It stands to reason that you, upon intentionally googling or organically happening upon the trailer for a new project called Stargirl this morning, might have ended up a little confused. Maybe you were looking for a superhero drama and wound up with a manic pixie dream girl rom-com, or maybe you found yourself in precisely the reverse predicament. As the fates would have it, there are two new projects called Stargirl—one coming to The CW and one coming to Disney+—and they both just dropped trailers. So here’s a bit of clarification.
First, the CW joint. This one is a dramatic TV show produced by Geoff Johns, and seems fairly in step with most of the superhero material he has brought to the network. The series follows the DC Comics hero Courtney Whitmore (played here by Brec Bassinger) as she inherits the mantle from the age-old hero Starman. Appearing alongside Bassinger are familiar faces like Luke Wilson and Joel McHale, along with a batch of newcomers.
Frankly, this is the project you probably already know a few things about, as DC has shared a few looks at the series already, and we’ve done some of our own thinking on the subject. One thing we can’t say yet is exactly when this series will hit The CW, though we know it’ll be sometime in 2020, and presumably on the earlier side of the year.
So let’s get to the next bit: an entirely different thing titled Stargirl!
First, the basic distinctions: this one’s a movie and it’s coming to Disney+. As far as we can tell from this first look, Stargirl shows all the familiar signs of the manic pixie dream girl trope (a term originally coined by film critic Nathan Rabin in reflection on 2005’s Elizabethtown) in its title character—yes, her name is Stargirl, as said trailer would have us believe. She dresses sort of like a cartoon character, speaks in whimsical epithets, tosses herself on the ground in a devil-may-care fashion, invokes the cathartic pleasures of screaming for “the universe to hear you,” and—yes—plays the ukulele. For bonus points, she’s accompanied by a lilting rendition of The Beach Boys’ “Be True to Your School.”
But a manic pixie dream girl is not defined by her accoutrement alone. She is identifiable by her drive to bring new light into a maudlin young man’s heart, while neither she nor the world around her seem all too considered with what’s going on inside hers. We cannot yet know how Stargirl will function in regard to properly exploring the inner-workings of its title character, but hopefully she’ll get a fairer shake at being a realized human being than some of her forebears did.
Though we often speak of manic pixie dream girls with a bit of a sour taste in our mouths, it’s not the quirky attitudes and behaviors that inspire such bile. In the most regrettable executions of the trope, we see male screenwriters and filmmakers eschew any interest in investigating the humanity in their female lead, treating her solely as a conduit to a male character’s self-betterment. Obviously, this is the sort of thing we’d like seen put to rest. So while Stargirl looks as cute and charming as any family-friendly high school-set romantic comedy we’d want or expect from Disney, we do hope it has more on its mind for Stargirl herself than just making its moody teen fella feel better. (We’ll have to actually watch the movie to find that one out!)
Stargirl stars Grace VanderWaal as the title character, and packs a cast including Graham Verchere, Giancarlo Esposito (also looking pretty quirky in his faculty garb), and Darby Stanchfield. The film is an adaptation of a 20-year-old novel by writer Jerry Spinelli (himself most famous for Maniac Magee) and is directed by Julia Hart, who gave us last year’s intriguing superhero drama Fast Color. Stargirl hits Disney+ on March 13.
Featured Image: The CW/Disney