March 23, 2022•3,505 words
From The Summer We Got Free by Mia McKenzie:
“A long time ago, when you were a wee thing, you learned something, some way to cope, something that, if you did it, would help you survive. It wasn't the healthiest thing, it wasn't gonna get you free, but it was gonna keep you alive. You learned it, at five or six, and it worked, it *did* help you survive. You carried it with you all your life, used it whenever you needed it. It got you out--out of your assbackwards town, away from an abuser, out of range of your mother's un-love. Or whatever. It worked for you. You're still here now partly because of this thing that you learned. The thing is, though, at some point you stopped needing it. At some point, you got far enough away, surrounded yourself with people who love you. You survived. And because you survived, you now had a shot at more than just staying alive. You had a shot now at getting free. But that thing that you learned when you were five was not then and is not now designed to help you be free. It is designed only to help you survive. And, in fact, it keeps you from being free. You need to figure out what this thing is and work your ass off to un-learn it. Because the things we learn to do to survive at all costs are not the things that will help us get FREE. Getting free is a whole different journey altogether.”
You’re born into a world that hates you and you look at a blank wall and you think: I wonder what I look like. You go around to many places, picking up anything that bares reflection, so you can see yourself better. But, there are people telling you which pieces look most like you. These people love you, so you trust their judgment. So you pick up the piece that feminizes you, even though it unsettles your stomach. You pick up the piece that focuses eyes towards men, even though that makes your head feel heavy. You pick up pieces that point you towards a lighter, quieter, girl-like thing. You keep picking up pieces until you return to your bare wall and you assemble them into a mirror. You don’t know what is staring back at you, but you know that it keeps people from reaching into your important places to tear you out. Your reflection is so wrong, but you know you need it to survive. So you shrink, even though the reflection grows.
You make it a game, even though it feels life or death. (It is). Sometimes your tue breaks through. Like in the car, mom’s tears and the aching night, when you come out. But at least you can remove those eyes from the mirror. At least you can go looking for something else.
The problem is, there isn’t much to choose from. Every black girl that loves the way you do, seems to love differently, ten inches to the left. Instead of their eyes being filled with the love you know, they move towards just a different version of what you’ve been taught to hunger after, to admire, to fear.
The only ones you can find don’t meet what you think your eyes are meant for. Still, that’s better than nothing. You’re told that you should grab the lightest pieces you can find.
I know it’s not hard to imagine. If you’re here, you probably already have cuts and scars from the mirror shards in your hands.
Batwoman is a CW Show that started in 2019. The main character, Kate Kane, was played by Ruby Rose then later Wallis Day, in the first season and part of the second. It was a big deal! To have a lesbian superhero portrayed by a queer person? Headed by a queer writers’ room? It’s unheard of!
I wasn’t there for the first season. I didn’t hear great things about it, and really, I had a lot of white lesbians to choose from. I already glued their faces into my mirror. They never smiled back, but I was used to that.
But, in 2020, ultimate heartthrob and Smile Goddess (I’m not biased), Javicia Leslie was casted as a new character, Ryan Wilder, and the new Batwoman. As soon as her picture in the Batsuit crossed my timeline, I set my DVR, heart thrumming in excitement.
I waited because, getting a black lesbian superhero on screen is revolutionary. And we know what happens to revolutionaries. I decided to wait til the end of season two to make sure she was still there in the next season, because, truthfully, I cannot get my heart up just to bring it into mourning weeks later.
I binged season two when season three took a small break (she’s here! she’s still alive!) at the end of 2021 before coming back for the second half in early 2022.
First, seeing Agent Sophie, ex-Crow-“I know what it’s like to be outed. I want to earn your trust”-cocky-smile-after-hitting-all-her-targets-(Ryan included, whoops)-Motherfucking Moore taking down evil corporations, being a complicated ass character by working in a system that a lot of people don’t believe in, making the difficult choice of leaving and *still* doing the work of getting justice for others, AND making out with women at every given chance just gives life, gives hope, gives all that good good. Then, seeing a black lesbian superhero (I’m gonna keep saying it because it is fucking amazing) kick villain butt, and be soft and funny and teetering on that little line of “good” and “evil” (I put them in quotes because Ryan Wilder is my heart, and Sophie Moore has my heart so if either of them blur the lines, then I’m just gonna take my glasses off and run with them) while seeking a bit of revenge had me smitten/gobsmacked/IN LOVE do you hear me?!
But then! But then! You have Batwoman fall in love with Sophie Moore, a black badass woman who “isn’t your damn damsel in distress”? Who has survived some of the most unforgiveable shit and still shows up loyal and kind and fighting for what she believes in? Bro you know as well as I do that this is rare as shit. And they’re not teenagers? They’re grown ass women?! Even more, they’re both alive! THEY BOTH FUCKING LIVE!
