This post contains spoilers for Batwoman.
"Bat Girl Magic" is a cute name for Batwoman’s third episode this season, but it’s also a frustrating reminder of how Black women are valued. The introduction of Ryan Wilder’s character has brought brand new nuances to the show that simply weren't present with Kate Kane. Ryan Wilder isn’t just a Black woman who is stepping into Kate Kane’s Batwig; she is also a homeless ex-con. All of this changes her interactions in this world compared to Kate’s.
Ryan was already going to have to do more than double the work to prove herself, but with the criminal background, that work doubles again. There is no magic involved. No matter how fantastic Ryan may be as the new Batwoman, she is still as human as the flawed Kate Kane. And she is still deserving of the respect she gets as Batwoman when she isn’t wearing the cowl, but so far, each episode has shown us that won’t always be the case for Ryan. It has absolutely everything to do with who she is.
Within the first ten minutes of "Bat Girl Magic", Ryan is 12 seconds early meeting with her parole officer, who makes a huge deal about her near-tardiness, rather than praise her for being on time. Up until this point, Ryan has had to be extraordinary for some of the people she’s come into contact with to give her the benefit of the doubt. Toward the end of the episode, Ryan meets with her parole officer again, who's this time busy gushing over what Gotham news has dubbed Bat Girl Magic—a play on Black Girl Magic because the new Batwoman is a Black woman doing remarkable things. That’s all well and fine, but we see that Ryan’s parole officer can gush over a Black woman saving the city but have all the smoke for Ryan, who is trying her best but fighting an uphill battle as a Black ex-con.
In the previous episode, Ryan was denied a job she was more than qualified for simply because she is an ex-con. And then, to add injury to insult, she was brought in for questioning by police for a crime she didn’t commit and prevented from escalating further. It doesn’t even matter that a Black woman detective questions her. Sophie assumes the worst of her due to her past. It’s very much an “all skin folk ain’t kinfolk” moment for Ryan. Sophie just so happens to be a Black woman, but she is still a cop who decides the person sitting before her is guilty, even when that person looks like her and has no substantial evidence. Representation matters, but it doesn’t mean much when the representative doesn’t care to be one who doesn’t uphold the same profiling used by her fellow white officers. Not that anyone should expect much from members of law enforcement to start, but still.
Looking back to Ryan’s parole officer, even when Ryan at least lands a job and receives positive praise from her boss, the PO is still on her about what she hasn’t accomplished yet. She only gives Ryan a week to obtain housing, a moment that we can see was extremely frustrating for Ryan. This lady can praise a vigilante she doesn’t know because she’s doing astonishing acts, but then she is chastises a woman she's meant to assist as she transitions back into society can’t even be on time to a parole meeting.
The only person to give Ryan some credit before she has to prove herself is Mary. She is the only one to look into Ryan’s history and not judge her negatively like everyone else. Instead, she sympathizes with Ryan’s situation after discovering they have similar tragic accounts involving their mothers. Mary is also the one to help Ryan secure a job. Luke, on the other hand, seems to be a blend of Ryan’s parole officer and Sophie, at least up until the last minutes of the third episode. His exchanges with Ryan are as cringe as the one she had with Sophie, though his motivations are different. He doesn’t feel Ryan is worthy of wearing the suit, and even after she did a damn job under the cowl up until that point. It’s not until she proves herself “worthy'' by defeating Zsasz and Mary advocating Ryan the ex-con and not Ryan the Batwoman that Luke is finally ready to see how unfair he had been because of his emotions. Yes, he is dealing with Kate’s disappearance, but so is Mary, and Kate was her sister.
Hopefully, Luke keeps this energy up because Ryan could use more people in her corner when she isn’t in Bat Girl Magic mode. It will be interesting to see how Ryan continues to navigate a world that automatically wants to think the worst of her when she isn’t Batwoman. That will get exhausting after a while if it isn't already.
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