While shitty white men are hyper-visible everywhere—that’s kind of their thing—genre fandoms have earned bad reputations as bigoted-troll hotbeds. The Star Wars fan community, for example, is a complicated universe unto itself, overrun with negative forces and bad actors dead set on imposing their outdated values.
According to these extremely vocal fans, there’s no place in the galaxy for people of color and empowered female protagonists. Aided by social media, these racist meninists have banded together, organizing under hashtags like #BoycottStarWarsVII and #DumpStarWars.
It would be one thing if these detractors were just passing their trash takes back and forth in toxic Twitter hashtags. But angry fans have unleashed their hate on innocent individuals like Kelly Marie Tran, the Last Jedi actress whose exciting casting as Rose Tico was quickly met with racist rhetoric and online harassment. According to Newsweek, Tran’s page on Wookieepedia was defaced: “Her name was changed to ‘Ching Chong Wing Tong,’ and her homeworld (Hays Minor) to ‘Ching Chong China.’ A fake quote was also attributed to Rose: ‘Heil Hitler and I don’t know why I was casted [sic] in a good movie like Star Wars.’”
Tran reportedly deleted all of the posts on her Instagram in response to “months of harassment.” What should have been a huge step forward—Tran was the first woman of color to be cast as a Star Wars lead—served as yet another reminder of how far the fandom still has to go, and the very real challenges that actors from marginalized communities face even after they land the role of a lifetime.
While fandoms across the fantasy, sci-fi, and comics spectrum aren’t exclusively male or white, these fans seem to be operating under the impression that this content belongs to them; they feel personally threatened by an increasingly diverse Star Wars cast or an all-female reboot. Unsurprisingly, there’s overlap between Last Jedi haters and the alt-right—and don’t forget that Donald Trump himself was a vocal opponent of 2016’s all-female Ghostbusters.
So when the CW announced that they were looking for an out actress to play a lesbian Batwoman in a new TV show—the first gay superhero to headline a live-action series—you could see the backlash coming from a mile away. The description of the character read like a mash-up of shit that neo-Nazis don’t like: “Armed with a passion for social justice and a flair for speaking her mind, Kate Kane soars onto the streets of Gotham as Batwoman, an out lesbian and highly trained street fighter primed to snuff out the failing city’s criminal resurgence.” The sneering Breitbart blog post basically writes itself.
Shockingly, the backlash to Ruby Rose’s recently announced casting appears to actually be coming from inside the house—from fans who seem to love the idea of an out actress playing Kate Kane, but want more from their trailblazing lesbian superhero.
According to Deadline, Batwoman was revived in 2006 as a Jewish lesbian—the first lesbian title character in the DC universe. Back in May, it was announced that Batwoman would appear in the upcoming CW Arrowverse crossover event. Then came the news that Kate Kane would likely follow up that appearance with her own TV show, from Vampire Diaries executive producer Caroline Dries and Arrowverse visionary Greg Berlanti.
Last week, Ruby Rose celebrated her casting in an Instagram post, writing, “This is something I would have died to have seen on TV when I was a young member of the LGBT community who never felt represented on tv and felt alone and different.”
But just two days after the announcement, Rose quit Twitter in a series of tweets that appeared to call out critiques from the queer community, including misguided allegations that the gender fluid actor “is not a lesbian.” In the now-deleted message, Rose wrote, “Where on earth did ‘Ruby is not a lesbian therefore she can’t be batwoman’ come from -- has to be the funniest most ridiculous thing I’ve ever read. I came out at 12? And have for the past 5 years had to deal with ‘she’s too gay’ how do y’all flip it like that? I didn’t change. I wish we would all support each other and our journeys.”
“When women and when minorities join forces we are unstoppable... when we tear each other down it’s much more hurtful than from any group,” she continued. “But hey/ love a challenge I just wish women and the LGBT community supported each other more, My wish was we were all a little kinder and more supportive of each other...Sending everyone my love and gratitude, it’s been a rollercoaster of a year, this month especially.”
“I am looking forward to getting more than 4 hours of sleep and to break from Twitter to focus all my energy on my next 2 projects. If you need me, I’ll be on my Bat Phone.”
Meanwhile, the Twitter hashtag #RecastBatwoman is still going strong. Recurring sentiments appear to be that Batwoman should be played by a Jewish lesbian, and that the role would have been a great opportunity to elevate new talent. Sample tweets include, “Ruby is great... But she is not the only queer actress out there” and “JEWISH LESBIAN CHARACTER SHOULD BE PLAYED BY A JEWISH LESBIAN.”
The hashtag denizens have rallied around another actress, Ashley Platz, whose Batwoman audition tape has been widely circulated. One Twitter user wrote, “Why didn’t Ashley got the part, her audition had a great positive reaction in the lgbt community.” Another added, “Hey @TheCW the people #Batwoman is for want and support Ashley Platz. She’s a fantastic actress who became Kate in that audition. She’s done stunt work, she’s got the look, she’s absolutely perfect. So #RecastBatwoman because Kate Kane is NOT a popularity contest.”
There’s even a Change.org petition from “Supergirl Fan” begging the CW and Greg Berlanti to give Platz the part. It’s gotten to the point that Platz herself has logged on to defend Ruby Rose, tweeting, “Seeing so many people #recastbatwoman and rooting for me. First: I appreciate how much support and love you’re sending my way. Second: I know This role means a lot to Ruby (it would mean a lot to me) and she will work her ass off to fulfill the character. #Batwoman.”
“To be clear: @RubyRose is going to kick ass,” she added. “I’m so happy that @TheCW is bringing #Batwoman to life no matter who plays her. It’s so important that we see this character no matter what! We got your back mama!”
The news that Rose is shutting down her Twitter was predictably celebrated by the diehard recasters, with comments like, “When DC fans & LGBT fans don’t want something we can be powerful.” Meanwhile, celebrities like Janelle Monáe, Trace Lysette and Laverne Cox have celebrated Rose and applauded the historic casting.