My mirror doesn’t even know how to hold that! I’ve been over here for the past couple of months rethinking my entire life, scrapping this whole mirror and sitting in the middle of the room bewildered and overwhelmed, because of this show. I mean I’m out here making collages of all the black girl characters I grew up with and trusted trying to get back to the root of me. I’m downloading art and animation software to make lil stick figure comics to scratch at what I’m feeling. Lord have mercy, I’m getting back into writing FANFICTION just to chip away at what I’ve really looked and loved like under all these layers that were supposed to protect me. Because when Nic from Autostraddle wrote:
“I had a lot of media consumption under my belt, and I remember that feeling I would get as a kid when I saw two women kissing. It felt scary and forbidden, but also familiar, in a way. Those women were almost always white, and maybe part of me initially wrote off queerness as “white people shit” so it definitely couldn’t be the thing I was feeling.“ ~“Batwoman” Episode 309 Recap: Shut Up and Kiss Me
I felt that shit in my bones. The little part of me that thought I could be saved hinged on “I’m not really gay” because that is indeed “white people shit”. I mean look who all the black girls fall for: white girls, nonblack girls. As long as we keep it that way, it really is just white people shit. I clung to that and chopped off pieces of myself to mirror that so really, I never exist(ed). Seeing Ryan Wilder fall in love on screen, Sophie Moore loving her before the damn audience has time to catch up, for me was what Nic felt stripping away and me holding onto just this: “familiar”. I’ve been struggling with it to be honest. It was taking me a few days to even rearrange my heart to hold the totality of this. Like, when you’re used to begging for breadcrumbs, your stomach is gonna rage against you when you finally get the food you deserve.
Truthfully, after Glee and whatever that was, I swore I’d never get deep into fandom again.
But here I am, talking to you from Planet Wildmoore (Ryan/Sophie’s ship name) in deep space where I’ve relocated since February because here, my cup runneth over. There is a huge difference between a fandom that may or may not tolerate you and people who look like you to one that openly roots for and supports you and yours. When I heard that only a few people came to Nafessa Williams’ panel at ClexaCon 2018 even though other panels were full and she was THE FIRST BLACK LESBIAN SUPERHERO so it’s kind of important!, after watching Anna Diop (Titans), Javicia Leslie, Candice Patton (The Flash), and Azie Tesfai (Supergirl), on an Instagram live last year where they talked about the racism and toxicity of the superhero fandom, prioritizing their mental health, and finding their people (especially within one another), and just remembering what it was like to be surrounded by white girls in high school, I had to really say enough to myself. I decided I needed to watch everything they’ve (Diop, Leslie, Patton, Tesfai, and Williams) ever done and ever will do for the rest of my life. Beginning this journey meant digging, and within that digging, I found a little corner of the Batwoman fandom. If Batwoman has given me my best mirror, the Batwoman fandom has given me reason to continue to look and adjust (with love) and admire my reflection in it.
This doesn’t even begin to touch on just how much fucking fun this show is. Rachel Skarsten is giving us Oscar-worthy performances in each episode. Every time I think she can’t get any better, she kickflips right over my greatest expectations.
Nicole Kang stepped into this show like bitch, I contain multitudes (is she a doctor, a villain, a social media influencer? All the above?) and here they go.
Don’t even get me started on how this show managed to bring Bridget Regan (fanon Poison Ivy for YEARS) into this joint.
Camrus Johnson is not only killing it onscreen as Luke Fox and Batwing (ANOTHER BLACK SUPERHERO), he’s out here directing, with more care and love than you hear from most shows and movies. TVLine reports:
“Johnson worked to ensure that everyone involved in Wednesday’s closing scene was comfortable and properly cared for. That entailed speaking with Javicia Leslie and Meagan Tandy beforehand, enlisting a storyboard artist to draw up the scene so there were no surprises and having an intimacy coordinator on hand.
“The biggest thing that I told them was to have fun with it because when it comes to intimate scenes, I feel like directors and actors and writers can add pressure on a scene that doesn’t need pressure,” he explains. “In a moment like this, one director might think, ‘Okay, the fans have been looking for this for a long time. Let’s amp it up… Let’s really add the romance.’ But you don’t need to add romance to these two characters. There is romance in their blood, so seeing them be romantic is romantic. When you add the giggles, the clumsiness, the silliness, the fun, that makes it more romantic [and] more realistic.”
This is a show that cares not only for its characters, but the actors that portray them.
Like, give this show room to grow because what’s already starting to sprout their little heads from the soil is astounding.
Which brings me back to myself cause duh. What does James Baldwin say?
“It took many years of vomiting up all the filth I'd been taught about myself, and half-believed, before I was able to walk on the earth as though I had a right to be here.”
Batwoman feels like I’m finally wiping my mouth off and standing up to find that I’m not alone, that I’ve never been alone, my people have just been waiting. They’ve just been waiting for me to step into this love, this good, this family.
Right now, Batwoman is still pending a renewal contract. I’m writing this because I woke up needing that Season 4-7 (put it into the universe y’all) renewal. Yes, I need black queer kids and teens to see this is possible, that they can have a life as themselves and still be happy (I mean they get moments of happiness in GOTHAM, they are doing the impossible). But, I need this too. Not to get musically sappy in here but this is my Wicked moment, because I know Batwoman, I have been changed for good.
How could I ever let go of a show like that?
#RenewBatwoman for three more seasons!