Naomi is The CW’s newest DCTV series, and it changes up the familiar format quite a bit. Those of us who tune in to the rest of DC’s network TV slate (The Flash, Superman & Lois, Batwoman and the rest) are comfortable with the idea that in certain universes, superheroes are real, some of them are aliens from another planet, and if you visit a major city in the U.S., you’re likely to see them speeding, flying or driving a number of pretty badass vehicles through the streets.
Naomi, however, is set in a different part of the multiverse, one in which superheroes are celebrated in pop culture, comics and fansites. It’s far less fantastical and very familiar to those of us who live outside of the TV—until, that is, “regular teen” Naomi McDuffie has an unexpected episode while racing to get to the center of her “very normal” town to view what she thinks is a Superman stunt performed by actors in fancy harnesses. Suddenly, everything she thought she knew turns out to be wrong and she learns that alien superheroes are, in fact, very real. (Sadly, this made me realize that the show isn’t set in our universe either, unless there’s something the good folks at DC aren’t telling us about the truth of our reality…)
Discovering what’s real quickly becomes an obsession for Naomi, who has a lot of difficulties believing that she is anything but what she’s always known herself to be: someone special, sure, but more for her highly ranked Superman fansite and killer fashion sense and less for the truth about the circumstances of her birth and the extraordinary abilities she might have.
It’s a struggle I’m all too familiar with. Not, sadly, because I once found out that I was from another planet or have superheroic powers, but because I read a lot of middle grade (MG) and young adult (YA) fiction. The “chosen one” trope is one that pops up time and time again (think a uniquely scarred boy wizard for a specific example) in part because it’s one that’s surprisingly easy to relate to, even for those of us who are pretty normal examples of our universe’s humanity.
Characters who are chosen ones are those who find out that they’re something more than they realized, and on top of that, they often have some great destiny to fulfill. More often than not, they struggle with the idea and the weight put on their shoulders, and they usually fail many times before succeeding.
But that’s not the part that’s easiest to relate to. Rather, it’s that they don’t believe this revelation about themselves until they’re either forced to or they do enough research and investigation to realize that what they once thought impossible was just a fact that they hadn’t yet fully examined and defined. This kind of introspection is so very human, even if it ends up helping these chosen ones become more than human. It’s particularly prevalent in MG and YA stories because childhood, even the most regular kind, is filled with moments of growth and change and feeling like you’re not quite what you’re supposed to be…yet. It’s a trope that’s also likely familiar to comic fans. Any superhero origin story also features similar identity-determining/soul-searching themes.
Naomi is a prime example of a chosen one, and a great mix of aspects from both YA pop culture and comics. I’m sure we’ll see her go down a familiar (if unique to her) path as the show continues. Her obsession will eventually lead to truth, and although she’ll struggle and fall down along the way, I’m certain she’ll eventually figure out exactly who she is. Even if that changes many times over the course of her life.
After all, growth and change are what being a person—and you’ll notice I didn’t say “human” (*wink wink*)—is all about.
Naomi returns tonight with an all-new episode at 8 p.m. (7 p.m. CST) on The CW. To unlock the truth about Naomi McDuffie, visit our official series page.
Mandy Curtis writes about comics, specifically DC’s Young Adult line, and TV for DCComics.com. You can find her on Twitter at @mandyannecurtis.
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of Mandy Curtis and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros.