With the announcement that Ruby Rose was going to be leaving the title role of the CW’s Batwoman series, fans have been speculating as to how the show would be handling the transition to a new lead.
Would producers simply recast the part of Kate Kane, aka Batwoman? Would they kill off the Kate Kane character and have someone don the Batwoman costume to fight crime in Gotham City?
But Caroline Dries, the show’s executive producer, is planning a third route – Not killing Kate but having a new character take on the Batwoman mantle. As she explaines in a released statement (via Hollywood Reporter) –
As a lesbian who’s been working as a writer for the past 15 years, I’m well aware of the ‘Bury Your Gays’ trope and I have no interest in participating in it. That’s why it’s important to me as the showrunner to clarify any misinformation out there about Kate Kane and recasting Batwoman. Like you, I love Kate Kane — she’s the reason I wanted to do the show. We’ll never erase her. In fact, her disappearance will be one of the mysteries of season two. I don’t want to give away any of our surprises, but to all our devoted fans, please know that LGBTQ+ justice is at the very core of what Batwoman is and we have no intention of abandoning that.
For the uninitiated, the “Bury Your Gays” trope was first identified in 2016 as a trend that had bubbled up several years back in popular entertainment where gay lead and supporting characters were killed off in order to advance the plotline of a film or show’s heterosexual characters. At the time, the CW was coming under fire following the killing off of a popular gay character on the sci-fi series The 100. AMC’s The Walking Dead and Syfy’s The Magicians also received criticism for similar story moments.
Instead, the show will be creating a new character who will take over the role of Gotham City’s protector. The character, unique to show and not originating in comic book lore, is named Ryan Wilder, and is described as “a former criminal and out lesbian who is ‘very much not your stereotypical all-American hero.'”
An interesting way to get out of the predicament that Rose’s departure has put the show in. It is certainly better than just recasting the character and hoping no one notices too much. It didn’t work in the long run for Bewitched back in the 1960s and certainly won’t work now. Killing Kate off would have been a bad look, even without the Kill Your Gays trope to consider. Comics have long had the stereotype of imperiling or killing off a hero’s girlfriend in order to provide motivation. The trope is called “fridging” after Green Lantern Kyle Raynor came home to find his murdered girlfriend gruesomely stuffed into his kitchen refrigerator in the 1990s.
Batwoman and the rest of the CW lineup will return in early 2021, the delay due to vagaries on when production can resume in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.