Holy Diversity, Batman!
Photo: Gotham girls Victoria Cartagena as Renee Montoya, Jada Pinkett Smith as Fish Mooney, Zabryna Guevara as Sarah Essen, and Erin Richards as Barbara Kean Gordon.
It’s no secret the superhero genre is practically overflowing with queer metaphors. Characters struggle with secret identities; mutants are despised by society because they are born different. However, viewers of Gotham — the new TV series from Fox based on the world of Batman long before he donned the cape and cowl — won’t need the detective skills of the Dark Knight to find LGBT visibility or racial diversity. In this reimagining, women of color are depicted in positions of power on both sides of the law, and strong LGBT characters are an essential part of the story from the first episode.
Though Gotham centers on James Gordon (played by Ben McKenzie) during his early days as a rookie detective in the Gotham City Police Department, it’s the rich cast of characters that breathes new life into this rendering of the famous fictional city. “Gotham is beautiful, dark, dangerous, and romantic. It’s the kind of cityscape you should look at and believe anything can happen, and that means everybody should exist there,” says co–executive producer Danny Cannon, who also directed the show’s pilot episode. “There’s no way on Earth we would have a show like this limit itself with out-of-date values.”
Gotham’s groundbreaking inclusion of the Latina lesbian detective Renee Montoya as a recurring character, played by Victoria Cartagena (pictured below with Ben McKenzie), firmly places the show in a league of its own.
Debuting in Batman No. 475, Montoya became a favorite among LGBT comic readers when she was outed as lesbian in the 2003 comic book series Gotham Central. Her appearance in the TV series Gotham will mark not only the first time a lesbian character has appeared in a live-action adaptation of Batman’s world but also the first time a lesbian of color will be a recurring character on any prime-time superhero series.
Cartagena believes Gotham’s inclusion of strong women from a variety of underrepresented backgrounds will help usher in a new age of inclusion for film and TV based in the superhero realm. It’s a sentiment shared by her costar Pinkett Smith. “It’s a new day when we can have a show on television that is not afraid to explore various sexual orientations of women,” says Pinkett Smith. “Let us hope that this is a path toward even more change in regard to the perceptions of female sexuality, as well as our bodies in relation to sex.”
Gotham debuts September 22 on Fox.