Superboy and the Invisible Girl

I saw the musical Next to Normal last fall. It’s not a perfect musical, but covering mental health can be tricky. While I don’t agree with all of the messages the musical sends about mental health and healthcare, I thought the musical score was absolutely amazing.

The song, “Superboy and the Invisible Girl,” captures exactly what the daughter, Natalie, experiences in her family. It drives her perfectionism, it drives her music, it drives her unhappiness and her dive into drug abuse.

The message of the suberboy and the invisible girl resonates with how we treat males and females differently in our culture: Here is the over-achieving daughter struggling to rise to the praise and admiration saved for her older brother. Here is the mother diminishing herself to provide the best opportunities for her children. Here is the wife who works her way through a job she hates, who puts off having children or who places them in sub-standard daycare centers so that she can support her husband in graduate school. Here is the twelve-year-old girl who sees her male peers publicly praised and thanked each week for a duty she is not allowed to perform. Here is a Heavenly Mother, invisible and hidden with her Superhusband. Here is the eternal potential of so many women in the Church today. And here also is a parent answering back: You know I love you as much as I can (but your brother is the hero).

Superboy and the Invisible Girl, Next to Normal

Superboy and the Invisible Girl
Son of Steel and Daughter of Air
He’s a hero, a lover, a prince
She’s not there

Superboy and the Invisible Girl
Everything a kid oughtta be
He’s immortal, forever alive
Then there’s me

I wish I could fly
And magically appear and disappear
I wish I could fly
I’d fly far away from here

Superboy  and the Invisible Girl
He’s the one you wish would appear
He’s your hero, your savior, your son
He’s not here
I am here

You know that’s not true
You’re our little pride and joy, our perfect plan
You know I love you
I love you as much as I can

Take a look at the Invisible Girl
Here she is, clear as the day
Please look closely and find
her before she fades away

Superboy and the Invisible Girl
Son of Steel and Daughter of Air
He’s a hero, a lover, a prince
She’s not there
She’s not there
She’s not there
She’s not there



Alisa is a professional adult educator and corporate manager who enjoys spending time with her husband and son.

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10 Responses

  1. It’s funny this was posted today because last conference my husband and I saw this musical. It was really powerful and moving experience for us because of our circumstances . . . anyhow–I never thought of the connection you bring up here. Really interesting.

  2. KayG says:

    I was shocked the first time I heard a song that I’ve since heard sung fairly frequently by YW groups, “A Window to His Love,” by Julie de Azevedo. It includes lines like these:

    I want to be so pure and clear that you won’t even know I’m here…
    I want to stand so straight and tall, that you won’t notice me at all…
    And with each passing day, I want to fade away.
    And with each passing year, I want to disappear
    ‘Till only He can be seen And I become a window to His love.

    Unsurprisingly, I’ve not heard it sung by any YM groups!

    • Annie B. says:

      Wow, that’s more than a little disturbing.

    • Alisa says:

      I loved my EFY CDs when I was a YW, and I loved that Julie de Azevedo song. It is really pretty, and I think there is something beautiful about diminishing the ego and being more Christlike.

      What I didn’t realize is how before the ego can be overcome and given up, it has to exist. Start too early to diminish the self, and there is no self to give. Starfoxy put it so well in her recent post here:

      What is also scary is the gender lines. Young Men are taught to form an ego and a sense of self in service of the Lord, that through developing their skills they will be better to serve. My personal experience in YW, and by observing the grown women around me in my neighborhood, was that for women you were meant only to magnify men. I accepted that message, but it has been so expensive to me as I’ve moved into my career, my marriage, and other relationships. I’ve had to learn how to communicate my needs in a whole different way than what I learned when I grew up in the Church. I’ve had to learn even first that it is OK to have my own needs, and to not apologize. This has been tough.

    • alex w. says:

      🙁 Oh that’s awful.

  3. Jessawhy says:

    Thanks for this great post! I haven’t heard of this musical, so I’ll have to check it out on Youtube.

    Can you tell me more about the background or the playwright?

    The part that really struck me was, “I love you as much as I can” from the mother. Wow, that’s really true for so many reasons. I’ve always found it strange when I tell a women I have three sons and she says, “I only want boys, too.” It’s as if having sons are the ideal and it just baffles me. I was the eldest of three daughters and planned on having a few 😉

    • Alisa says:

      Well, in this musical, the mother has a mental illness, which contributes to her idealizing this image of her son so much, which in turn really harms her daughter. I shouldn’t say more than that without giving away some important plot elements.

      But it made me think more broadly–in what ways are our girls, our young wemen, and our women disappearing? Watch General Conference, and see the superboys and the invisible girls. Read the scriptures and see the same thing. It breaks my heart.

    • Alisa says:

      Also, there’s a hyperlink to the video in the OP. I wasn’t able to embed it for some reason.

  4. Blake says:

    As a Superman fanatic, I happen to know that there was in fact an “invisible girl” in the Adventure Comics series published by DC Comics. Her name was Phantom Girl and she had the amazing ability to be invisible and pass right through solid objects. Her power was her ability to be inconspicuous and could therefore learn and do what no one else could. I always thought she was amazing and powerful because she could do that. Now I have to rewrite my entire line of thinking on this issue.

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