As a young girl my mom took me to see the Supergirl movie. I was already enamored with her cousin, Superman. 36 years later, I remain affectionate towards the mostly maligned movie.
But one character still stands out and it’s not the DC comic heroine. It’s the female villain, Selena. Played to perfect camp by Faye Dunaway. Her flaming red hair, and signature stare, (which I know well from The Eyes of Laura Mars) sets the stage for an over the top role. Complete with statement necklaces and shoulder pads.
While the movie may not be so memorable, it does provide us with a stylish, sinister bad guy. Even if she rarely gets the credit.
Marvel and DC movies have always had issues with female representation. The famous scene in Avengers Endgame meant to show allegiance to all their female superheroes instead backfired. But I’m more focused on a lack of interesting female villains. With the exception of Cate Blanchett as Thor’s evil sister Hedda, I can’t think of one, worthy, evil woman.
Cue a revisit to Selena from the 1984 Supergirl movie.
A film all but forgotten. Though Supergirl herself, or Kara, did get a reboot. A hit TV show that ran on the CW for six seasons. Even featuring a villainess Selena with apparently no connection. A movie was even in the works at one point.
But 36 years after the original, Selena’s the star. An underrated antagonist to the DC heroine. And still one of my favorite superhero villains.
Selena is stylish and sarcastic. A mysterious and feisty redhead who practices witchcraft. Yet, doesn’t really possess powers. But she soon will. When the Omegahedron is accidentally released from Krypton and literally lands in her lap.
Like all good villains, she also has an awesome lair. An abandoned carnival that she has transformed into her home.
But she’s not just awesome because of her outfits and mannerisms. She’s relatable in a weird kind of way.
After acquiring the Omegahedron, and its powers, she’s not initially concerned with world domination. Her first priority is to get Ethan, the hunky, young carpenter she’s been eyeing to fall in love with her. She does this by making a truck come alive which scoops him up off the street to kidnap him. (Except Supergirl saves the day. Under a spell, he instantly becomes smitten with her instead.)
Selena also messes with a woman she’s annoyed with at a party. As payback, she spins her upside down by her feet until she falls.
Unlike other comic good vs evil tales, Selena and Supergirl’s begins not over the fight for humanity, but for a man. Once the misdirected spell makes Ethan fall for Supergirl, she becomes Selena’s nemesis.
Selena is the kind of villain I’d love to see more of in a superhero movie. A character who at heart is just a flawed human. I only wish we knew more of her backstory.
Ultimately, we don’t learn much about Selena. She has a best friend. The raspy voiced Bianca who she likes to boss around. Though the friendship also slightly softens her persona. Sidekick, and previous boyfriend Nigel is more like an accessory than a friend.
As her powers grow, her desire to rule grows stronger. But this is a villain whose powers are simply by chance. At the end of the day, Selena’s just a powerful scorned woman who let control get to her head.
Like in any good showdown, good prevails. Supergirl overpowers Selena. Sending both her and Bianca to the hellish Phantom Zone. It’s a downfall that I’m slightly ambivalent about if I’m being honest.
I get that she has to be stopped. But I wonder if we couldn’t have just let Selena go back to being an cool, eccentric witch who casts generally harmless spells.
Either way, she’s a memorable antagonist. One I would have liked to see more from. But any new back story movie is highly unlikely. So, we’ll have to stick to Supergirl ’84 to appreciate her greatness.