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  • Showing only topics in ~tv with the tag "diversity". Back to normal view / Search all groups
    1. Gotham - the okay-est not-Batman Batman story part 1: Diversity

      I started writing this a couple days ago and it's turning into a bit of a novel with no plot, so I thought I'll break it up a bit. Warning, there will be spoilers. I'm not caught up - only watched...

      I started writing this a couple days ago and it's turning into a bit of a novel with no plot, so I thought I'll break it up a bit. Warning, there will be spoilers. I'm not caught up - only watched the three seasons available on Netflix, so if you're in the same boat, you're safe.

      Diversity in shows is not something I actively look for, but will generally notice if done really poorly or really well, the former more than the latter. Gotham as a whole swings in both directions.

      There's lots of different ways for a show to be diverse, I'm going to focus on women, race and sexuality in this post. Disability is going to be its own topic (when I get around to writing it).


      I'll start with the easiest check - yes there are women in this show, and they appear in frequency and numbers that more or less make sense for where they are. For example, in the bull pen, it's mostly men with a handful of women around, at a party they're about equal numbers, and so on. For named characters, they are in a variety of roles, both traditionally female and not. A short list includes, Sarah Essen, Barbara Kean, Selina Kyle, Renee Montoya, Fish Mooney, Ivy Pepper, Leslie Thompkins, and Tabitha.

      There are stereotypes and caricatures, but mostly they feel like dramatized comic archetypes more than sexist, though it can definitely be both. There's plenty to write on each character, which in of itself is a good sign.

      Now let's look at a few specific cases that caught my eye:

      Spirit of the goat victims
      This is just a little peeve. They went out of their way to specify that the victims are Gotham's first born to the point that Alfred points out that Bruce is a first born. Generally in stories, when referring to first born children, it's usually sons, but here, all victims are women. I'm going to guess it's for visual reasons, since the whole sacrificing a virgin in white on an alter is a pretty common trope. Still, can't decide how I feel about this one.

      Barbara Kean
      Now we're finally getting to who I really want to talk about - Barbara Kean, specifically from season 1.

      Comic book fans will recognize Barbara as Gordon's first wife and mother of the original Batgirl (also named Barbara). In the comics, she has a mental breakdown and leaves Jim and Gotham (their daughter refuses to leave and stays with Jim). She's the character that Gotham literally broke, and though she is not an unsympathetic character in the comics, her relationship with Jim is pretty glossed over for an emphasize on her lack of a relationship with her daughter. There is also an implied break in her and Jim's relationship where she supported him in his extremely stressful career as best she could, but he didn't support her when she needed him (and depending on the version, he actually cheats on her because he was so stressed...).

      This little background is why I was super excited to see Gotham's take on Barbara. This is probably the first time we get more than a flashback or half mention of this character in any medium. And she's treated with a lot of respect. She's supportive and compassionate, but still very human. At the start of the series, she's on relatively equal ground with Jim, asking to share his life, believing him (and in him), and just generally being supportive.

      As an audience, we see Jim take from this relationship, and never really give anything back, so we know it's doomed.

      She's not a flawless character, and suffers from what a lot of supporting casts do, which is that they are defined by the main character. Her fall, her mental break, can still arguably be classified as a women-in-refrigerator trope. She becomes a different person, but is generally there to haunt Jim, or help him, as the plot requires.

      Honestly, her flip to the dark side, will check of every bad sexist trope you can think of, including magician's assistant. So, she's easily one of the best and worst written characters of Gotham.

      Leslie Thompkins
      She is everything I wanted Le to be...until she's in a relationship with Jim. She starts off being a strong, competent doctor. She stands up for her patients and what she believes in, and is unafraid of sticking around when things get tough. Then she starts dating Jim, and does crazy things like demand PDA at work that is unprofessional and more importantly, that Jim is uncomfortable with. Nobody should ever kiss someone if they feel uncomfortable. Demanding it doesn't make you confident, it makes you creepy!

      From there she ranges from damsel to pregnant to evil. There are too many incidents to really cover, but, I do want to talk about the gas-lighting, which is a particularly poor choice of plot in my opinion.

      There's an entire arch where she, as the medical examiner, discovers evidence that a murder occurred, but is asked to believe it's suicide. She points out the inconsistently and basically points out that Jim is lying, which he was. She takes this from co-worker to co-worker, and literally every guy tells her she's just seeing things because she's grieving the death of husband. This is never addressed for what it is. The resolution comes when she turns herself to her "darkest desire", which is to wear lots of dark eyeliner and f*** Jim.

      This, compared to her comic character, who let Batgirl (Brown) die to prove a point to Batman. She's not a strictly good character in the comics, but she's definitely a strong character. So yeah...she's probably the worst written woman in Gotham, and is unfortunately the main female protagonist.


      Sure, the good competent guys are mostly white, and I'm always up for seeing more Asians, but the casting in general feels fine to me. No one feels out of place or token. I would say there's more stereotyping based on class than on race. So we have "hats" like Russian gangster, Italian mob, posh 1%-ers, and circus freaks.

      Not to say there aren't awkward parts, like Alfred's British(?) accent.


      As far as I can tell, there's no real representation here at all.

      There's three women, one man:

      • Renee is gay
      • Barbara is bi
      • Tabitha is bi
      • Penguin is gay

      They're a bit shallow, but probably because these women aren't as core as other characters. Renee and Barbara's relationship feels a bit more authentic than Barbara and Tabitha's. Maybe because Renee really is gay and an alcoholic in the comic, so the writers had more to draw from. Maybe because Barbara and Tabitha's relationship seems more for plot, or worst for easter-egging (not-Harley and not-Catwoman running the Sirens, with mini-Ivy popping in).

      Penguin being gay is actually really cute, in a creepy way. He spends a good deal of the show wanting a "friend" and finds one in Ed. Though there is an extreme selfishness to his love, it's still a pretty good subplot.

      Final thoughts

      So these are my quick thought on diversity in Gotham. What are your thoughts? Anything else stand out from the series (or comics) for you?

      Edit to add: I forgot about Penguin being gay.

      5 votes