Who Doesn't Want to Be a Gay Superhero? Ruby Rose Exits Lead Role After 'Batwoman' First Season

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When DC Comics first announced there would be a modern Batwoman character in their universe, it was a news event -- not because DC had a new character, nor because that character was going to be part of the Batman lineup, but because the title character was going to be openly gay. The series came out with a strong, noir-inspired start under writer Greg Rucka, but never really became integrated into the rest of the DC Universe outside of the “52” crossover miniseries where she made her debut.

However, the character had all the right qualifications to pique the interests of showrunners at CW, where other DC Comics properties were enjoying television popularity. “Arrow,” “The Flash,” and “Supergirl” were independent shows that occupied the same ‘universe’ wherein characters could cross over into the stories of other shows, and the annual crossovers became fan-favorite media events. With last year’s blockbuster, “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” the network debuted the Batwoman character, played by actress Ruby Rose, in advance of fielding the pilot for the new series.

As in the comics, Batwoman was going to be openly gay; not just in her civilian identity as Kate Kane, Bruce Wayne’s cousin, but also in her superhero guise. It’s this latter decision that added to the list of unnecessary story development devices in the series, which seemed to be less about “Batwoman is a superhero” than it was about “Batwoman is gay.” Certainly relationships were expected to be a part of the series, as the sexuality of the character was an integral part of her; Oliver Queen’s romance with Felicity Smoak, and Barry Allen’s marriage to Iris West – and Sara Lance’s hook-ups with Ava Sharpe, John Constantine, and others – were all rooted in those characters’ sexual orientations. So Kate having romantic lesbian relationships and struggling with them as the result of her choice to take on the mantle of the bat, was going to be an important touchstone for the stories being told.

But instead of being an important supplemental element, the relationships became the focus, as we watched the drama between Kate and Sophie, Kate’s former relationship with Julia, the new relationship between Julia and Sophie, the occasional relationship between Kate and Reagan – in fact, viewers would be hard pressed to find a woman in Gotham City who wasn’t gay.

And the storytelling suffered for it – and the ratings reflected it.

With the first season curtailed due to filming constraints caused by the coronavirus, plans were afoot for the second season, already approved by CW. But the showrunners were caught flat-footed with lead actress Rose suddenly announced she was not coming back to the series.

In a statement released by Rose, she says, "I have made the very difficult decision to not return to Batwoman next season. 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 in Los Angeles.”

Rather than cancel the series or invent a way of killing off the character and passing the mantle to yet another female bat, Berlanti Productions and WBTV have elected to re-cast the part. Deadline quotes a joint statement from the companies, “Warner Bros. Television, The CW and Berlanti Productions thank Ruby for her contributions to the success of our first season and wish her all the best. The studio and network are firmly committed to Batwoman’s second season and long-term future, and we — along with the show’s talented creative team — look forward to sharing its new direction, including the casting of a new lead actress and member of the LGBTQ community, in the coming months.”

We’ve added emphasis on that last bit because it speaks to the problem with the series as a whole: not that the actress and the character are gay, but that the entire production company still sees that as the entire focus of the series. It’s that myopic vision that limits creativity, and stymies the writing staff’s ability to tell engaging stories for a wider audience.

The stumbling blocks for Batwoman aren’t deterring the DC television universe from continuing to expand in other directions, including the debut of Stargirl and a second season for Doom Patrol. The publisher is also continuing to move ahead with planned slate of big screen movies. In fact, comic book characters have thrived in almost every medium except for the actual comic books, which have suffered a crushing blow due to the shutdown of comic book distribution during COVID-19 quarantines. Despite that, comics culture remains popular among diehard and casual fans alike, and the licensing of these properties continues to be a profitable venture for television, clothing, and other industries. Even companies like Microgaming are producing DC Comics slots games which you can play in online casinos.

Whether or not the second season of Batwoman surmounts the obstacles of its first season or continues to trip over them, the comic book well of ideas is deep enough that there will always be something new and entertaining – and probably caped – to keep audiences coming back for more.