Batgirl is NOT Your Toy

Batman: The Killing Joke adds a prologue about Batgirl and Batman that isn’t seen in the comics, should we applaud the extra storyline or condemn its representation of Batgirl?

*SPOILER ALERT: This article contains spoilers from the recent DC animated film, Batman: The Killing Joke and may also include comic book canon outside of the source material.*

It is arguable by some that many female comic book characters are sexist, but many others justify this by the times in which they were published  or individual character traits themselves. The big issue is representation and when characters are changed to portray sexist ideals. Female characters are built up with traits that are a common representation of women, thus perpetuating a certain idea of “femininity”. However, we would argue that the latter problem is more infuriating, when female characters are fundamentally changed to create an image of submission that is out of character, especially with the case of Barbara Gordon (aka Batgirl) in The Killing Joke film.

Now, let’s make a distinction between the comic book source material that we saw in the second half of the film (which was excellent and true to the story), and this prologue that was created seemingly out of nowhere for the first 30 minutes of the film. We know that atrocious things happen to Barbara in The Killing Joke, she is shot through the spine and The Joker assaults her by taking compromising photos of her while she is incapacitated and sending them to her father, Jim Gordon. As awful as that is, it is a justifiable storyline based upon the characters in question. The Killing Joke serves as away to see The Joker in two lights; in sympathy and in disgust. We see both his backstory and motivation, the reason he is the way he is, but we also see that he is evil and an all-around bad person. The point of the story is that he wants to “prove a point” to Batman and Jim Gordon, that all people snap and do awful things when the world is unfair to them. This is possibly the worst thing about him, as he justifies his cruelty and thinks of revenge as something wholly human.

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However, Barbara’s injuries lay the groundwork in her becoming Oracle, giving outside intel to Batman from her lair when she can no longer go out and be Batgirl due to her paralysis. This gives her power despite her disability and is truly empowering to see and in-keeping with what we know and love about Batgirl. She is a strong female character, a trait she is showcasing constantly, yet in the prologue of the film, she’s seen in a completely different light.

It is appreciated that the creators wanted to add extra content to the film, but it felt like the first half was unnecessary and it ruins Batgirl. This story shows a relationship between Batman and Batgirl, painting Batgirl as a subservient character to the will of The Almighty Batman™. Of course, romantic love is not the problem here at all, love is amazing, but the fact that love is always used to weaken women while it builds up men is frankly quite preposterous. This added with the notion that every woman needs a romantic relationship while men do not, makes for an unbalanced and unfair representation of women.

This is frustrating for many reasons and the list keeps getting longer as you carry on watching. As mentioned earlier, it shows a completely out of character Batgirl, but also, Batman and Batgirl are never together in the comic books; this relationship was pretty much entirely fabricated. At times Batgirl has been seen as the love interest of Nightwing, not Batman, so it’s not even like this can be justified by the fact that they are in a relationship, if you could even call it that. Barbara spends 30 minutes of the film pining after Batman, something she just would not do. Ms Gordon is the kind of woman who would assert her feelings. She does not pine.

Furthermore, this seemingly one-sided love affair escalates into Batman and Batgirl having sex, right after an argument about Batman being controlling (because obviously even though she is a strong independent woman, she secretly likes the fact that Batman is a domineering d***head). And if this wasn’t enough to make you cringe, after their encounter Barbara Gordon gives up her role as Batgirl just because she and Batman are on different pages. She literally gives up her power and individuality because of a man.

If you still think this is all absolutely fine and in character, note the period joke (yes, there is a “time of the month” joke and it is completely tasteless), the complete lack of any sort of character from Batgirl except the overwhelmingly strong “I love Batman sooooo much, I want him to be mine and I’ll give up everything just for him to notice me!” vibe, but most importantly, please note that this entire backstory has NOTHING WHATSOEVER TO DO WITH THE KILLING JOKE.

Yes, that’s right, this 30 minutes of pining after an out of date yoghurt (Batman is great but sometimes he’s basically a dairy product past its sell-by date) is irrelevant and adds nothing to the actual story. It’s awful to write such a one-sided article when the actual Killing Joke content was brilliant, but there was just nothing redeemable about that story, and that’s not even breaking into the extra sexualisation of Batgirl through another character’s obsession with her. If you can overlook these discrepancies and focus on the second half then Batman: The Killing Joke is a genius addition to the line of DC animated films. If you can’t get over this, then Batman: The Killing Joke is just one huge joke.

What do you think about Batman: The Killing Joke? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page!

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Are Trailers Ruining Films?

More and more it seems apparent that Hollywood are showing us the best parts of a film in a trailer to get us to that all important opening weekend. But is this perpetuating a disappointment in the actual substance of recent superhero films?

