All the reasons ‘Supergirl”s Nia Nal is the hero we all deserve
Supergirl, unlike the Arrowverse shows, hasn’t really had a stable bastion of other heroes for Kara Danvers (Melissa Benoist) to call on. For the most part, she never really needed them. Unlike most Arrowverse heroes, KARA works with a government agency so, you know, there are people she can call on there. But they’re government employees, not recognized heroes like says Team Arrow’s roster.
Yes, Kara has J’onn (David Harewood) and James (Mehcad Brooks), but J’onn had his own character development to go through. As for James Olsen? We’re still not sure that the writers remember that he was Guardian.
In season four, it was announced that a new hero was joining the Superfriends. Nia Nal (Nicole Maines) was historic character for television as a whole. She is the first transgender superhero on a live-action television series. As the season unfolded, fans found that Nia is kind, brave, and noble as she struggles with her emerging powers. Eventually, she becomes the hero known as Dreamer.
It’s time to give Nia Nal some love. It’s always amazing to see someone come into their own as a hero. The journey for Nia is one of the best in the Arrowverse (other hero additions can get somewhat dicey).
Hero without the mask
In the beginning of her journey as Supergirl, Kara Danvers is a pushover in her civilian life. Part of it’s due to suppressing her powers and her identity for so long, trying to fit in and be normal. It’s something she has to grow out of in the early days of season one.
Nia, however, is not the kind of person to stand idly by when she witnesses discrimination. When Brainy’s (Jesse Rath) image inducer fails at a pizzeria in “Fallout”, he faces some harsh, xenophobic discrimination from the owners. It got to a point when it looked like they were going to physically assault Brainy. Nia, at risk to herself, got between Brainy and the owner, standing her ground.
Maines does a great job in the scene. It’s clear that Nia is terrified, which makes sense. Our trans brothers and sisters are statistically more likely to be assaulted or outright killed for being who they are. Even so, even with that fear, Nia is able to deescalate the situation so she and Brainy can leave the pizzeria safely.
We don’t want to make Nia sound like a stoic, somber hero. She’s not. Nia likes Harry Potter and cracks jokes. She’s awkward around a guy that she likes. Brainy and her interactions are always a delight, especially in the early days of Nia’s crush on him. It’s clear she likes him so much – while Brainy just doesn’t know what to do with these new feelings.
Nia’s also always ready to help one of her new friends in National City. Whether by helping Kara with her “Aliens of National City” article series or offering support to James, she’s there for them. Yes, it’s part of her job. Another part of it is her genuine affection for the people around her.
When she sees Kelly Olsen (Azie Tesfai) run into the bathroom after she had minor panic attack, Nia goes after to make sure that the other woman is okay, which blossomed into a friendship.
Plenty of badass moments
Nia has some awesome moments once she comes into her own in the back half of season four. Battling against the fascist and anti-alien Children of Liberty with Kara out of commission, Nia makes sure to keep people safe and kick major butt while doing so.
In “American Dreamer”, there’s a moment during which Nia blasts the Children of Liberty with her Dream energy, causing a jukebox to play “American Woman” by Lenny Kravitz. It’s the coolest freaking scene. Ever.
But nothing beats the season four finale, in which Nia and J’onn overload Lex’s device that’s using aliens as living batteries with their psychic energy. It’s the moment that snaps Brainy back to himself and has him declaring his love for her. We were feeling the same way.
Unafraid to be vulnerable
An issue that a lot of heroes have is a reluctance to be vulnerable with other people, to show that soft underbelly so to speak. Nia, however, doesn’t have that fear. She’s not afraid to share her truth and perspective with the world.
After her sister (Hannah James) says she doesn’t deserve her powers because she’s “not a real woman” – Nia’s powers are passed down to women in her family – she shows how much that comment hurts. (Side note: This plotline really needs to be resolved in season five, Supergirl). Nia’s not afraid to share her feelings with Kara, which in turn allows Kara to reveal her identity to Nia. This puts Nia on a path to becoming Dreamer.
When Nia and Brainy have issues with boundaries in their nascent relationship, they fix it with honest vulnerability.
Nicole Maines: Trans activist
Nicole Maines is just as much of a hero to the trans community out of the show as in. Maines has been out as trans from a very young age, saying she knew she was a girl at three years old.
While in elementary school in Maine, Maines was allowed to use the girls’ washroom as she was already living as female at that point in time. When one of the guardians complained, she was made to use the staff washroom instead of the female. Due to this, Maines and her family sued the school in the case of Doe v. Regional School Unit 26.
The lawsuit came out with an extremely favorable ruling for the plaintiff. A student in Maine can since use any bathroom consistent with gender identity. Since then, Maines has been an activist for trans causes, even allowing herself to become a subject of a book about her and her family (Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family by Amy Ellis Nutt).