Flat White

The Ruby Rose Batwoman PC Comics special

9 August 2018

12:30 PM

9 August 2018

12:30 PM

Forget about the Australian Defence Force getting rid of gender-neutral pronouns, or the inequity of transgender athletes competing in sporting events with the opposite biological sex, or even the Boy Scouts of America accepting boys simply “based on the gender indicated on the application”, or the perceived threat of a transgender ‘woman’ using the same change room as pre-pubescent girls. No, you know an LGBTIQ tipping point has been reached when DC Comics—or should that be PC Comics? — portrays Batwoman as a crime-fighting lesbian, played by none other than the gender fluid actor, Ruby Rose.

There’s more than a little irony in Batwoman now being portrayed as a homosexual since The Guardian states “Batwoman first appeared in the DC Comics universe as a romantic interest for Batman to dispel suggestions of his homosexuality, mainly in response to Senate subcommittee hearings in 1954 investigating the impact of comic books on juvenile delinquency.” Sadly, sixty-years later and western civilisation is now celebrating what it had previously prohibited.

Interestingly, most of the responses to the DC Comics announcement on Twitter are negative, not because Batwoman is going to be portrayed as being non-binary but simply because — in the opinion of many — Rose just can’t act. Sure, she’s a pretty face, that’s why she had a contract with Maybelline as well as co-hosting shows such as Australia’s Next Top Model. And she’s also the goddaughter of the famous Australian boxer Lionel Rose, as well as the great-granddaughter of Alec Campbell, who was the last surviving Australian Battle of Gallipoli soldier. But at some point, you have to do more than take your clothes off or pout. Even Derek Zoolander knew that.

According to The Guardian, “A standalone series about Batwoman, whose real name is Kate Kane, is in development for the 2019–20 US TV season. Kane is described as a highly trained street fighter with a passion for social justice and a flair for speaking her mind.” I guess that means she’s going to be a cross between something like Magda Szubanski, Clementine Ford and Yassmin Abdel-Magied but with black lycra.

The mind truly boggles at what some of the crime-fighting scenarios might be: finding safe places for university students threatened by conservative thinking? Enhanced social media powers to mobilise people against certain political opponents (sorry, I was getting confused with GetUp!) Or maybe the season finale can be some kind of massive Twitter showdown with a certain US President with Batwoman revealing her true identity as a Democrat? The possibilities are just endless.

But this is a telling reflection of the politically correct spirit of our age. In fact, Rob Smith has persuasively argued in his excellent piece, Responding to the Transgender Revolution, that questioning one’s sexuality is the latest form of teenage angst and rebellion. Smith gives the example of one young person who remarked to their psychiatrist: “I want to be transgender, it’s the new black.” Maybe that’s one of the reasons why they chose Rose, since her breakout role was starring in the highly sexualised Orange is the New Black.

Indeed, The Guardian also postulates that rather than referring to those born after 1984 as ‘post-millennials’, or ‘Gen Z’, they should perhaps be identified as “the gender-fluid generation”. This is further substantiated by the fact that Tumblr currently lists no less than 114 different gender options! Although, as the following example humorously demonstrates, it’s quite difficult to always be completely consistent in this regard.

At the very heart of this entire issue, though, is the desire to be completely autonomous from any external constraint. To be freed even from the limits of our very own DNA. As Russell Moore explains:

Ultimately, the transgender question is about more than just sex. It’s about what it means to be human. Poet Wendell Berry responded to techno-utopian scientism with the observation that civilization must decide whether we see persons as creatures or as machines. If we are creatures, then we have purpose and meaning, but also limits. But if we see ourselves—and the world around us—as machines, then we believe the Faustian myth of our own limitless power to recreate ourselves.

With this insight in mind, maybe the thing that a gender-neutral, non-binary, lesbian Batwoman needs saving from, is the delusion that a person’s biological sex is not fixed at birth but is whatever a person subjectively wishes to be. Again, as Moore rightly explains:

There are good reasons to put boys and girls in different bathrooms and locker rooms and sometimes sports teams — reasons that don’t impugn the dignity of people but uphold it. Sex-differentiated bathrooms and sports teams and dormitories for men and women aren’t the equivalent of, say, a terrorist Jim Crow state unnaturally forcing people apart based on a fiction, useful to the powerful, that skin colour is about superiority and inferiority. Every human being knows there are important, and necessary, differences between men and women. Without such recognition, women are harmed and men are coarsened.

What is clear, though, is that with DC Comics pursuing premises like these, Marvel Studios is only going to continue being the blockbuster-producing powerhouse of comic book adaptations well after all of the Avengers have come back to life in Infinity War Part 2. At least, that will be something people will pay money to see.

Mark Powell is the Associate Pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church, Strathfield. 

Cartoon: Ben R Davis.

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