No matter who was chosen to replace Ruby Rose as the new Batwoman, it was grimly predictable that there would be significant backlash across the internet. This particular series has mobilised the spite brigade unlike anything since 2016’s Ghostbusters reboot, as demonstrated by its besieged IMDb score and the personal abuse levelled at its former star.
With that in mind, it’s remarkable how many Twitter accounts have crawled out of the woodwork today to condemn the show for swapping out its main character for an entirely new creation. Javicia Leslie will take on the role of Ryan Wilder, a Gotham City resident and proud lesbian who inherits the mantle of Batwoman when Kate Kane (Ruby Rose) steps down.
The backlash to this decision falls into two main camps: On one side, fans genuinely disappointed over losing a character they had grown fond of, and on the other, angry men arguing it’s sacrilege that Kate Kane has been written out of the show (despite the fact they probably haven’t seen it). One of these grievances is more legitimate than the other.
It was the latter group that drove #KateKaneIsBatwoman up the trending charts this morning, which begs the question: Where were all these ardent purists when Ruby Rose was bullied off Twitter after being cast in the role? Judging from similarities in their writing style, I’d suspect they were busy penning strongly worded remarks about Rose’s acting ability.
This shouldn’t need explaining, but you can’t pile abuse onto an actor for agreeing to play a character and then complain when they decide to stop playing that character. Of course, that’s assuming these people genuinely care about the Batwoman mythos, when it’s just as likely they were simply seizing an opportunity to bash a show with a “liberal agenda”.
After all, we can’t ignore that much of this latest backlash was targeted on a black actress taking over as Batwoman, a superhero historically depicted as white. It’s disheartening that changing the race of a fictional character always seems to stoke up controversy, but in this case there are obvious storytelling benefits driving the decision.
By making Ryan Wilder a black character, it gives the show an exciting opportunity to explore topics that it couldn’t have meaningfully approached with a white lead. Following the huge impact of the Black Lives Matter movement, that kind of representation is more important than ever.
But of course, not every concern raised about the introduction of a new Batwoman has been done with malice. There are some fans out there who are merely disappointed to see Kate Kane excluded from her own show, particularly as the character has become a bona fide LGBT+ icon in the world of comics.
To those people, I say: don’t worry. Season one of Batwoman may have been a fun, campy watch, but it was never a particularly faithful adaptation of the character’s origin story. It seems likely that Kate will return to live-action at some point down the line, perhaps even making the jump to the big screen for DC’s Extended Universe movies.
In addition, there’s no need to feel that sticking with the first season was a waste of time. Although Kate may be gone, her supporting cast will be back, including loyal allies Luke Fox and Mary Hamilton, as well as troubled father Jacob and psychopathic sister Alice.
It’s not yet clear how Ryan Wilder will come to know them, but the relationships built up across the initial run of episodes will be an important part of how the show goes on. The dynamic will almost certainly have to shift somewhat, but it’s quite likely that the show will be able to continue with many of its existing subplots.
But wherever your concerns stem from, it should go without saying that actors shouldn’t be expected to tolerate abuse in their line of work. It’s especially maddening that these tidal waves of hate often come before they’ve even had a chance to perform as the character in question.
In 2013, Ben Affleck told Jimmy Fallon that he was advised to log off the internet for a few days after he was announced as the new Batman to widespread fury. Just a couple of films later, fans were so desperate to have him back in the role that an insatiable Twitter campaign didn’t shut up about it for two years. Tragic irony that Shakespeare would be proud of.
It’s just very sad that we have to keep having this conversation. We can’t allow toxic waste to be spewed across the internet every time a major casting announcement is made. It’s a cruel way to treat the people involved and it’s bad for the future of the fantasy genre, as many talented stars will just walk away.
Batwoman is available to stream on All 4. If you’re looking for something else to watch, check out our TV Guide.