I Know Why the New ‘Batwoman’ and ‘Captain Marvel’ Are Enraging Fans
I watched the new Batwoman trailer. The one that gave Gotham and DCEU fans a taste of the upcoming CW television show. Ruby Rose as Kate Kane is a force of strength, power, and steaminess usually reserved for male leads. A segment of the fandom is attacking the trailer and the show decrying Rose in this role and LGBTQ themes. That’s not their problem though, but I know what is and you will too after we scratch the surface a bit.
In the trailer, she infiltrates the Batcave and strolls through the place without a second thought, like that world belongs to her. Later, Kane commandeers the official Bat Suit and has it altered to fit her feminine form. She continues on in this trailer, dishing out some smooth one-liners and vicious beatdowns (even taking a few hits). There’s also a sultry kissing scene that makes it clear who the hero is in this show. Kate Kane is taking over for the missing Batman and she seems to be a better fit at the role than he was.
Kane does it all with a feminine masculinity that Batman wishes he could pull off. Scratch the surface of the complaints about the trailer that are overwhelming every social media post about the trailer and you will see that Kane’s masculine portrayal is what’s bothering all the so-called fans who are attacking the show right now. If Rose can usurp a superhero image once reserved for only Batman — and make it look so effortless — then what is left for the Bat? What is left to empower the patriarchy that our system is built on?
The ‘Captain Marvel’ Hate has the Same Origins
When the Captain Marvel movie was released this year, there was an immediate and negative outcry. It seemed to follow actress Brie Larsen’s call for diversity in the press leading up to the film. It didn’t take long for that surge of anger to shift as scores of predominantly male social media users bashed Captain Marvel and then Larsen for a host of offenses. Forced feminist agenda, playing politics in a comic movie, being too “mean”, and unrealistic were some of the common complaints.
If anyone pushed back, the user usually went into a tirade or blocked everyone in an epic tantrum. Others spammed articles of feminist writers or filled their inboxes with hate letters. These and other wildly irrational responses made even less sense after I watched the film.
The departures from the original Ms. Marvel comics were no worse than the other Avengers storylines. The changes were all about updating and altering the character and her story to fit the larger MCU storyworld needs. The alleged forced feminism was nothing more than the changes one would make to a story to tell through a female gaze. (Until now, all superhero men and women had their stories told through a male gaze.) In addition, the alleged “politics” of the story is the actual storyline. Read the comics.
In truth, none of these or any other excuses were the reasons why the intergalactic superhero rubbed predominantly male members of the fandom the wrong way. The reason they didn’t like Captain Marvel is the same reason the Batwoman trailer is under attack — she usurped the traditional roles of men. In doing so, she ended up completely jarring everyone in the audience who depend upon those roles as the foundation for their own identity.
Feminine Masculinity is Not a New Threat
In the article “Patriarchy, Power, and Feminine Masculinity,” author Athena Nguyen identified the problem as conditioning we’ve undergone over time to view men and their gender role. “Masculinity has been regarded as a sign, a reward, an instrument of men’s power and as central to the maintenance of the patriarchy and women’s subordination.” According to Ngyuen, to be masculine is to compete, to be aggressive, to dominate, and to be arrogant. These are the traits that we use to identify a “good man” in business, politics, and in finding heterosexual mates. So many people let these traits guide them even against their best judgment.
Over half the country voted for a bankruptcy-prone, five times divorced, and politically ignorant man for President in 2016. They saw the traits of masculinity and instantly though the man more appealing than the woman he was running against. He was aggressive in every match they had, dominating her whenever possible and letting his ego run rampant. Those voters justified it by calling Trump a good businessman despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary. They believed a false idea, one that we have been conditioned to prefer in our male leaders.
The idea of feminine masculinity comes from queer theory where there are studies of lesbian women and transmen who take on masculine identities successfully. These women assume the look of a man with confidence and strength, but also without the toxic traits. The new masculine is a much better fit for the world and the women assuming are much better at it that men have become very threatened. Their entire identity was built upon owning these traits. It the men don’t own them anymore, then who are they. The idea is complex and is almost a paradox on its own. It must be said that the term does encompass that feeling of frustration and confusion that people feel when they come face to face with a female inversion of their masculine ideals.
So many people in our society identify themselves based on a set of very outdated gender rules. “I am a man because the rules say I am the strong one, the fast one, the aggressive one. You are a woman because you are softer, slower, and nurturing. I am a man because I protect a woman. You are a woman because you must be protected.” Yes, this sounds corny and simplistic, but think about the gender roles that are still around today. They are predicated upon the basic ideas that women are inferior to men. So when a woman like Ruby Rose as Batwoman upends all of Batman’s masculinity in one trailer, people are going to be upset. When Captain Marvel shows that girls can command the masculine traits without smiling, or padding her…figure…it will through some people on the verge of an identity crisis.
And, we all know how devastating an identity crisis can be. You can see it play out in the comments of Captain Marvel and now Batwoman videos all over the web.
Are You Having a Massive Fan Identity Crisis
The people we see attacking the Batwoman trailer as “advancing a lesbian agenda,” “forcing girl -power,” “pushing an unrealistic narrative of a woman beating men,” are not hating. They are triggered by the feminine masculinity that Ruby Rose just drips onscreen. Watching her take on the great Batman’s mansion, suit, crime fighting, and womanizing are jarring. If a woman can do that, then what does that leave for people whose identities are teetering on the idea of male superiority and traits of toxic masculinity? It leaves a hole that is too scary to look into. So, they lash out.
It’s not just men. There are so many women who are conditioned to believe that they are inferior and that these traits make up a man who will love and protect them. But, if a sexy Kate Kane can do everything your man can do but better, then that trailer just blew a hole in your comfy little wifey life.
If you are one the people triggered over these heroines, you have some soul searching to do. Now, when I talk about people who didn’t like the Captain Marvel film and/or Batwoman trailer, I don’t mean the folks who just simply said, “Meh, not for me.” I am talking about the people who experienced an emotive event upon viewing the film and/or the trailer. These people can’t really put their finger on the source, either. So they create superficial excuses. Some will lean on the fandom. For example, commenters chastising the CW over Kane cited the comic. But, if they truly followed the Batwoman character, they’d know she is a lesbian in the comics as well. Leaning on the comics, in this case, is a failure of an excuse.
If you are one of these people, there are things you can do. Start a support group of women superhero haters, or sit with yourself and look inward for the source of your crisis. Research, and even seek therapy. Just stop trashing Kate Kane and Carol Danvers (a.k.a. Captain Marvel). We all know they are not the reason for your grief.