“Batwoman” is here, queer, and bringing important gender representation to the Arrowverse

Kate Kane leans back on her motorcycle, reading a piece of paper to her lover, Sophie Moore: “‘I hereby deny the allegation of homosexual conduct,’ blah blah blah. Kiss my ass.” She crumples the paper and smiles at the woman she loves conspiratorially, inviting her to forget the charges and run away to the Mediterranean.

Shaking her head, Moore explains that she signed the letter and told them what they needed to hear to allow her to stay enrolled in the military academy where the two met. In shock, Kane tries to convince Moore to come with her, but Moore is resolute, telling Kane she doesn’t love her and wants her to leave. Tears well in both their eyes before Moore walks away, leaving a heartbroken Kane standing alone.

Kane’s disappointment and feeling of betrayal is palpable. And for those of us who have been there, who have had their lovers turn away in denial because of who we are—not to mention those of us who have been discharged from the military for our sexuality prior to the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell—it is a powerful reminder that queerness is in and of itself a superpower. It’s also a sign glowing as brightly as the outline of a bat in the night sky: THIS SERIES IS GONNA BE QUEER AF.

We’ve been waiting for the premiere of Batwoman since we got a taste of the new caped crusader during last fall’s Arrowverse Crossover: “Elseworlds.” Despite some bumpy moments—the pilot goes to great lengths to set up Kate Kane’s backstory and qualifications to be Batwoman—it’s safe to say we’re in for a very fun, quite queer ride.

When the pilot begins, Kane (Ruby Rose) is submerged in a frozen lake, undergoing survival training so she can join her father’s private army: Crows Private Security. She is called back to Gotham when Moore (Meagan Tandy), who now works for Kane’s father, is kidnapped by the mysterious, Lewis Carroll-themed supervillain, Alice (Rachel Skarsten).

Batman has been missing from Gotham for three years. In his absence, Crows, a kind of hyper-militarized pseudo-police force, has risen to provide security to Gotham and its citizens. So, for a new villain to kidnap one of their own on the very night that Gotham was set to turn off the Bat-Signal, a symbolic gesture of giving up on Batman, is not only ill-fated, but undermines the public’s belief in Crows’ ability to protect them. It turns out that was exactly Alice’s goal.

Alice proves too clever and unpredictable for the Crows, but she meets her match in Kane, who tracks her down to two different locations—eventually disarming her goon squad and facing Alice herself in combat.

Through this rapid turn of events, the 45-minute pilot establishes our villain, a love interest, our new hero, and the world around her, which one writer has describedas “not your father’s Gotham.” Not only is this Gotham a bleak vision of a city under the fascist control of a military force, but also a richly diverse world filled with people who are women, queer, Black, and Brown. This Gotham is one at odds—torn between the rich who want to move on and the poor who live in fear; between a weakened municipal government and a missing vigilante; between a father who rules through absolute power and a daughter who plays by her own rules.

Kane dons the cowl after realizing her father does not want her and the Crows do not want her; in reality, she realizes no one has ever wanted her. She takes up Batman’s mantle because she’s finally found a place to belong. (Let’s just hope Bruce doesn’t get too mad that his younger cousin has taken over his second life while he’s away.)

There’s a lot to love about this somewhat uneven first episode, but my absolute favorite part—and I’m guessing it’s why you’ll love it too—is how totally queer the world is set up to be. Kane’s origin story is intrinsically queer: If she hadn’t been kicked out of the academy, she wouldn’t be on her own path to redemption. The world of Gotham is queered in that nothing is what it seems, not Kane’s seemingly vapid step-sister, not Alice’s identity, not the Crows who promise to help. The relationship between Kane and Moore is queer and deeply complicated; we learn Moore is married to a man, though the sexual tension between Kane and Moore is…let’s just say WOWZA. Perhaps the queerest aspect of Batwomanis the simple fact that Kane is a lesbian played by a lesbian who is genderfluid.

Until recently, we’ve been waiting for queer superheroes onscreen, but Kane will enter a world already filled with queer heroes on Legends of TomorrowArrow, and Black Lightning, all set in the same universe as Batwoman. However, Rose will be the only queer actor to play an explicitly queer role. (It is worth noting that several queer actors have appeared on Legends of Tomorrow, but to date only one has played an openly queer role—which lasted for only a handful of episodes.) For those of us who have been longing for superhero gender diversity, Rose brings authenticity to the role, representing queer people who are masculine, feminine, and neither, all rolled up in one.

Fundamentally,Batwoman has laid the foundation for a story about rejection, reckoning with the past and ourselves, and self-creation, concepts that reflect aspects of the queer experience™, for better or worse. Kate Kane becomes Batwoman not just to help, but to have an identity she feels empowered by, something many LGBTQ+ people can probably relate to.

When Alice pushes Moore over the edge of a building, sending her hurtling toward certain death, Kane, wearing an altered version of Batman’s suit, jumps after her. She catches her, pulls her into herself, and breaks their fall as they plummet through the roof of a building.

A trembling Moore tries to catch her breath, still in Kane’s arms. Kane moves a piece of hair out of Moore’s face with a tenderness that is breathtaking. And when Moore realizes the person who saved her is not the Batman, not a man at all, Kane places a finger against her lips to shush her. They look into one another’s eyes and for a moment it seems they will kiss. This time it is Kane who walks away, leaving Moore alone.

To see a superhero in their suit live out their sexuality as a queer person, to see a smaller woman rock the suit of a large male hero (and make it look good), to see Ruby Rose as our Batwoman, the Batwoman for every lesbian, bisexual, queer woman and nonbinary person, is to feel hope for a better future for superheroes: Superheroes who are here, queer, and unapologetic.

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