I want to preface this by saying I love Alex Danvers and what the CW has managed to accomplish with Supergirl. It’s fantastic television, and I think I’ve already gone out of my way to express that opinion. That being said, there has been a significant spike in a certain line of thinking over the past month that I cannot, in good conscience, ignore.
To say that this desire is problematic is a vast understatement. Especially since Kylie and I have already proven extensively that, by the transitive property, Lena Luthor is Kate Kane. Because she’s going to explain extensively how Asami Sato is Lena, and since Asami is also Kate, and congruence… Yeah, you get the idea.
I want to believe that this is the result of ignorance of Kate Kane’s history and heritage, rather than apathy. That fans googled Maggie Sawyer and saw she’s Batwoman’s girlfriend—they broke up two years ago but whatever—and decided it’d be cute if Alex Danvers got in on the vigilante game, too.
Perhaps they saw the similar haircut, or noticed they both “worked” for the DEO which for Kate was more like “they threatened to throw her father in prison unless she worked for them” than actual employment. Or, bafflingly, it’s because they both happen to be lesbians.
This is not an article I wanted to write. Not because I wouldn’t enjoy it—believe me I did—but more that I prayed such a thing wouldn’t be necessary. That, despite the past several hundred forevers worth of empirical evidence pointing to the contrary, I wouldn’t have call out another example of blatant Jewish erasure.
And that’s not even getting into the actual reason Kate became a vigilante.
See, one of the main ideas of Batman is that it could be anyone under that mask. He’s a myth. An urban legend created to terrify criminals. Batman is an idea, and you cannot kill an idea. The symbol he created, and represents, means something different to everyone. The Bat can adapt to the times, as it should. The mantle can be passed, as it should.
Batwoman isn’t like that.
The uniform doesn’t define Kate, nor will it ever. She defines the uniform.
And as it stands, Alex Danvers is, in a very explicit way, the antithesis of that definition.
You Didn’t Ask, So She Told You
Alex Danvers is a lesbian openly serving in the Department of Extranormal Operations, an “alphabet agency” most likely under the DoD banner. That is to say, she is, for all intents and purposes, a soldier enlisted in the U.S. military.
There are zero consequences for Alex Danvers coming out to her superiors or her fellow agents. They will, undoubtedly, support her and see her no differently than they did the day before because this is Supergirl and they’re going all in for positivity. She can serve her country and do her duty for as long as she’s able.
That was not always so, in case the header didn’t jog your memory.
In 1994, the Clinton Administration enacted a new military service policy for lesbians, gays and bisexuals entitled “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, or DADT for short. DADT barred military personnel from discriminating against closeted individuals, allowing them to serve in the armed forces. At the same time, it also barred those same people from serving openly. Which is something they already explicitly did, but protection from harassment was a pretty big step at the time.
Basically, DADT was exactly what it sounded like. If they didn’t know about it, they didn’t care. But, the moment anyone discovered legitimate grounds for a formal investigation, that was probably it. You’d be dishonorably discharged from the military and banned from further service.
As horrible as that sounds, and was, keep in mind that prior to DADT, homosexual misconduct was occasionally met with criminal charges thanks to sodomy still being considered an extreme offense in some states until as late as 2003. So, instead of anywhere between one to fifteen years in prison, you’d be removed from the service.
Which is exactly what happened to Kate Kane.
The flashback involving Kate’s dishonorable discharge from West Point’s USMA was first published in late 2009, just under two years before DADT would be repealed in September of 2011.
Society Marches On, yes, but that doesn’t make Kate’s refusal to compromise her identity any less important.
In fact, it’s based on an open letter real-life LGBTQIA+ rights activist, and former US Army Infantry Officer 1st LT. Dan Choi wrote to President Obama and the United States Congress.
The full text can be found here, but here’s the relevant bit:
“At West Point, I recited the Cadet Prayer every Sunday. It taught us to ‘choose the harder right over the easier wrong’ and to ‘never be content with a half truth when the whole can be won.’ The Cadet Honor Code demanded truthfulness and honesty. It imposed a zero-tolerance policy against deception, or hiding behind comfort. Following the Honor Code never bowed to comfortable timing or popularity. Honor and integrity are 24-hour values. That is why I refuse to lie about my identity.”
How do I know that this directly inspired Kate’s origin story, rather than it being a coincidence? Well, aside from the fact that I don’t believe in such things, the comic itself tells you:
Dan himself even shows up in a cameo:
The Life She Can Never Have
From a young age, Kate knew she wanted to serve her country. To follow in her family’s long tradition of military service. This sense of purpose drove her through the darkest parts of her childhood, when her mother and twin sister were murdered. But, when given the choice between living the life she’d pursued for so long and lying about who she was…Kate threw her it all away.
