Ruby Rose is excited to play Batwoman, but not necessarily because the hero is a lesbian. In a new profile in Glamour, the star of the CW’s upcoming Batwoman says the show “is not about a gay superhero.” She clarifies, “It’s about a superhero.”
This is a particularly strange and troubling thing to say about Batwoman, a hero whose lesbian identity has been such a large part of her character and story.
One of the things that resonated with queer fans about Batwoman early on was how strongly her lesbian identity was tied into her character motivation and growth. For a lot of readers — especially those in the LGBTQ+ community — she’s seen as a queer hero whose sexuality can’t be separated from her character. She refuses to hide or compartmentalize that part of her identity, and that’s part of why fans love her so much.
Batwoman, also known as Kate Kane, Bruce Wayne’s cousin, got much of her superhero training in the military, where she was kicked out under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” specifically because she refused to be just “a soldier” and not a lesbian soldier. Her commanding officer gave her an opportunity to hide her queerness, and instead she chose to leave the military so she could be herself.
The character’s history both in and out of the comics is one where she’s struggling to be a both lesbian and a superhero in a world where people want her to be just a superhero. The series’ original writers, J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman, even quit when DC Comics wouldn’t let Batwoman get married to her lesbian partner, policewoman Maggie Sawyer.
Rose acknowledges this in the interview, saying that Batwoman’s queerness is “definitely part of who she is, and it’s definitely part of the story and establishing why she’s not in the military anymore.”
I’ve been a big supporter of Rose in this role. After Orange is the New Black, the Aussie actress and model was a bonafide Lesbian Superstar, exactly the kind of person who should be playing a Lesbian Superhero. But if she’s not going to use this role to embrace the queer aspects of her character, I’m starting to rethink my support.
I do understand where her frustration is coming from, however. In the same Glamour profile, Rose talks about being pigeonholed throughout her career.
“I was always Ruby Rose, the lesbian MTV VJ, the lesbian model, the lesbian actor,” the 33-year-old told the women’s magazine. “I was like, that’s not a part of my job. That’s not on my business card. I didn’t study to do that, did I?
It’s perfectly understandable that Rose wants to branch out and be seen as more than a “lesbian actor,” but unfortunately, this role is not the right time for that. Batwoman is a superhero, and to queer women, she’s a gay hero and role model. Those things cannot and should not be separated. Putting her queerness in the backseat does a disservice to both the character and the fans who have yearned to see her story done justice.
Batwoman premieres on the CW on Oct. 6. Let’s hope the show gets it, even if Rose doesn’t.