Despite the solo-nature of the show’s name, DC’s Stargirl centers on not just one teenager but a group of them. It has been a bright light in a TV landscape where superheroes are a dime a dozen — and one of the brightest spots in the show has been the character of Wildcat, aka Yolanda Montez, played by Yvette Monreal.
Comic book fans will recognize the name, as Wildcat isn’t a new character, and Montez isn’t the first person to don the cowl. But she isn’t exactly a newbie, either. Yolanda’s iteration of the character has been around since 1985 and a member of the Justice Society of America for a fair bit of time. The show picks up on the idea of making Yolanda part of a four-member team that includes the titular Stargirl, Hourman, and Dr. Mid-Nite.
On the surface, it’s classic superhero fare. But the show still takes time to focus on the teenagers behind the superhero suits. And even though Yolanda’s backstory – and her family – have gotten less screen time than we would have liked, there’s still enough to understand where Yolanda is coming from and why she makes the decisions she makes.
So, what drives a straight-A student with a bright future towards such a complex, thankless road as a superhero? In Yolanda’s case, it’s broken trust and the weight of disappointing her family. Her origin story, which involves a leaked nude, a boy who didn’t stand up for her, and a girl who became her friend when no one else wanted to be, might not be your typical origin story, but it feels real to 2021. Most importantly, it feels authentic to who Yolanda is and the community she was raised in, one that, in many respects, is still beholden to conservative ideals of old.
Stargirl, which has already been renewed for season 3, has a lot more story to tell with Yolanda. Her superhero self still hasn’t even scratched the surface of her powers. And she’s got some moral issues to contend with, issues that tie directly to her religion and the fact that, to save her team, Yolanda was forced to end someone in the season one finale. For a practicing Catholic like Yolanda, that’s not the kind of decision that can just be hand waved away. Plus, there’s Yolanda, the friend, Yolanda, the daughter, Yolanda, the sister, and Yolanda, the person to contend with.
Recently, fans celebrated Sasha Calle’s casting as the new DC Extended Universe’s (DCEU) Supergirl, wowing to support The Flash movie because of her inclusion. Calle, however, is playing a Kryptonian, so her identity isn’t likely to be a prominent feature of the film. Monreal’s Yolanda, on the other hand, is a character deeply rooted in the kind of Catholic upbringing many Latine families have at the center of their kindred’s identity, and that’s why watching her navigate what this means – and who she can be, or even wants to be despite that – is both a very different journey than we’re accustomed to seeing and a more rewarding one.
Superheroes are everywhere. Not many of them feel as close to us as Yolanda Montez does, and that’s likely by design. It’s hard not to feel invested considering that.
DC’s Stargirl airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on the CW.