Kate’s life became an aimless, drunken stupor for a time; her only dream having been denied to her through no fault of her own. Eventually, after a “chance” encounter with Batman—Bruce was keeping an eye on her (they’re cousins)—she realized that while the military had been closed to her…there were other ways of serving.
Kate Kane isn’t a gay superhero. She’s a superhero because she is gay.
The scope of her need to serve an ideal greater than herself inevitably pushed her into the one thing she could possibly do that would have a real palpable impact.
Alex Danvers has zero reason or incentive to operate outside of the law. As I said before, DADT is not a factor for her. What’s more, though, is that the life she is currently living? As a lesbian openly serving in the military? That’s exactly the life Kate can’t have. The one she wanted since she was a little girl. The one she gave up to maintain her integrity.
If Alex Danvers becomes Batwoman, all of that is erased. Everything that makes the character compelling and unique would be stripped from her. And it wouldn’t be the first time that happened, unfortunately.
Plus, and I’d hope this goes without saying, but sapphic women aren’t interchangeable. Just because they’re both lesbians doesn’t mean they can “sub in” for the other.
The Supergirl writers are very much aware of that, too, considering the effort they put into adapting
Renee Montoya Maggie Sawyer in the face of broadcasting rights complications.
Batwoman Is Extremely Jewish
This is the one that surprises me the least. The fact that Supergirl fans didn’t know that Kate’s dismissal from the military so directly contrasted with Alex’s journey was a little shocking, considering how explicit the parallels are. But Jewish erasure? Yeah, that’s par for the course and I honestly expected it. That doesn’t make it okay, as it personally infuriates me, but that’s just how things are.
Obviously, Alex Danvers is not Jewish. If she was, we’d know about it because the hard part is convincing people that a character is Jewish, not that they aren’t.
Anyway, before you start going on about how “oh maybe she’s only half-Jewish” or “maybe she’s not observant” let me stop you right there. That doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t. For one, both of Kate’s parents, Jacob and Gabrielle, are Jewish. By default, if the mother is Jewish, the child is. Two, even if she’s never so much as looked at a synagogue she’s still Jewish.
That’s how it works.
Kate Kane is very explicitly Jewish. Even when being written by non-Jews, the characterization she underwent during her 2009/10 1o-issue solo run in Detective Comics proved so strong that many of the nuances Greg Rucka poured into her carried over from book to book.
Most notably her uniform, which stands as a reference to Orthodox Jewish women—she wears a wig to conceal her real hair—while also carrying a specific Kabbalistic intonation that Kate assigned herself.
Kabbalah isn’t low-level stuff. It’s, to put it extremely simply, esoteric Jewish mysticism. Think of the pillars—that tree of life looking thing on the right—as Chakras and you get the basic premise. Of course, this is more about becoming closer to God, rather than inner peace or healing but it deals with that stuff as well.
This is the kind of thing she’d have to go out of her way to research and learn about. It’s not exactly standard curriculum for most American congregations. But that could’ve been a one time thing, right? Just a fun little reference…oh wait.
Yes, even her freaking house is a visual reference to Kabbalah. Tree of Life, the actual shape of it. And, of course, the chanukiahs in the background. I’d get into the Judaism present with Bombshells Kate as well, but then we’d be here all week.
Alex Danvers Is Not The Batwoman
No matter how many comparisons you make, whether it be about their personalities or their abilities, the fact will remain the same. Alex is not Kate, thus she cannot be Batwoman.
By definition, she can’t be. The uniform isn’t a costume, and if Alex were to wear it…it’d be a rather striking example of cultural reappropriation. Kate made that her own, and taking it from her is the last thing you want to do. And I hope I’ve convinced you, if you didn’t already agree with me, of that.
Alex is not Jewish and she serves openly in the military. She was not forced to be a vigilante. She isn’t, well, to quote and slightly update J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman’s little opening blurb so that it reflects recent comic events:
“Kate Kane survived a brutal kidnapping by terrorists that left her mother dead and her twin sister lost for decades. Following in her father’s footsteps, she vowed to serve her country and attended West Point until she was expelled under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’. Now, she is many things: Estranged daughter, protective sister, proud lesbian, brave soldier, determined hero.
She is BATWOMAN.”
She’s not that.
Alex Danvers may fill certain surface criteria, but that’s all it really is. Stuff on the surface. And really, if everyone wants Batwoman in Supergirl so badly, why not just have her show up in a cameo role like that cruel fake rumor Bleeding Cool circulated right before SDCC 2016? Batwoman showing up at the DEO with Oracle in her ear, and then running into Maggie when they’re both out of uniform?
You can’t seriously tell me that isn’t about a thousand times more awesome than Alex being Batwoman.