Why casting casting a Black bisexual woman as the new Batwoman is so important

Greg Evans
Thursday 09 July 2020 12:15
Showbiz

It has been confirmed that Javicia Leslie will be replacing Ruby Rose as Batwoman in The CW's show about the DC Comics superhero.

Rose left the show unexpectedly after just one season as Kate Kane, the lesbian cousin of Bruce Wayne who adopts the mantle of Batwoman after Batman goes missing.

Speaking earlier this year, Rose said:

I have made the very difficult decision to not return to. This was not a decision I made lightly as I have the utmost respect for the cast, crew and everyone involved with the show in both Vancouver and Los Angeles.

Rose reportedly left the show because of its tiring schedule but her sudden departure left many to speculate who would replace the Australian actor, who does identify as a lesbian, in the role. Although Leslie wouldn't have been the first name that many people would have predicted (her biggest role to date was on a CBS comedy called God Friended Me) she could prove to be a perfect example of casting.

By casting Leslie as Batwoman, she will not only become the first Black actor to play the character, she will be the first Black bisexual woman in a major superhero television show. In a statement she said:

I am extremely proud to be the first Black actress to play the iconic role of Batwoman on television, and as a bisexual woman, I am honoured to join this groundbreaking show, which has been such a trailblazer for the LGBTQ+ community.

The news of Leslie joining the show where she will be playing a new character called Ryan Wilder who becomes Batwoman has been largely greeted with positivity.

However, as always with these type of decisions, especially when it comes to superhero movies and shows, there is a small minority who are complaining that a Black woman cannot play Batwoman. We won't give their bigotry any publicity but their complaints only highlight their ignorance of the character and the history of Black superheroes.

Both DC and Marvel, especially in the comics, have given the mantles of previously known white heroes to Black people.

These include Firestorm, Ironheart (a Black woman version of Iron Man), Green Lantern, Kid Flash, Spider-Man and Nick Fury to name just a few (not forgetting Black alternative versions of Superman and Captain America).

Although superhero films and TV shows haven't been quite as diverse in their casting, previously white characters like Heimdall, Valkyrie, Human Torch, Starfire, Deadshot and Catwoman have been cast as Black characters with varying success.

In fact, although Leslie will be the first Black woman to play a live-action version of Batwoman, she technically won't be the first Black woman to play the part.

The 2003 animated movie Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman saw Kimberly Brooks voice a version of Batwoman who was called Kathy Duquesne showing that a lot of so-called nerds need to do more research and that we shouldn't forget the great work that voice actors do.

Furthermore, LGBTQ+ characters are becoming more and more frequent in the superhero genre.

Although the Batwoman character has been in comics since 1956, it was only when she was reintroduced as Kate Kane in 2006 that she was written as a lesbian.

Elsewhere, iconic characters across both DC and Marvel have had their characters developed to represent the LGBTQ+ community. While that representation in film and television has been as apparent, there are at least characters like Deadpool and Valkyrie whose sexual identity is starting to come to be explored on screen more and more.

So, the long and short of it is that although the superhero medium has proven itself to be more diverse in the pages of a comic book, there is still a lot more that can be done on-screen to portray underrepresented portions of society.

Marvel's attempts to show the LGBTQ+ community in their films has fallen way short of the mark thus far and the actor Anthony Mackie, who plays Falcon, believes that there is a lack of diversity in their production department.

DC's films and television shows aren't perfect either but the casting of Leslie as Batwoman is just one of the many important steps that are being taken to make this type of story the new normal.

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