This one really, really hurts. Batgirl, the HBO Max film led by In the Heights breakout star Leslie Grace, has officially been scrapped at Warner Bros. in what sources call a pivot to “theatrical only” releases for DC features – and an alleged attempt by the studio to get a tax write-off. The film, which had already finished principal photography and was in post-production, had a budget of around $90 million.
Batgirl and Blue Beetle, the two films on DC’s slate starring actors from our communities, were initially conceived for HBO Max. However, Blue Beetle locked in a theatrical release earlier in the year, presumably meaning it’s safe from the fallout. Not that it’s easy to trust Warner Bros right now. They are, after all, scrapping Batgirl – a film led by a WOC and Afro-Latina from a community they claim they want to represent. Meanwhile, The Flash, starring Ezra Miller, who continues to rack up allegations of assault, kidnapping, and abuse, is still slated for a theatrical release.
Once upon a time, DC garnered accolades for bringing a female-led story to the big screen before Marvel did, despite Marvel having established Black Widow much earlier. But, flash forward to 2022, and Marvel has given us multiple female-led projects and a wide variety of female superheroes from different communities and backgrounds to look up to. Meanwhile, Warner Bros has given us another Wonder Woman movie and a Birds of Prey movie that didn’t even get a sequel.
But Batgirl’s loss hits our communities differently than previous losses, perhaps because the announcement of Leslie Grace’s casting and Blue Beetle getting greenlit had given the upcoming DC slate a veneer of possibility. Our communities’ younger generations would finally see themselves as superheroes. We’d been waiting for a while, but the time was coming.
That hopeful reality is now gone, without any sound reasoning, at least for one of these opportunities. There’s the argument of test screening scores being poor. But Batgirl could have just been released to HBO Max, and everyone would have made their own judgments about it. The studio didn’t have to greenlight any more made-for-HBO Max movies. Instead, we lose Batgirl, and the same studio that released two versions of Justice League gets to now start from scratch at the expense of our representation.
Representation, of course, shouldn’t just be an item to be crossed off a list. The feelings this news evokes are not about wanting representation just for the sake of it. Instead, they’re about missed opportunities in front of the screen, but most importantly, missed opportunities to learn, grow, and become better so that what we show of ourselves will someday be the best it can be. We don’t want perfection. We just want a chance – for our writers, directors, producers, and actors alike.
We don’t want perfection. We just want a chance – for our writers, directors, producers, and actors alike.
And being deprived of it is painful. For me, as an adult. For my teenage nieces, friends, and other families. And for the little girls who still believe they can be not just the heroes of their own lives but the superheroes on the big screen, something Leslie Grace perfectly encapsulated in her statement that doubles as both a thanks, and a goodbye to Barbara Gordon.
“THANK YOU for the love and belief, allowing me to take on the cape and become, as Babs said best, ‘My own damn hero!’” Grace said, and if her words touch something in us it’s because it’s easy to keep believing in dreams that seem impossible when you have someone to point to. Instead, our communities must continue to do what they have done till now — see themselves in others if they want to dream big.