Superstore is unlike any other comedy on TV, but in the best possible way. The diverse cast has phenomenal chemistry that’s apparent in every episode and it touches on sensitive topics in a totally approachable way.
Anyone who has watched Superstore would first categorize it as a comedy, not an “issue of the week” kind of show. Yet the creators have managed to carefully insert conversations about relevant social issues throughout the seasons without sacrificing the comedic break from reality that everyone in this political climate needs.
Over the course of more than four seasons, they’ve managed to highlight ageism, homelessness, female leadership, unionization, and teen pregnancy in strategic, but funny ways. They’ve also included much larger story arcs around some of the biggest social issues that Americans deal with today. Here are a few of our favorites.
One of the show’s lead characters, Mateo (Nico Santos) is an undocumented immigrant from the Philippines. This storyline is cause for a lot of dramatics and shenanigans, but it comes to a head in season four when the Glenn discovers that Mateo is undocumented, but decides not to report him. But in the season’s finale, corporate headquarters plans a surprise ICE raid at the store and we see Mateo taken away as his friends stand there unable to do anything. Season five is now touching on the conditions in the ICE detention center and the legal battles he is going through to stay in the country.
2. Maternity Leave
Superstore didn’t shy away from the injustice of maternity leave from season one and they didn’t drop the issue as the show went on. In the first season, Cheyanne (Nichole Bloom) continues to work as she goes into labor because she needs to save as much money as possible to afford to take a leave of absence to care for her new baby.
In season four, Amy (America Ferrera) returns to the store after being suspended and later finds out that she is ineligible to take time off for maternity leave because her employment clock started over after her suspension. So, in order to keep her livelihood, she’s forced to show up to work still physically healing from giving birth, sleep-deprived, and hormonal AF (she delivers an epic monologue about it).
3. Accessible Healthcare
No matter where you stand on the healthcare topic, we can all agree it’s a hot mess and something needs to be done to fix it. Superstore expertly captured this reality in an episode where Jonah (Ben Feldman) and Amy develop a makeshift group health fund for fellow employees because their employer-sponsored insurance plan is too expensive. The fund quickly goes dry because some people need more care than others. As Jonah and Amy try to work through it, they realize just how impossible it is to meet everyone’s needs at an affordable price.
Later in the series, when Amy has her baby, she goes to a cushy (read: clean) hospital alongside the assistant store manager, Dina (Lauren Ash) who went into labor at the same time as her. Dina has better insurance than Amy since she’s upper management and stays at the nice hospital, and Amy is sent to an in-network clinic, that can only be described as “brown,” where she was forced to deliver her baby with an actual corpse in the hospital bed next to her.
4. Cultural Appropriation
Cultural appropriation is becoming more and more of a discussion, but it’s still confusing to some people. Thankfully Superstore has storylines for that. In one episode, Amy is asked to man the salsa sample station because of her Latinx heritage. She’s also asked to speak with an accent to really “sell” the concept. Amy is obviously offended, but Mateo (who is Philippino) is happy to step up, throw on an offensive sombrero, and speak in his best stereotypical accent.
5. The Pay Gap
If there’s any social issue Superstore does well, it’s bringing light to the pay gap within major corporations. The floor employees at the store make minimum wage (with small raises here and there, but not livable salaries by any means) while the assistant manager, store manager, and corporate-level employees make bank.
In an episode where floor employees are complaining about their salaries, the company provides them with a sample budget to help them cover their monthly costs, but it doesn’t even include a line-item for food.
Later in the series, Amy is promoted to store manager and accidentally announces her new salary over the store speaker (classic sitcom comedy), leaving floor employees disgruntled (to put it lightly) over the difference in pay.
6. Gun Control
Jonah is the resident liberal on Superstore, but he works at a store that sells guns and ammunition so, despite his anti-gun political beliefs, he’s asked to work behind the gun counter for a shift. He hilariously fumbles with bullets, knows absolutely nothing about any product customers ask him about, and ultimately declines to sell to several customers, including one he’s convinced is planning an attack on his former employer who just laid him off. The customer returns with a band of fellow gun advocates and they nearly take over the store.
7. Sexual Assault
Superstore wouldn’t be a topical show if it didn’t include a narrative on the #MeToo movement. There are a lot of moments to pick from, including relationships between superiors and subordinates, coworkers blatantly hitting on each other, and Amy hooking up with the pharmacist to prove she can land an attractive man (and his feelings being hurt by it).
One of the best moments, though, was during an employee meeting after Jonah and Amy were caught having sex (on camera) in the store and a 15-year-old employee asked Amy to have sex with him. Things quickly escalate and the team discusses what is and is not sexual harassment (because Glenn is basically scared to say anything to any woman, ever, in fear of it). Still, the show manages to make a very serious topic nothing short of hilarious.
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