The problem with Ruby Rose as Batwoman isn’t being ‘lesbian enough,’ she’s just not a good actor
When I first read that The CW was planning on developing a series centred on lesbian superhero Batwoman, I was thrilled.
The Arrowverse—which consists of television shows Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow—has already put its big screen DC-inspired counterparts to shame with its inclusion and diversity, and I was looking forward to yet another queer character being added to its ever-growing roster.
But I’ll admit when I learned that Australian actor Ruby Rose had been cast in the role, my initial excitement diminished a little. Not because the gender-fluid star “isn’t lesbian enough,” isn’t “Jewish enough” or any of the other ridiculous—and quite frankly, nonsensical—reasons online trolls have been using to justify their vitriol, but because I didn’t think she was the best choice acting-wise.
Mine is a viewpoint that I believe is valid given her previous work, but it’s one that has been shouted over and now appears nothing more than controversial and spiteful due to the overwhelmingly nasty backlash that has caused her to delete her Twitter.
Before Rose deleted her social media account, she used it to explain that when members of the LGBT+ community “tear each other down, it’s much more hurtful than from any group.”
She added: “I just wish women and the community supported each other more. My wish was we were all a little kinder and more supportive of each other… Sending everyone my love and gratitude, it’s been a rollercoaster of a year, this month especially.”
Her comments struck me, and for a while, they made me feel a little ashamed that I wasn’t jumping for joy over the fact that someone queer was going to play a queer character—something that, rather surprisingly, doesn’t happen that often.
But then I concluded that I couldn’t, nor shouldn’t, have to dilute my opinion that Rose is a subpar actor just because she’s a part of an underrepresented community I also see myself a part of. Being LGBT+ doesn’t mean you’re automatically exempt from being the subject of considered, rational creative criticism.
Having risen to fame as a presenter (and later, a DJ and model), Rose is still new to acting. Prior to her playing inmate Stella Carlin in the fourth season of Netflix prison drama Orange is the New Black, she starred in a couple of lesser-known television series.
Since OITNB, she’s appeared as a zombie outbreak survivor in Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, a skilled fighter in xXx: Return of Xander Cage, a mute assassin in John Wick: Chapter 2, a singer in Pitch Perfect 3 and most recently, a marine scientist in The Meg.
Putting it mildly, she was not all that impressive in each of those titles.
Representation matters but it shouldn’t come at the cost of quality. Casting someone in a gay role just because they’re gay—and not simultaneously the best person for the job—reeks of tokenism, which doesn’t help anyone in the long run.
There have been plenty of queer actors in recent years that have proved fabulous choices when it comes to playing queer roles, from Sara Ramirez in Grey’s Anatomy and Jesse Tyler Ferguson in Modern Family, to Stephanie Beatriz in Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Wilson Cruz in Star Trek: Discovery.
When it comes to the Arrowverse, straight actors Chyler Leigh and Caity Lotz do stellar work as LGBT+ characters Alex Danvers and Sara Lance. Casting those who will give the best performance has got to be more of a priority than who will tick the biggest box.
That being said, there’s always a chance that Rose might surprise myself and others who doubt her abilities.
Given the right material, perhaps she’ll come into our own. If anything, I hope she will—not just because I’m an avid Arrowverse watcher but because, as much as I am not keen on her bringing Kate Kane to life right now, no-one should ever be bullied off of social media.
While my lack of enthusiasm over her casting is coming from a place of reason, much of the viciousness online isn’t—and I’d genuinely love to see them proved wrong.
It would clearly mean a lot to her to do a great job, too. Recently, while appearing on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Rose opened up about how she couldn’t stop crying about being cast as Batwoman and how landing the role will allow her to empower people, visit children’s hospitals and do other things that superhero actors do in real-life.
There’s no denying that the heart’s there, here’s hoping the hidden talent is as well.
Amy West is a freelance entertainment journalist.
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