The new DC Universe television series “Batwoman,” which was hyped by DC and The CW as an overtly social justice-oriented series, finally aired two weeks ago amid much buzz. With two episodes released, reviews of the series reveal a dramatic gap between the response of critics and viewers. While the critics overall have given the series their official endorsement, viewers loathe it to a degree of unanimity rarely seen.
The new “Batwoman” series features a lesbian lead character who is “armed with a passion for social justice and flair for speaking her mind,” as The Hollywood Reporter described it when it was first announced last year:
Batwoman revolves around Kate Kane, who, armed with a passion for social justice and flair for speaking her mind, 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. But don’t call her a hero yet: in a city desperate for a savior, Kate must overcome her own demons before embracing the call to be Gotham’s symbol of hope.
“Intersectional” controversy quickly arose when the identity of the actress who would play Kane/Batwoman was first announced last year. Actress Ruby Rose, who generally presents herself as female but identifies as “gender fluid,” came under such severe backlash from angry left-wing critics for being “not gay enough” that she felt compelled to get off social media.
Amid growing anticipation, “Batwoman” finally aired two weeks ago. With two episodes now released, review aggregating site Rotten Tomatoes gives the series a critics’ score of 70%, meaning a strong majority of critics scored it positively. The site offers the following “Critics Consensus” summary that gives a nod to the series’ identity politics focus:
Though it needs more time to develop its own identity to truly soar, Batwoman‘s fun and stylish first season is a step in the right direction for representation and superhero shows alike.
While the show enjoys a healthy 70% critics score, with 40 reviewers having weighed in thus far, the audience score is a far different matter. With over 5,500 viewers having offered their opinions, “Batwoman” currently has a devastating 12% audience score — a 58% gap between how viewers and critics score the show.
So far, out of the 40 critics, 28 give the show a “fresh” rating while 12 give it a “rotten” score. Many of the critics endorsing the show tip their hand that its “representation”-focus has something to do with their positive view of it.
“Batwoman is shaping up to be the queer, boundary breaking superhero television deserves,” writes Refinery29’s Ariana Romero.
“The best part of the new series is that unfussy, effortless way of getting Kate’s sexual orientation out of the way, and also Kate herself,” says Newsday’s Verne Gay, who gives it a 2.5 out of 4 stars.
“Ruby Rose is very fun in this role. She’s cheeky and flirty and butchy and broody and punchy and I can’t wait to see what else she brings to one of my all-time favorite fictional lesbian characters,” writes Autostraddle’s Heather Hogan.
“Gritty and fiercely feminist, the series is very much an Arrowverse show that also stands as its own thing,” says TV Guide’s Keisha Hatchet, who gives it a 70 out of 100.
Among the complaints of those relatively few critics who give it the thumbs down is the show’s “lack of identity,” its “poorly conceived supporting cast,” and its habit of “trying too hard.”
“Thanks to a poorly conceived supporting cast and a serious lack of identity, the Batwoman pilot isn’t all that great, especially if you’re not a mega fan of the already existing Arrowverse franchise,” suggests ComicBook.com’s Charlie Ridgely, who gives it a 3 out of 5.
“Batwoman has a lot of potential but this pilot feels too torn. When the show is not trying too hard, it works decently. But, when it forces itself to deliver messages, it falls apart,” writes Jo Blo’s Movie Emporium’s Alex Maidy, who gives it a 6 out of 10.
While 70% of the critics liked it overall, only 12% of viewers who took to Rotten Tomatoes to offer their opinion say they did. Many of the over 5,000 audience reviewers score the series 1 or 0.5 out of 5 stars.
“Not good, trying way too hard,” writes one audience reviewer. “Very boring and preachy, could of been great but as is now its a HUGE fail,” writes another.
“Painfully cramped story and predictable characters … seems to fit a whole season’s worth of content in the first two episodes,” writes another viewer. “I definitely think they turned down the wokeness seen in the trailer, but either way, that is not what makes this series fail so far.”
“This could have been amazing. Such a disappointment,” writes another. “I paid nothing to see this commercial free and I feel ripped off,” says another viewer.
The huge disparity in the critics and audience score echoes what happened with the similarly social justice/feminist-themed comic book production, “Captain Marvel.” In fact, the terrible “want to see” score on Rotten Tomatoes ahead of the release of the film compelled the site to completely drop the score, only allowing viewers to post responses after the film/show is released.