Studies have shown that strong relationships are central to dealing effectively with stress. During times of severe isolation, political strife and health fears, people often look toward sources that reinforce that concept.
Among those sources: Media that depicts how positive human interconnection during times of stressful events can provide a lifeline in a sea of anxiety.
The CW and DC Universe streaming series Stargirl appears to be what so many preteens and teenagers are looking for as they deal with some of the most difficult years of their young lives. Superficially, this 10-part superhero show represents a heavy clash between good and evil. But when you take a deeper dive into the show, you uncover three relationship elements that can actually comfort children and teenagers at a time when stability is sorely needed.
Stepfather Stepdaughter Relationship
Parent-child relationships can be both rewarding and challenging. But when the relationship involves a stepparent and child, the challenges can be even greater. In the case of Stargirl, these are compounded when central figure Courtney loses her birth-father early in life. So how effectively can Courtney’s stepfather, Pat, build and enhance that all-important father-daughter bond?
This question is a major focal point in Stargirl. While bookstores and professional reports are filled with numerous reflections and opinions on the stepfather-stepdaughter relationships, Stargirl gently and sensitively explores the question in a uniquely entertaining way.
It begins with Courtney’s simmering hostility toward Pat early in the story. Courtney was upset that Pat had moved her and her mother from their Los Angeles area home to a small town in the middle of the country. However, as Pat and Courtney began to share evil-thwarting adventures against a wide array of adversaries, a close bond began to form. They recognized the strengths, courage and goodness in each other, and that strengthened their relationship.
Humor is essential to building strong relationships. Fortunately, Stargirl inserts numerous instances of comic relief into otherwise tense moments. The viewer is given a taste of this, as well as a character introduction, in the first moments when a superhero lies mortally wounded. His words to Pat Dugan spell out how teens may view the stepdad, with rolled eyes: “The Justice Society must live on…Someone with honor, strength must carry the torch…not you. Someone with grace and heroism.”
For young viewers, these words in the middle of a stressful scene create an image of a character with whom they could safely bond. That sets the stage for Stargirl herself
. Enduring Friendship
According to executive producer Geoff Johns, relationship stories don’t not pay off if they don’t contain deeply emotional elements. Stargirl certainly delivers on that. The show’s central heroes are social outcasts. Some have built up impenetrable walls and find it difficult to connect with others. The viewer watches their failed and stressful attempts to find friendships before the protagonists learn to work together. But the stories go beyond simple bond-building, both that’s that work and those that don’t. A major focus of the show is how the characters learn to forgive one another other even as frailties and mistakes threaten to tear them apart.
When viewed through the eyes of a parent, guardian, teacher, coach, or other caring adult figures, Stargirl is an important show in these challenging times. Some viewers may focus on the strength the good characters show in the fight against evil. But for many younger viewers, the positive nature of ever-changing, ever-challenging interpersonal relationships is what draws them to this entertaining series week after week.