Poking holes in the concept of Kara’s glasses effectively hiding her identity, saying, “this character would be too smart not to know so they must have secretly figured it out by now” is like poking holes in the science of Supergirl’s powers and saying “there’s no biological way for heat to shoot out of someone’s eyes in a beam, so Kara’s powers don’t actually work in the show. Kara is a magician and it’s an illusion.”
It just doesn’t make sense, given the assumed suspension of disbelief that goes along with these things.
For one, Kara’s disguise is canonicallyveryeffective (Like, it’s worked so far. Just accept it), but also importantly, whether or not someone can see through Kara’s disguise does not depend on how intelligent they are.
It depends on:
A. If they notice something that doesn’t add up (or adds up too well),
B. If they have reason and opportunity to really think about why it doesn’t add up,
and C. If when they do wonder why it doesn’t add up, there isn’t an available answer that is simpler than “my friend is actually secretly a superhero.”
Notice that this list doesn’t include “is smart enough to suddenly see through Kara’s disguise for no reason, when they couldn’t before” because all of these characters are highly intelligent and would have figured it out immediately if it were a factor.
It’s just not obvious that Kara looks exactly like Supergirl in this world, or everyone would just already know.
The show makes some effort to make it seem kind of believable, but it’s still a fact of the universe as illogical and yet very canon as Kara’s flying capabilities are.
Just because Maggie said the glasses aren’t a very good disguise doesn’t mean they actually don’t work. It was more the show making fun of itself than anything.
Maggie didn’t figure it out because Kara looks like Supergirl. She figured it out because Alex was weirdly distraught over Supergirl, and Maggie tried to figure out why.
A. Maggie notices that Alex is acting unexpectedly and emotionally, and it caused her to break it off with Maggie.
B. This confusing reaction of Alex’s impacted Maggie greatly, so she spent time thinking about what happened, because figuring it out was important.
C. It’s hard to know exactly how Maggie got rid of other, simpler possibilities, but we were told it was something like “Alex cares about Supergirl. But Alex only cares this intensely about one person, Kara. It’s more likely that Kara and Supergirl are the same person than it is that Alex cares about someone else this much.”
When Cat figured it out:
A. Noticed that Kara slipped up by saying she heard someone who she couldn’t have heard
B. Was grateful to Kara for saving her job, surprised at how effective she was, and had promised to get to know Kara better. So she had reason to go over everything, especially since she was being forced to reevaluate how she sees Kara and was probably trying to Figure Her Out.
C. Cat seemed to comb through a lot of information that didn’t match up with Kara. Things she noticed (A) but didn’t have motivation (B) to figure out until Kara surprised her. This left Cat with remembering a lot of instances of things that didn’t add up about Kara that she was trying to understand all at once. So she came up with this comparatively simple conclusion, this one answer that fits everything rather than a different answer for each oddity.
From this point on, after Kara is seen with Supergirl, the concept is present in Cat’s mind, so all Cat really needs is A. to get the ball rolling.
This is why Cat is the only character who I will accept “secretly knows” headcanons about.
Lucy is an interesting case, where her stating that she didn’t realize Kara was Supergirl was because she didn’t want to know. This implies that she either
A. Noticed something, B. had reason to think about it and C. came to the right conclusion, on some level, but then suppressed the thought before it was fully formed
A. Noticed something but then, before she could get to B, stopped herself. She had motivation not to look more closely.
Now. Lets suppose some evidence is presented to Lena, for whom I’ve seen the most “she must know!!!” posts as of late.
The proposal is that because she’s a genius and she’s been given some evidence, she must necessarily know.
Let’s address a few of these instances.
“I was getting coffee with Kara Danvers when you called.”
A. Did Lena notice that she was getting coffee, of all things, with Supergirl, late at night? I mean probably not, she just almost died. But let’s suppose she did.
B. Did Lena have any comparative reason or time to think about why this weird thing happened? Probably not, since she had important info for Supergirl and also in case you forgot, almost died. But let’s again suppose she did really think about it.
C. Are there no simpler explanations? Well, just off the top of my head, Supergirl is Kara’s biggest source and would be relevant to the article Kara is writing, so it’s not strange to hear that they were together. Even at night. Reporters have weird hours, and superheroes probably would too. Lena herself was working when she called. And if they were busy working at night, they caffeine from coffee would keep them up. Takes a second to figure out, but it’s not as far-fetched as “maybe these two people are actually only one!”
Mon-El and Mike are the same person, an alien and knows both Kara Danvers and Supergirl
Noticed it conceptually, wouldn’t say she’d be thinking about how weird it is since she’s kinda busy, but I’d just say Lena would assume Kara knows all the Important Aliens and people surrounding these alien affairs.
“I flew here…on…on a bus.”
A. Probably too busy thinking about the interview and having her head in business mode to notice. But if she did-
B. Possible “huh weird way to say that” with no extra thought. But if she did-
C. “She was talking about how quickly the bus was going and then forgot the word for bus for a second. It happens.” or just like “She’s nervous for some reason.” like literally anything would make more sense than “She literally traveled here by flight.”
Now the example most often presented for the opposing argument is when Lena realized Rhea said “Gods” instead of “God.”
But let me show you why she figured it out in this case (beyond ‘the writers wanted drama’).
A. Noticed. Her sole focus was on Rhea and it was followed by a pause in activity, so she would definitely catch it.
B. Had motivation to look further into it because she was actively analyzing her new possible business partner anyway. She had a lot at stake professionally and emotionally (since she felt an emotional pull immediately), so of course she’s on high alert. (Contrast to Kara who is usually rather non-threatening during the context of her slip-ups. Now, if she had made a mistake when she was Supergirl and accusing Lena’s mother, Lena would have been already analyzing Kara and chances of discovery would have been higher.)
C. Rhea being an alien isn’t as far-fetched as Kara being Supergirl (or even Kara being an alien, since Lena thinks she proved she wasn’t one) so I don’t think we need to do as much work on this one. But there are only a couple options for Rhea’s slip up. She’s a human polytheist (somewhat rare, and she’s not exactly the stereotype of one), she accidentally added an ‘s’ as a vocal mistake (but she’s so composed otherwise, so it’s out of character), or she’s an alien (something that is increasingly common and something that is on Lena’s mind due to her new technologies and ideological ponderings as of late. Whereas, conversely, she may not even know that Supergirl having a secret identity is a possibility.)
So I don’t think it’s unrealistic that Lena doesn’t know Kara isn’t Supergirl, once you get past the obvious fact that they have the same face.
And I think, mostly, that once the slip up occurs and assuming the character noticed it and thought about it, people are asking the wrong question.
It’s not “Are they smart enough to put this together?”
It’s “Is there no other, more reasonable conclusion for them to come to?”
And I think that people keep making this mistake because they’re unwilling to accept that, in Supergirl, Kara Danvers just doesn’t obviously look like Supergirl.
It’s Occam’s razor.
The simplest answer is often the correct answer.
But fans have been applying it to our universe’s rules, when these rules have been redefined in Supergirl’s universe.
Just accept that everyone on Earth 38 just has really poor facial recognition skills.
If Andrew was caught at the convenience store with only a handful of change in his pockets, enough to buy either cat food or his fave ice cream but not both, I wholeheartedly believe Andrew would buy that cat food and if that doesn’t speak volumes about how much he ‘likes’ the cats then nothing does.