Pride Month Spotlight: Cullen Row From ‘Gotham Knights’

Trans vigilante Cullen Row, played by Tyler Dichiara, is TV trans representation done right.

Mal
Mal
5 Min Read
Amanda Mazonkey/The CW

This article contains spoilers for Gotham Knights season 1.

The CW’s Gotham Knights is one of the most diverse and entertaining shows that aired this year. The series includes a varied spectrum of LGBTQ+ characters, from rowdy, prickly bisexual Harper Row to gifted baby sapphic Stephanie Brown.

One of Gotham Knights many fan-favorite characters is Cullen Row. Originally created by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, in the comics universe Cullen is the homosexual brother of Harper Row. They both suffered at the hands of their abusive father before emancipating themselves. Cullen is known for being a fan of anime, the TV show Supernatural, and for having a crush on Tim Drake (at one point joking with Harper that she should lure Tim back to their apartment so that he can seduce him). Cullen’s character in Gotham Knights kept the core of what fans loved about him on page, and gave him a new twist: in The CW show, Cullen is also trans.

Tyler DiChiara, who plays Cullen with such nuance on Gotham Knights, is an actor “who also happens to be trans,” in his own words. While having a trans character played by a trans actor shouldn’t be unusual, it historically hasn’t always been this way. Gotham Knights‘ decision to cast DiChiara was just one of the many choices they’ve made which puts them at the forefront of trans representation on network television.

Cullen’s identity was established in the first episode of the season. While Gotham Knights makes it clear that life hasn’t always been easy for Cullen and he has been through a lot to get where he is, the series shows Cullen’s identity being respected by not only his friends and found family, but also by important authority figures within Gotham, such as Harvey Dent. It would have been easy to have Gotham’s resident DA dehumanize Cullen during his interrogation at GCPD in the pilot, but instead Gotham Knights gave viewers an example of decency and respect, even when Harvey is at odds with Cullen in all other ways (believing him to have been involved in the murder of his longtime friend, Bruce Wayne).

The character of Cullen is presented to viewers without apology: this is Cullen Row, he is a vigilante looking to clear his name, and he is trans. There’s no separation of Cullen from his identity, but the character is much more than that. He’s given to viewers as a whole human being, a kid from the wrong side of the tracks who has a story to tell and a journey to take, and being trans is integral to who he is — without ever being all he is. Cullen is key to the plot of Gotham Knights. The writers have brilliantly handled writing him so that his storylines carry weight far beyond his gender identity whilst always remembering who he is, and how his inherent transness affects his worldview and experiences.  

In episode 11, “Daddy Issues,” viewers get a scene of Cullen working out in the Belfry, the Gotham Knights’ hideout while they are on the run from Gotham authorities. It’s brief, simple, and not overly remarked upon — which is exactly what makes it special, as Cullen is working out shirtless. His top surgery scars are on display, but aren’t a focus. They’re just there, just a part of him, just part of daily life. This kind of representation is sorely needed and far, far too rare on television currently.

Cullen is an expertly crafted and fan-adored character. While Gotham Knights has been denied a second season on The CW, the legacy of Cullen finding his place in Gotham — both as a badass, smartass vigilante and as a proud trans person — will live on long after the finale.

Gotham Knights airs on Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT. Stay up to date with our coverage on the show here. Additionally, make sure to check out Your Bat Is Dead, a Gotham Knights podcast by Nerds and Beyond! As always, stay tuned for more updates.

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