[Editorial] Batwoman Matters

written by Kate Danvers

Years ago I wrote an editorial titled “Representation Matters” about, well, just that: how much representation matters to marginalized people who don’t always get to see characters who are like them in movies and TV shows. I’ve been very lucky to experience that in recent years with shows that not only feature people like me, but take the time to develop them and truly show their dedication to good representation.

The characters of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power matter to me. Several characters from the CW’s superhero shows—Anissa Pierce, Alex Danvers, Kelly Olsen, Sophie Moore, and Kate Kane—matter to me.

Kate Kane matters. That’s why this hurts.

If you haven’t heard already, Ruby Rose has left Batwoman, leaving the show without a main character for Season Two. This seems like a no-brainer: Just recast the role as has been done numerous times in television history: Darrin Stephens on Bewitched, Becky Conner on Roseanne, and Vivian Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. In fact, the first season of Arrow had a different actress playing Sara Lance until the role was expanded and recast in Season Two, giving us Caity Lotz. I’m saying there’s precedent—a precedent they didn’t follow.

I put off writing this editorial for quite a while because it seemed like new information was coming in all the time. Rumors have swirled, but there’s been no confirmation about why Ruby Rose left. Then came a leaked casting call sheet for a “Ryan Wilder,” who was said to replace Kate Kane as Batwoman. I tried to convince people that this was probably misdirection as they would never replace Kate. Obviously this was a side character, an impostor Batwoman, or this was the casting sheet for Kate, but called by a different name in order to get a new and original take rather than dozens of auditions from actors doing Ruby Rose impressions.

I was wrong.

Showrunner Caroline Dries originally planned to recast the role until Executive Producer Greg Berlanti came to her with the idea of a “reboot” of sorts that would introduce a new character who would become the titular hero. They ran with the idea, scrapped or completely rewrote whatever Season Two episodes they had already written, and started making plans.

When rumors started to swirl that they were going to kill off Kate Kane, Dries released a statement on Twitter saying she’s well aware of the “Bury Your Gays” trope and that she’s not doing that. The show won’t be erasing Kate Kane and her disappearance will be a Season Two mystery.

Except erasure is exactly what’s happening, isn’t it? They’re not replacing Ruby Rose; they’re replacing Kate Kane with another out lesbian with a dead mother. Even if it’s not their intent, the message this sends is that Batwoman is just a lesbian in a bat costume. Lose one lesbian? That’s fine, just get another one.

That may seem like an exaggeration to some, but let me ask you a question: Would they have done this to any other character? If Grant Gustin or Stephen Amell had decided they were done after a single season of The Flash or Arrow, would the character of Barry Allen or Oliver Queen be scrapped in favor of a new character? No; they would have recast. They wouldn’t do this with Flash, Green Arrow, Batman, or Superman, so why is it okay when it’s Batwoman? Why is Kate Kane expendable when Bruce Wayne is not?

And just to shoot down the “well actually”s, yes, I watched Batman Beyond, the series that replaced Bruce Wayne with Terry McGinnis. But did you know that the show was a spinoff of a series that had eighty-five episodes and two animated films of Bruce Wayne as Batman, and it took place in the future long after Bruce retired and was no longer physically able to be Batman? Also, I’m well aware of the habit of replacing a hero with someone else in the comics. That doesn’t apply here either because that’s always temporary and never in a character’s first live-action film or TV appearance.

Why is it easier to replace Kate Kane with Rando Calesbian? Well, to be honest, if I’m to take the plan to replace Kate with “Ryan” at face value, it says to me that the creators don’t respect the character or the source material. That there isn’t enough fan demand for Kate to keep her in the suit. Kate Kane doesn’t have the eighty-one-year history that Bruce Wayne does, so it’s easier to replace her. But it’s hard to establish that history when her solo titles aren’t allowed to explore certain storylines, or get canceled without having time to establish a reader base, or having the character constantly sidelined for other established characters.

Or…when she loses her own live-action television series.

Kate Kane means so much to me, even beyond lesbian representation. She’s one of the few Bat-family characters to establish herself as a hero outside of Batman’s direct influence. She operates by her own code and isn’t afraid to bend or break it when she needs to. She makes the tough calls, even if it’s a choice between one life and thousands. More than anything else, it’s her integrity that defines her for me. When faced with expulsion from the military under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, she was given a choice: lie and graduate into her career, or tell the truth and have her dream of military service end there. She chose the latter because she didn’t want to lie about who she was. As someone who remains closeted to her family, I only wish I had the strength to do something like that.

If this is all legitimate and they’re really dumping the Kate Kane character but “keeping her legacy alive” or whatever, then we’re going to miss out on a lot. The rest of the cast, who all have deep connections to Kate, will now have to establish all-new connections with “Ryan.” Season One plotlines like Alice’s revenge, Hush impersonating Bruce Wayne, Safiyah’s interest in Batwoman, and Kate’s conflict with her father will all be dropped because they mean nothing to Ryan Wilder. But worst of all, we’re not going to see Kate Kane grow, form her own rogues’ gallery, or continue to have stories of her own like Bruce, Clark, Barry, Oliver, Kara, and others have been allowed to do. Kate Kane’s only legacy in Batwoman will be that she was the Season One Batwoman, and she deserves better than that.

I think I’m done. Both with this editorial and with the series. I’ll pay attention and watch just to see where they’re going with this, but if they really mean to replace Kate Kane like this, I can’t continue to support this show and I’m not going to push myself to review it any longer. I’m profoundly disappointed in a show that I had been beside myself with excitement for. Batwoman mattered to me, but Kate Kane is Batwoman, and she matters more.

Kate can be found on Twitter at @WearyKatie.

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