Editor’s Note: We congratulate actress Javicia Leslie on being cast as the new Batwoman for The CW! We are ecstatic that the role will be played by a person of color for the first time in live-action while continuing to rightfully represent the LGBTQ+ community. This piece was written prior and does not mention Leslie directly, but is left unchanged for many points still stand and reflect on how Leslie should be respected in the role moving forward.
With the season finale of The CW’s Batwoman airing on May 17, leaving fans in shock and eagerly awaiting for more, the show was finally at its peak. The promises of the second season were bright on the horizon. No one could have expected what would actually happen next. On May 19, only two days after the well-received season finale, it was announced that leading actress Ruby Rose would be exiting Batwoman. The titular role of Kate Kane is now set to be recast ahead of the sophomore season of The CW’s up and coming superhero series.
This news left the average passerby shocked along with casual and dedicated fans alike, and for good reason. In an official statement regarding her departure, Rose stated, “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. I am beyond appreciative to Greg Berlanti, Sarah Schechter, and Caroline Dries for not only giving me this incredible opportunity, but for welcoming me into the DC universe they have so beautifully created. Thank you Peter Roth and Mark Pedowitz and the teams at Warner Bros. and The CW who put so much into the show and always believed in me. Thank you to everyone who made season one a success – I am truly grateful.”
Berlanti Productions and Warner Bros. Television also released a joint statement regarding the news stating, “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.”
With Rose’s exit from the series comes the obvious question: why? Why would she exit her own superhero show after just one season? There are many potential reasons. When looking at the opportunity given to Rose with Batwoman, you would think that it would be almost perfect. Leading your own television series, portraying a hugely popular DC Comics character – it all first seems like a dream come true. However, this has proven to have its fair share of downsides. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, being both an out lesbian and identifying as genderfluid, Rose has dealt with harassment her entire life. The actress has openly discussed her struggles with mental health, suffering from multiple disorders such as clinical depression and complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and even attempting suicide.
When taking on such a huge role, not only leading your own television series, but also being a major figure in an expanded universe of heroes – immense pressure is placed on your head. Rose was featured prominently not only in Elseworlds but in Crisis on Infinite Earths. The latter arguably being one of the largest events in DC history, with her character being placed front and center in tons of marketing and promotion. With the already high pressure on Rose’s shoulders, it could have not been possibly easy bringing this character to life.
Though, Rose displayed huge excitement and honor with this special opportunity. Playing such an important gay superhero was a very exciting prospect for her. Although she had notable roles in John Wick: Chapter 2, The Meg, and of course, Orange is the New Black under her belt, Batwoman was without a doubt the biggest project of her career thus far. To see her leave this chance of a lifetime, one that she was emotionally connected to, is disappointing to say the least. Alas, it opens the door for a much bigger conversation. What could have caused her to leave something she had absolutely fallen in love with? There is a very obvious answer: the fans. Not those who tune in every week and support the show, but those who dwell in the toxic depths of fandom.
Mere hours after Rose’s departure was announced, dozens of videos sprouted on YouTube – seemingly celebrating her exit, calling the series a complete failure. Months and months of torment towards an actress for simply playing a character had finally led to this moment. In a world where suicide rates are at an all-time high, and mental health is more prevalent than ever – people continue to harass, attack, and abuse people for no solid reason. Rose had finally reached the end of what seemed like an endless stream of criticism from across the internet.
She has previously deactivated her Twitter and started to heavily filter her Instagram comments. There was seemingly more noise rooting for her, and Batwoman, to ultimately fail rather than succeed. An exit from the show might have been the best thing she could have done for herself. The bullying sent her way simply due to this being related to comic books is something no person deserves, and there is no way that this did not affect her well being.
This begs the question: will the next Kate Kane also face the same fate? Will she too be bombarded with sexist, homophobic, and cynical bullying from the most toxic corners of fandom? You would hope not, but it almost seems inevitable at this point. In a world where any female-led project is deemed “woke garbage” upon announcement, these so-called fans will continue to harass and attack the talent involved for simply bringing stories to life. In reality, they could care less whether these projects do service to their talent and or source material. The hard and very unfortunate truth is that if Batwoman did not feature as much diverse representation, it would not have received nearly as much hate. It’s not just toxic fandom – it’s bigotry.
There are other potential reasons behind Rose’s exit. Last year, the actress suffered a back injury during filming that resulted in emergency back surgery to avoid her becoming paralyzed. With the intense action and stunt work required for Batwoman, it’s possible that her back injury could have made her job a lot physically harder. Of course, there is also the chance that she left simply because she didn’t want to be in it anymore – whether if from the overwhelming commitment or simple loss of interest. Another thing that could have added to her departing desire is the length of the season itself. When Rose signed on for Batwoman, it was only a 13 episode season. This would have finished filming much earlier than the other CW shows. It also would have been much less stressful with more time allowed for other film projects.
It would soon be extended to a 22 episode season, which meant much more labor and the inability to fit in another notable project. It wouldn’t be surprising if this longer length caused her to rethink her position. With Rose’s history in supporting roles, this out of all other possibilities was probably not the best choice for a first leading role. Not to say that she couldn’t have succeeded, because as seen by the end of season one – she did pull it off. But for a first time experience, the long road of responsibility and backlash can be unbearable.
How will this affect Batwoman going into its second season? It’s already been confirmed that the series will continue with Kate Kane as the lead, just with a different actress. It’s indisputable that fans will have trouble getting used to a new actress in the cowl. Over the course of the first season, Rose has managed to find her footing and make the role her own. The series will absolutely undergo some growing pains in the second season, as the cast works to form chemistry with an entirely new lead actress. This all the while the new Batwoman works to make the role her own -without deviating too greatly from the precedent set by Rose. For the sake of the show and Rose’s spent labor, there has got to be some sense of continuity for the character. For everything that Rose has gone through, mentally and physically, it would be shameful to throw her characterization all away.
This unexpected blow could lead to a dip in quality at the start of the show’s new season. In time, the show will be able to adjust to its new status quo – perhaps even improving and becoming a better-rounded series than what it already is. The studio has plenty of time to cast the role, as the Coronavirus pandemic has led to production on Batwoman, as well as the other CW DC television shows, to being delayed. The schedule for these shows is constantly up in the air as more pandemic related updates roll in.
Hopefully these events set an example moving forward. Rose left her print on the series and The CW’s universe of heroes as a whole. It will be exciting to see what the new lead brings to Batwoman. This all, of course, under the premise that the toxic fandom will be outshined by the bright side. The dedicated fans who tune in every week and cannot wait for more content in the foreseeable future. Be more like them. No one deserves blind hate. Be the reason why someone takes up a superhero mantle, not the reason why someone would abandon one. Be more like Batwoman.