Actress Ruby Rose has deactivated her Twitter account after she was subject to a massive backlash for getting cast as the lead role in the CW’s upcoming TV series “Batwoman.” Critics are upset that unlike the title character, Rose is not Jewish and doesn’t identify as a lesbian.
Shocked by the ice cold treatment on social media, Rose reminded fans that she had come out as gay at age 12. As she got older, Rose says she began to think of herself as a man in a woman’s body, and therefore no longer considered herself to be a gay woman, but a gender fluid person who is mainly attracted to women. This fact seems to distance Rose enough from a lesbian-identifying character that many fans of the comic book Batwoman judged her not gay enough.
No one is bullying ruby rose we are rightfully calling out @TheCW the role of #Batwoman should have gone to a Jewish lesbian which RR is neither she has stated that she identifies as gender fluid not lesbian she wrote it herself on Twitter#RecastBatwoman #RepresentationMatters
— Angel Barrera (@Angelynnbarrera) August 12, 2018
What Rose does represent is a strong woman of steadfast conviction — which seems to me the perfect choice to play a female superhero lead. Whether or not Rose was raised in a Jewish household seems irrelevant to how well she could portray a Jewish crime-fighting character. Rachel Brosnahan is not Jewish, and is currently slaying it on “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” as a Jewish housewife-turned comedian. She gets no backlash.
Such insistence on identity-based casting choices directly detracts from the potential social impact of their characters. Jack Whitehall was recently cast as an openly gay character in Disney’s “Jungle Cruise,” a film loosely based on a rollercoaster of the same name.
Whitehall is straight and the controversy over his casting as a gay character in a Disney movie is clouding the fact that there is an openly gay character in a Disney movie — a first. Disney has been accused of “gay erasure” in not giving the role to a gay actor. Neither Jack Whitehall or Rose’s life exactly mirror that of their respective acting roles, but that doesn’t take away from the impact such characters could have, especially when played by talented performers.
Fans of novels, historical figures, comic books, and even Disney rollercoasters will always have their own casting choices in mind when imagining a film or television production featuring their favorite characters. It is a foregone conclusion that the casting choice will not exactly match fans’ imagination. I had an issue with almost every person cast in “The Martian” after reading the book, but it turned out that they were all really talented actors, and I loved Ridley Scott’s version of the story.
Daisy Ridley is currently slotted to play one of my personal heroes, American spy Virginia Hall. Ridley isn’t an American, and doesn’t match physical descriptions of Hall in any way, but I know she is a very talented actor, and am therefore excited to see Hall’s story on the big screen. There are countless examples like this.
Casting choices for big projects are not just about matching every single aspect of the character to the actor playing them. Studios, big or small, take an enormous risk when they cast an unknown person to play a well-known character. Rose found a big fan base after appearing on “Orange is The New Black,” especially among the LGBTQ community, and will surely bring viewers with her to her new role as Batwoman. The CW even insisted the role be filled by an “out lesbian,” in an attempt to be sensitive to the perceived marginalization of LGBTQ actors working in Hollywood.
The call for recasting Rose is one more example of misguided social outrage. Insisting that casting choices be based on actor identity over talent and box office appeal sets a precedent that is at best in bad taste, and at worst dangerous. Casting calls that insist an actor be a specific blend of gender, race, and religion leads to an enormous possibility for discrimination.
The fact is, actors play parts. No matter how close the actor’s personal life comes to the character, it will never be exactly the same. That is what documentaries and reality television are for. These kinds of examples could go on for days, but Brian Cox and Anthony Hopkins both brilliantly played Hannibal Lector, though neither of these men are serial killers or cannibals.
Colin Firth won an Academy Award for his portrayal of King George the VI without being a member of any royal family. Sir Ben Kingsley beautifully portrayed Itzhak Stern in “Schindler’s List,” though he is an Englishman of Indian decent. Straight actors playing gay roles and vice versa have many more examples. Accolades aren’t given to performers because they are good at playing characters that are just like them. They are given to actors who can stretch and take great risks.
The character of Batwoman was reintroduced in August 2006 as part of the DC comic book series, and erased the antiquated idea of Batwoman as a vampy love interest to Batman. In addition to being gay and Jewish, the new Batwoman was a student at West Point and trained with the Green Berets. What if, for a moment, we could believe Rose will play Batwoman quite well? Not because she is a lesbian or can identify with growing up Jewish, but because she is a talented actor who is adept at playing a strong, confident woman.