate (which you did understand so my comment served its purpose).
As for David, he is a British man, and while he certainly has experienced racism for being black, he doesn’t have the same experiences as a black American. (which is a nitpick similar example to the Latina argument, which is not the point of the article, so unnecessary to discuss further, but just to clarify, I have nothing against David, or the fact that he is not American)
Anyway thank you for taking the time to reply to my comments. I understand where you are coming from. It was just something that rubbed me off the wrong way because of what this discourse has caused to the actress herself.
On the matter of influence, believe it or not your article has been shared a lot, so you talked to people’s hearts. Your words matter.
Hey there — please don’t apologise! I appreciate the education. I think though without making excuses I am from a culture where race is ethnicity is nationality, and only when I grew up I differed them . I admit I still get race and nationality mixed up (not ethnicity – I know this as me being ethnically Chinese but nationally British…but racially? I’d say Chinese and other would say English) so it’s very muddled to me. But yes don’t worry I took no offence – and for David I guess you find many examples like that across HW. like our “British invasion” haha. It’s a matter of clarity between three factions IMO- actor, production and fan-base. If they are in harmony and understanding there should be no issue. These days there always seems to be. But I hope you know too I only mention the content of the article to misdirect from what I misread your comment as – something just about her ethnicity – which it isn’t. And I know there’s misunderstanding both sides so I do apologise for that. I will keep the racial comment as it is though because it has provoked such discussion and I think if it’s educational to me then hopefully it can be to others. I confess I’m not aware of the full discourse (I only saw VERY angry ones about it) so I couldn’t comment fairly.
On the last note –im truly not aware (except some twitter interaction) but I’m grateful if it has. Thank you and so do yours! 🙂
(There is no reply button on your last comment so this is a reply to that)
I think I just understood why the misunderstanding happened.
It is the way you use the word race, and how I use it.
You say you are Chinese and British, which is ethnicity/nationality, what I mean by race is Asian, Black, Caucasian (biology, skull shape based), and Brown (skin colour based)
they are more of umbrella terms than specific to culture/geography
Which is exactly why my mind instantly went off about the use of race. but from your description of oneself it seems that you use “race” differently which explains why this whole misunderstanding happened.
Thanks again for replying.
PS: I’m not going to bother you about it any longer
No worries I think you brought up a very valid point and actually — though you didn’t change my mind you opened my perception more and I realise my right in my culture is of course not the same and vice versa. It’s a very delicate topic – luckily I am not touchy about it – but I appreciate it being pointed out. 🙂
ETA: Thanks “J” for asking for a stop to this. It really is not about Lima’s ethnicity or racial identity. However, to “d.” thank you for the information — I’ve been doing some extra reading around the topic and I hope I am more educated on it now. We’ll see. But I feel hopeful, and I understand perhaps the terminology should’ve been “ethnic”. I’m sure Lima’s nationality is American, or so maybe she identifies, and as for her racial construct, I admit I am not too sure. But I’ll keep reading because even I too easily confuse them, and rarely consider the impact it may have on others reading it. So thank you all for your help.
Mic drop Nicola Choi
I’m literally hispanic – I’m Puerto Rican, and what you’re saying is rubbish. Ethnically I am latina, racially and nationally I am American because I lived here since my dad did. Flo has stated how proud she is of her heritage but doesn’t even mention latina. A quick search on her confirms she is Caucasian. The reviewer is actually right but it’s not even their opinion, if you.. READ THE ARTICLE it says that people were annoyed about her not being latina which is true
That comment is about fans NOT about Flo, producers etc so read closer and stop attacking a valid atticle
it’s not even about Flos ethnicity so what are you talking about?? I am latina and proud and i don’t think the writer was aware but Flo made it clear in interviews she was WOC not latina so your argument is invalid. You are flaming an article that has nothing to do with this issue. Theres a million other ones u can flame so go do that
This one makes a good point of screen time and using it properly. None of it is about race
Hello, can you point me in the direction of these interviews where flo says she’s not white? I don’t believe I’ve encountered those. Thanks!
Hey, I’m on my phone and not actually anywhere near resources right now but this article is from a latina writers POV and comments on some relevant things too such as casting processes. I don’t believe anything is about being non white – I think the role was advertised as latina and obviously her father in the show is from Mexico I believe. I just link these for further reading btw not any personal opinion — hopefully it’s of some use (esp since one is from a latina POV) — but I hope it is not a dent on her character or indeed how great she is (imo).
I’m sure there are others but I’m optimistic enough to think that nobody involved anywhere had any bad intent or anything. But I hope that helps and any further reading I’m sure you can find via Google 🙂 thank you!
Hey! Thanks for the reply and I’ve read those two. I completely agree with your article and thank you so much for writing it! It’s like all my feelings we’re finally validated haha.
But my comment was to Maria, as she said Flo had interviews where she says she is a WOC and not a white woman so I was to see/read those because ive never seen where spoke about that publicly. She has stated she has Irish, italian and English roots which would make her white, so..
I just realised after sending it (phone!!! Gaaahhh) but I honestly wish I could help. Literally her Wikipedia page says that and also further down the second article it’s quoted she says she’s a “proud and Italian” or something. I’m not too sure I’m afraid — truly this article is not about Floriana’s ethnicity at all, just a Maggie appreciation so I apologise I accidentally answered the question! I totally didn’t see until afterwards! All the best to you 🙂
Pretty sure all the information here covers it along with stuff Flo’s said. I don’t think anybody said anything about the color of her skin, only that she wasn’t Latinx and the CW still made her character Latinx and had her character talk about Latinx issues. I don’t see why there’s so many race comments on this article. It’s nothing about that – there was like half a sentence. So i apologise on behalf of the maggie / sanvers fandom, we appreciate your article a lot and said into words what we all thought so elegantly, so thank you.