We’re in a golden age of comic book TV shows and movies, but LGBTQ+ women continue to find representation lacking. There have been some good examples, such as Alex Danvers on Supergirl and Sara Lance on Legends of Tomorrow. However, for the most part, LGBTQ+ women haven’t had much of a face in comic book media – until now, with the CW’s Batwoman.
Being both a lesbian and a fan of comic book media, the lack of representation has been hard for me to swallow. I love seeing superheroes beat the bad guys, but it becomes frustrating when time and time again those heroes are straight and cisgender. Lack of representation communicates that my community is not important to those that have the power to give us that representation. The United States might be a better place for LGBTQ+ people than it has been in the past, but it is still not ideal. So, when a studio decides to take the risk in favor of giving a voice and face to a marginalized group, it’s a breath of fresh air.
I love seeing superheroes beat the bad guys, but it becomes frustrating when time and time again those heroes are straight and cisgender.
In the show, Batman has been missing from Gotham for three years. The people are left with no one to protect them. In step the Crows, an elite police force that have an iron grip on the city. But all is not well, as the villain Alice begins to wreak havoc. This is the world that Kate Kane, Bruce Wayne’s cousin, returns home to protect Gotham while Batman is gone.
Batwoman is played by gender-fluid actor Ruby Rose. While it is great to see a fictional character be a part of the LGBTQ+ community, it is just as important to have a real-life person in the LGBTQ+ community representing that character. Gender-fluid and nonbinary people are currently underrepresented in general. According to GLAAD’s 2017-2018 Annual Report on LGBTQ Inclusion, across broadcast, cable, and streaming programs there were 17 regular and recurring transgender characters, of which only four were nonbinary. So, to see a gender-fluid actor gain the role of the titular character is a big deal. It gives hope that people who don’t fit into a binary gender will begin to be represented in the media.
In addition to gender identity, gender expression is also an important part of the show. As a gender nonconforming lesbian myself, seeing Kate Kane dress in an androgynous way when out of the bat-suit fills me with joy. This shows LGBTQ+ women who are gender nonconforming that they have someone who represents them; someone to identify with. And in addition to that, it shows the audience that gender nonconforming people are important and just as worthy of being superheroes.
It shows the audience that gender nonconforming people are important and just as worthy of being superheroes.
Besides individual issues of representation, the show also tackles widespread human rights issues. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is an important part of American history for same-gender attracted members of the LGBTQ+ community. In the show, Kate was in military training and involved with another woman, Sophie. However, they were outed and had to make a terrible decision that many Americans also faced. Kate chose to be honest about who she was, costing her her military career. Sophie chose to hide who she loved and her sexuality to stay in the military. Unlike Kate, as Sophie herself points out to her, she did not have the money or support to afford to be out and proud. The show shows neither as being wrong nor right, because it is understood that they shouldn’t have had to make that choice in the first place.
On the topic of Sophie, she also has potential for being representation for bisexual, pansexual, or polysexual women. She is not stated as having any of these labels; however, she is shown to have once (or perhaps still) loved Kate, and now is married to a man. In the second episode. Many LGBTQ+ women do not like labels, but at the same time, many do, and it would be great if the show would make the choice to represent them.
Overall, the CW’s Batwoman shows a strong commitment to representing the diverse experiences of LGBTQ+ women. This is a show with a wonderful cast of characters that anyone can find someone to identify with. I look forward to seeing how the show furthers this representation in future episodes.