Saturday, February 21, 2009

Batwoman: 30 Years Postmortem and Better than Ever

by Lisa Moody
Batwoman's back!  Although I remember her as Batgirl, she is resurrected from her 1979 grave as Batwoman and she's smokin'!  And, she's a lesbian! Now, before my fellow lesbians get their boxers in a wad over the fact that she's a lipstick lesbian, take a deep breath and repeat after me...We have a superhero!  OK, one created precisely for the male-dominated comic audience to drool over and fantasize about, but who cares?  Batwoman's a hottie that everyone can enjoy.
We now have a superhero role model to proclaim loudly that women, and lesbians in particular, can be strong, smart, agile and athletic, and do great things for the community, the nation, and the planet.  And they can be sexy and curvaceous.  You'll note she's a real woman—a solid five feet, ten inches who is ample and round.  She's not a flimsy, heroin-chic skinny.  This girl's got girth.
The creators are saying that her gayness will simply be a fact of life.  From what I've read, her sexual orientation won't be exploited or made into a mockery or, excuse the obvious, a cartoon character. Her lesbianism simply is. This is a huge step forward and I believe a sign of the current times. In my day…did I really say that? In my day, lesbian role models were…um…they were…well, where were they?  They didn't exist.  And when movies finally featured openly lesbian characters, they were their lesbianism instead of just being people.  Plus, they were usually dysfunctional, totally screwed up dyke-drama queens, or they were straight women who were portrayed as confused and experimenting and "went back to" their men with an overriding undercurrent of apology.
In my day…God help me again…we marched in Washington DC, we asked but didn't tell, we were voted-against in attaining equal rights to straight people…oh, that still is my day.  We had to stand out in order to try to fit in, if that makes sense.  From what I've witnessed recently in younger lesbians (20-somethings), they aren't so much their lesbianism.  It is one aspect of who they are, but it doesn't singularly define them.  I like that. 
Not long ago, I was part of a panel discussion following a Clip film festival movie and I had the audacity to say I look forward to the day when we don't need gay films, meaning, when we are simply an accepted part of society.  So accepted, that we are integrated as part of the whole.  I used the example of Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner in The Bodyguard.  Long after I saw the movie, it hit me that they had an interracial relationship and never once in the entire movie were either of their races mentioned. It simply was, and as a viewer, we accepted that without question.  That's what I strive for in our filmmaking future.  When I said this at the Clip discussion, I heard lots of gasps. I think I actually got booed, although that may have been in my imagination.  But the audience was older—like, my age—and we fought hard for our recognition and perhaps we're not ready to let go of our standout position, unlike our successors.
So the resurrected Batwoman may be our bridge, from "my day" to tomorrow.  A superhero that sets a high standard for all humans.  Who happens to be gay.  I can see the future much closer than I ever imagined.  The next Black President will simply be the next President.  The next lesbian superhero will simply be a superhero. In the meantime, we'll claim Batwoman just as she is:  One of our own.
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