Batwoman: Rethinking Her Origin Going Forward

by Skyler Sneathen 5 months ago in comics

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Batwoman: Rethinking Her Origin Going Forward

I finally decided to give the Batwoman television series a try. CW's shows hold little to no warmth in my heart, unfortunately. Why the DC shows from CW does not meet my approval, is not the problem. Furthermore, if you enjoy them, that is fine. I am almost jealous of you. Batwoman's origin is beginning to show its age, thanks just to the pilot of the television series. Case in point, can Don't Ask, Don't Tell still hold relevancy in the Batwoman mythos?

History of Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Beginning in The Revolutionary War, there was a ban on gays enlisting and serving in the armed forces. Throughout history, the ban becomes more stringent and public. Civil rights of gays and lesbians openly serving in the military finally became a political issue in the 1992 U.S. Presidential election. Press coverage all over the issue, with Democratic presidential candidates all supporting lifting the ban. Sadly in 1993, only 44% of the public was content with gays and lesbians serving. Many in the military, including Gen. Carl Mundy, Jr., and Commander Craig Quigley, did not support this either. Commander Quigley ignorantly stated, "Homosexuals are notoriously promiscuous."

Don't Ask, Don't Tell was a compromise between the two factions reached on February 28, 1994. Now gays and lesbians can serve...just not openly. The full title of this policy is Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Pursue.

Don't Ask - military and appointed officials cannot and will not inquire about a person's sexual orientation.

Don't Tell - a member can face discharge if they disclose information about their homosexuality/bisexuality.

Don't Pursue - establishes requirements for initiating an investigation.

Over 13,000 members will be discharged under Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Luckily, in each year after DADT's implementation, public support sways to allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly. In November 2007, 28 retired generals and admirals urged Congress to repeal this policy. A whole year later, and almost four times as many retirees sign a similar statement. President Barrack Obama signs into law, the Don't Ask, Don't Repeal Act of 2010 on December 22, 2010. Finally, undoing the harmful damage of such a discriminatory policy that forces people to hide.

Batwoman's Debut and Origin

Katherine "Kate" debuts in 52 #7 in August 2006. Her debut as Catwoman will come a month later in 52 #11. However, right from the get-go, she is outed as a lesbian, with a romantic history with Detective Renee Montoya. A fleshed-out origin for the character will have to wait for some years. After the 52 series comes to an end, Batwoman enjoys a seven-issue run in Detective Comics. Her origin picks up near the end of this run, now known as Elegy. Detective Comics #859 finally brings it all in, noting that seven years ago, Kate Kane was one of DADT's casualties. The issue arrives in our comic book shops a whole year before the repeal. Furthermore, according to the story, the discharge was in 2002.

DC Comics does something of a soft reboot or retcon in 2011 with the New 52. With the many changes to so many characters, Batwoman's origin remains the same. As of right now, the discharge under DADT remains. How long can this background detail hold?

Problems Arise

The Batwoman television series comes into play here. The show debuts in October 2019 in what we can only assume is contemporary time, just like the comics. Right away in the pilot, we see the origin of Kate's discharge, with her lover selling her out. She has been in training for years ala Batman Begins style since then. How was it Kate was discharged for 'homosexual conduct' so recently? Kate either needed to seek a lawyer or ask her father, a military general, to do something about this injustice.

Maybe one possibility lies in the discharge being nine years ago before the repeal. Then our character ages miraculously or not at all. Other issues arise with Kate Kane's birthday of January 26, 1990. Eighteen years later, in 2008, she can attend Point Rock Academy. Hence, this horrible injustice is still possible, but her discharge comes on the day of her graduation. Four years later, 2012, and I guess the military never got the memo.

The U.S. Military has an effencient history of implementation when it comes to these kinds of changes. The racial integration of the military began in 1948 under President Truman. By the end of his presidency, five years later, 90% of the services were fully integrated. Full school integration took roughly twenty years! It should be noted that the repeal went into effect rather quickly, with full implementation finally taking effect in September of 2011. Again, how does Kate Kane get the boot a whole year after the law's implementation? Either the writers are lazy, did not do their research, or just do not care about remaining historically ignorant.

Reformatting

Imagine in the next decade we finally receive a Batwoman film. No doubt Hollywood will cast some young sweetheart for Kate Kane, roughly in her twenties. That actress is hardly the age to even be serving or in the academy to face discharge under DADT. The media is problematic when it comes to this, not just Hollywood. In all comics, Batwoman is drawn quite young and sexy. We can guesstimate her age range from mid-twenties to early thirties. In a generation or so, will this change? In 2030 she probably will not be showing any age, entering menopause or any of that. Why won't DC Comics do this? Simply because that just isn't sexy. Aging such as this is not uncommon. For example, over thirty years later, and Maggie Simpson is still a baby. One exemption is the Judge Dredd comic, where time passes in real-time.

Marvel has been able to cheat in a sense with characters like Captain American and Magneto. Both characters' background is heavily tied to World War II. Retconning these details is akin to blasphemy, one can argue. Luckily, Marvel can exploit the meta-human nature of said characters to circumvent the aging issue. Unfortunately, Batwoman is not a meta-human.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell is now part of our past. Luckily, its stain on America is nowhere near the story and level of slavery. Homophobia in the military still created many victims. We look at Kate Kane, a woman who was not allowed to be herself. Instead, she could only stay if she were to lie about her sexuality. However, the military certainly holds no acceptance for dishonesty either. The character already existed for three years before this origin of hers. Can she continue to thrive without it?

If anything, her discharge under DADT serves as the tragic catalyst to her transformation as Batwoman. She could not make it in the military due to their code. Hence, she has to find and pursue her own. She wanted to serve something greater than herself and found that calling with the Bat-signal, a call to arms. No matter what, her calling is Batwoman, not the military, we all know that. Hence, we almost do not require the military. No doubt, her sexuality is central to the character, and I am not saying we drop that. What is problematic is the lack of real-time storytelling and historical illiteracy. I do not claim to have the answers here. But if they do not want to age the character or provide some meta-human excuse, the DADT plot point will have to drop.

References

Associated Press, Admirals, generals: Let Gays Serve Openly, NBC News, November 18, 2008

Korb, Lawrence J., The Costs of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Center For American Progress, March 2, 2009

Schmitt, Eric Marine Corps Chaplain Says Homosexuals Threaten Military, The New York Times, August 26, 1992

Schmitt, Eric Military Cites Wide Range of Reasons for Its Gay Ban, The New York Times, January 27, 1993

Vaid, Urvashi Virtual Equality: The Mainstreaming of Gay and Lesbian Liberation, Anchor Books, 1995

comics
Skyler Sneathen
Skyler Sneathen
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Skyler Sneathen

Full-time worker, history student and an avid comic book nerd.

See all posts by Skyler Sneathen