With ‘Batgirl’ Shelved, the DC Film Universe Loses Its Most Prominent Trans Character

She was played by Ivory Aquino, who wrote an open letter addressing the Batgirl 'funeral screenings' this week.

With ‘Batgirl’ Shelved, the DC Film Universe Loses Its Most Prominent Trans Character
Photo:Getty Images

The Batgirl saga doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon—despite the fact the movie is headed for the Warner Bros. Discovery vault until this new (supposedly) non-monopoly is out of debt (or for forever). Just this week, the studio began hosting farewell screenings for cast members, crew, and studio execs, brazenly referring to them as “funeral screenings,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. And now one of Batgirl’s stars has taken to social media to try and convince executives to revive the nearly dead film. Except, I really think this news cycle is underselling one of the biggest fucking problems of the movie getting shelved.

Ivory Aquino, who plays Alysia Yeoh, Batgirl’s best friend and DC’s first major trans film character, posted an open letter to Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav on Thursday, via a 12-tweet thread, asking that he “consider releasing Batgirl.” Somewhat tepid, but reasonable, I suppose. Aquino, who is also trans, compared the CEO to “one large cog atop increasingly smaller cogs underneath” and that, while a “small movement” could seem “tiny” to the big cog, it can actually be “seismic” for “those little cogs at the bottom.”

Aquino’s thread is incredibly emotional. She mentioned that her dad recently passed and how she viewed this film as a father-daughter story “more than anything.” But the internet is made to reward anger. If she doesn’t have it in her right now to get pissed—understandably, as her acting career is currently at the mercy of a mega-corporation—I’ll do it for her.

No one whose opinion I care about is mad that a superhero movie will not be released. What would make people mad? That the superhero movie being shelved features a prominent trans character in a role where transness isn’t the only part of their identity or their only contribution to the plot line. That is what could be emphasized when trying to bring this movie back from the brink. And thus far, it’s not getting the attention it merits—on social media or in news coverage.

“I do know and ask, with something like Batgirl that’s a product of our hearts and souls, that the little cogs not simply be seen as widgets whose fates are determined by an equation to benefit the bottom line,” Aquino’s thread continued. “More than widgets, we are fellow human beings and artists who, when given the chance, can outperform the equation and multiply the bottom line exponentially.”

Ok. That excerpt is a beautiful appeal to humanity. But when the hell has a beautiful appeal to humanity ever made a CEO take pause? What could get a CEO’s attention? A social media protest campaign that won’t shut the fuck up about marginalized groups.

The cast and creatives behind Batgirl have the metaphorical paddles to try to jolt the film’s heart back to life one more time by focusing on the fact that Warner Bros. Discovery is keeping a trans portrayal from our screens. Trans people are increasingly being targeted and criminalized across the country. And a state investigation into a cisgender girl’s gender following her athletic success recently proved yet again that the targeting will not stop. We have to tell more trans stories. Putting trans characters in these ultra-visible movies is a step forward.

I’m not naive. Having a trans person in a comic book film will not bring about housing protection for LGBTQIA people or stop the murder of trans women around the country. But I do think—to use an overused word—normalizing trans people in all parts of media is crucial. Comic book movies are a genre to be reckoned with. The last 15 years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have reshaped how movies, fandoms, and corporations operate. Superhero movies are among the most watched films in America and worldwide. The DC Extended Universe, of which Batgirl is a member, is trying to keep up. Emphasizing the marginalized group at the heart of this one could be the path forward for convincing the studio to free Batgirl from its funeral pyre.

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