How Can Batwoman Survive the Fan-Hate? CW Show Faces Harsh Criticism

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BY August 12, 2019

In just a few months, the first-ever female-led “Bat” series will premiere on the CW. It closes out Batman’s 80th anniversary year. One would think fans would be pleased to be getting more Bat-action. Even more, it’s a fresh story we’ve not seen before. Yet, instead, we are left wondering how Batwoman can survive the fan-hate directed at it. Most of it gets directed at all of the trailers released thus far. Pop culture editor Salomé Gonstad covered this initial backlash last month. As more and more trailers hit YouTube, the hate continues. Many of these folks believe Batwoman can’t survive the fan-hate, thanks to the power of the “like” to “dislike” ratio on YouTube.

In fairness, it is remarkable. The first trailer has 421,000 dislikes to 84,000 likes. The second trailer fares a little worse, with 24,000 dislikes to fewer than 2000 likes. Ironically the corniest of these promos, the “Tattoo” teaser, fares the best with 4,900 dislikes to 2,500 likes. Still, those who leverage social media to target artists, shows, and movies, can easily manipulate these figures. The first trailer for the Flash only has about 4,800 likes and an insignificant number of dislikes. The first Arrow trailer (posted on three different YouTube channels) doesn’t even have the viewcount of the first Batwoman trailer. Batwoman can survive the fan-hate, because at this stage of the game any press is good press. People will tune in for the show, and if the storytellers deliver on Kate Kane’s potential, viewers will keep coming back week after week.

Let’s Just Get This Out of the Way: A LOT of the Batwoman Fan-Hate Is Just Sexism In Action

An insidious trick perpetrated by those who stoke anger and fear of change for their own personal gain is to suggest that simply addressing things like sexism or racism is actually what’s sexist/racist. This couldn’t be more stupid. As mentioned above, Batman celebrated his 80th anniversary this year. Counting by actors who’ve played the character, in that time span fans have gotten 10 distinct live-action versions of the Caped Crusader. That number increases by about 150 percent if you include animation. So, to ask if sexism is why neither Batgirl (Barbara Gordon) nor Batwoman (Katherine/Kate Kane) had their own show or film in that time is more than fair. Originally appearing in 1956 as a love interest for Batman, DC reimagined the character 50 years later as Bruce Wayne’s maternal cousin, who just happened to be Jewish and a lesbian.

Batwoman can survive the fan-hate
Image via CW

The comments on the YouTube videos underscore that Batwoman being, well, a woman is precisely the problem. Ruby Rose’s portrayal is called “masculine” and “entitled,” as if Bruce Wayne isn’t one of the most entitled characters in all of comics. (He’s a billionaire who takes the law into his own hands and does, literally, whatever he wants to enemies and allies alike.) Yet, even though the first trailer features a character pointing out that Rose’s Kane is a “female Bruce Wayne,” these outraged man-babies say Rose’s portrayal is, actually, sexist. The also think their opinion is so powerful that there is no way Batwoman can survive the fan-hate it’s already receiving.

One commenter writes:

“It’s hilarious how they contradict their own ideology. ‘we want strong, smart, independent women!’ then they proceed to make a masculine female that dresses and acts like a guy and then dates women. Funny enough if a dude acted like that it’d be labeled toxic masculinity. So, I guess this is toxic femininity.”

Don’t waste time contemplating this rock-solid syllogism. YouTube user WeeItsNookies’ attitude highlights how what’s acceptable for a male hero isn’t acceptable for a female one. Kate Kane isn’t “feminine” enough, and her brooding anger and penchant for the ladies would never be acceptable if a man did it. Of course, Batman has never had the same love interest played by the same actor in successive movies, ever. Ruby Rose will glower all over the Arrowverse after Stephen Amell hangs up his bow. But these “fans” want her to smile more and be humble. This show isn’t Batwoman getting her due after 64 years, but rather Hollywood shoving their “social justice agenda” down viewers’ throats. Again, completely disregard that since Cap first punched Hitler in 1940, comic books often carry moral messages about bigotry and injustice. There’s no place for that “nonsense” on TV!

Misogynist Online Culture In Action

The comments are riddled with the word “Wahmen” which is an “ingenious” play on the term “woman” and the phonemicization of crying. Popularized by YouTuber PewDiePie encouraging his fans to mock women, it has become the clarion call of “Men’s Rights Activists” who enjoy the thoughtful insight of outrage merchants like Ben Shapiro or Alex Jones. Why these nincompoops are able to target Batwoman so effectively just shows the power of their reach online. Likely shared via sites that trawl the dregs of internet humanity like 4chan or the more misogynist subreddits, these Social Injustice Warriors flocked to YouTube to win the Great War of Disliking Videos Promoting Shows for Teenagers 2019. That the female empowerment message in the marketing is heavy-handed makes fills them with so much anger, they spend all day writing about a show they claim to hate.

The Batwoman Marketing Isn’t Helping the Fan-Hate Problem

Some of the criticism this show earns is not all sexist and stupid, some of it is just stupid. People are angry that it’s a Batwoman instead of Batman. Yet, Warner Bros. is very stingy with the Bat-rights, especially since CW is jointly owned by WB and CBS. So, there can’t be a Batman show. Some also think this show earning a full season somehow relates to Swamp Thing’s cancellation, despite the two productions being as separate as the MCU and the X-Men used to be. Still, these fans will likely come around or, at least, watch the show. The Arrow subreddit finds itself constantly filled with posts hating on the terrible quality of that show from people who still watch every week and know all of the developments of the series’ “terrible” seasons. They kvetch about not getting a proper Batman series but will tune in just the same.

In fairness to some of the critics, the female empowerment message (at least, in the first trailer) is heavy-handed. Even the socially aware Daily Dot said as much in their coverage about the backlash. Network marketing for the CW often shoots for the lowest common denominator, not trusting their typically young audience to catch the subtext. Likely, the show will not be as focused on this aspect of the story as many commenters think. Supergirl often features female empowerment storylines, but they do so in the context of simply great comic book stories. Batwoman will probably fall somewhere between that series and Arrow, because it’s tonally darker. And even if it does hammer its feminist perspective home in every episode of the first season, let the show have that because it’s first female-led Bat-show ever. (No disrespect to the original Birds of Prey series.)

Toxic Fandom, Gatekeeping, and Forgetting How Fiction Works

Batwoman and Ruby Rose herself are not just getting hate from the so-called “right.” Some folks on the so-called “left,” also decided to hate this show as soon as CW announced it. Their complaints, impossibly, are more ludicrous than the others. They decided that since Ruby Rose is a Jewish lesbian who identifies as genderfluid, she wasn’t “gay enough” to portray Kate Kane. Many of these critics misidentified Rose as bisexual to justify that arugment, which is also so nonsensical it would be funny were it not so hurtful. The backlash from these LGBT+ activists, a group Rose likely assumed would be supportive, drove her off of Twitter entirely. I worry for them when they also learn that Rose is not, actually, part bat.

There is nothing wrong with looking at these stories through a political lens. Arguably, you are supposed to. Yet, we’ve only seen Rose portray the character for two-and-a-half acts of an episode of Arrow. To suggest the character is bad or that the show is just a deluge of socially aware commentary is unfair. At least watch an episode or three before you decide you hate a series. What’s tragic about this is that Rose admitted she grew emotional when she learned she got the part. She thought about the kids (and adults) who would be happy to see a hero representing these demographics in something as iconic as a black batsuit. Instead of being able to enjoy this momentous occasion for both her career and the culture, she now has to wonder if Batwoman will survive the fan-hate it’s getting before it even premieres.

Y’all Are Dumb Because Batwoman Is Going to Be Dope

Batwoman can survive the fan-hate
Image via CW

Hopefully, the noise from this fabricated and inauthentic backlash gets dulled by the sound of ass-kicking and pneumatic grappling hooks. Due again to the rights issue, Amell’s Arrow essentially adopted the role of Batman in this TV Justice League. Now that he’s moving on, a real Bat-person occupies that role, but one whose story can still surprise us. Fans worry about The Batman starring Robert Pattinson. They wonder how this story will different from Tim Burton’s Batman or Batman Begins. We’ve never seen Batwoman before, so even though she will be flapping capes and busting heads, this Batman fan is as excited as he was for (children’s cartoon) Batman Beyond in 1999. Interestingly, this show also got a lot of fan-hate on the early internet because it wasn’t what fans were familiar with. Today? It’s one of the most beloved animated Batman series of all time.

We really only get to see Batwoman in action during the third and fourth acts of her episode of Arrow. But those moments were incredible. During a Scarecrow fear-gas induced fight between the Arrow and Grant Gustin’s Flash, Ruby Rose (read: her stunt double) took both of these titans down with one bad-ass flip move. Earlier when she takes out some inmates fleeing from Arkham Asylum, it’s the perfect balance of off-screen Dark Knight magic and on-screen hero posing. Also, I cheer every time she throws a batarang and it comes to back to her (LIKE BOOMERANGS ARE SUPPOSED TO!). All the CW shows are gifts to comics nerds, and this one will be no different. I know that Ruby Rose and this show can survive the fan-hate. The reason? Because she’s the goddamn Batwoman.

Batwoman premieres on October 6 at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time, followed by the fifth season premiere of Supergirl.

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Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.

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