Lately, I have found that the spark the cinema-going experience has been somewhat dulled by something I couldn’t quite specifically fathom. At first I thought it was age. Some of you will be familiar with the four quadrant model that dictates the four main audience demographics; men over 25, men under 25, women under 25 and women over 25. The more squares a film hits, the higher the likelihood of its popularity.

www.screencraft.org

screencraft.org

However, the “easiest” two quadrants are males and females under 25, so most blockbusters aim to please this demographic. I may not be over 25 yet, but I did do Film Studies for two years and it left me quite cynical, so my first thought was that I had grown disinterested in Hollywood film and superheroes and action and fun and I was going to die alone and boring, because that’s what happens when you become a grown-up.  And then I suddenly felt like Tom Hanks in that Carly Rae Jepsen video. As I clung to the fragments of my youth, I watched every single superhero film that came out in my lifetime (yes, that includes the 2008 Incredible Hulk).

But then I made a very crucial revelation at this point, out of the recent superhero films (Batman Vs Superman, Deadpool etc) none of them I thought were bad, I actually really enjoyed them. So what made me initially disappointed? What had already happened to make me disinterested in the actual source material? THE TRAILERS!

By this, I mean that the experience of the trailers can sometimes eclipse the film itself. Yet, a good trailer usually reflects a good film, (of course there are always anomalies). What other factors are at play here? Now, the Deadpool trailers were absolutely brilliant, but upon reflecting on the actual film, I found that I couldn’t laugh out loud, as I felt I’d already experienced it. Several times. Whereas, with the Batman Vs Superman trailers, I felt they were on par with the film. But I didn’t dislike Deadpool, not even a little bit. It was absolute gold.

At this point maybe we can deduce that genre has an impact on this. With comedy, you’re likely only to get the desired reaction the first time you see the material. Even with great comedians like Peter Kay, who you can watch over and over and still laugh at, if you see it too many times consecutively, it can get old fast. Then you have to wait what seems like an age to be able to enjoy it again. With Deadpool being largely a comedy film, hearing the jokes several times before seeing the film took away some of the value and novelty of it. But with Batman Vs Superman, the attempt at comedy was minute and it focussed on action, offering a very different relationship between trailer and film.

In addition to this, many argued that putting Wonder Woman in the Batman Vs Superman Trailer took away what could have been an epic twist. However, other said that using her as a selling point was a smart move for DC, as they’ve been getting a lot of flack lately for not being as far on with their cinematic universe as Marvel is. Using Wonder Woman as a tool to increase revenue for the opening weekend undoubtedly helped them, but there wasn’t much else that could be described as novelty present in the canon of the film itself.

When this is compared to the Suicide Squad trailers for DC’s upcoming summer blockbuster, there is significant shift. Obviously excluding Will Smith (Deadshot), Jared Leto (Joker) is credited most often on posters and such, however, he is hardly present in the trailers. On the other hand, Margot Robbie (Harley Quinn) is extremely prevalent throughout, while being second to last in the list of main cast members. This makes it feel like DC are using Jared Leto’s name and star power to sell the film but are restricting the imagery of the Joker as a kind of secrecy tactic to increase buzz, because that’s really who everyone wants to see. Whereas, the image of Harley Quinn/ Margot Robbie is more notable as Robbie has been in the public eye in the recent past with American Hustle and other successful films, and Harley Quinn is often forgotten from popular media.

Overall, yes a good film is often mirroring a good trailer, but the tactical use of star power and imagery can manipulate the audience response. Also, different genres of film seem to gauge different trailer/film paradigms which can shift with time. Ultimately, the trailers generate a lot of buzz (or lack thereof) and it’s up to you to decide how involved you are in the advertising of media.

Do you think trailers add or take away from the novelty of film-going?

Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page!

 

Five Shows Likely To Be Renewed

If you’re as sad as I am about the cancellation of Utopia, (which if you haven’t seen already, it’s available on Netflix) here’s something a bit more positive; five great shows that will probably get renewed if they aren’t already! (Yay!)

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Admittedly, this one could go either way… Although it’s got mixed reviews for the later episodes, I still really rate this show. It is set in the Marvel universe, featuring a small band of SHIELD agents, including our very own Phil Coulson. The thing about Agents of SHIELD is that it can be a bit of a tossup and may make you lose faith in humanity. Whether that’s a good thing or not is really a judgment call. Okay, Agents of SHIELD can be a hassle to watch and you’re screaming at the TV but the writers did their jobs well of making you fall in love with the characters in the first place. For that, Marvel, bravo.

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Castle – Now, if I was the betting gal, I would bet all of my possessions (because I’m a broke ass student writer who has zero money to gamble with) that Castle will get renewed for another season. Why? Because it’s f**king brilliant. The story follows a mystery novelist and a detective as they solve “unusual crimes” in New York City. The interwoven comedy and satire is so brilliant, it is beyond my capabilities to describe it. Basically, if you like Sherlock, you’ll probably like this too. Heads up if you’re going to binge-watch though, there are seven seasons.

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Once Upon A Time – This is pretty much a sure thing because let’s face it, if you haven’t watched this already, you’re going to. That’s not a threat, it’s a promise. Who doesn’t enjoy exciting new spins on fairy tales? This show is seriously contagious. You see a GIF on Tumblr and next thing you know you’re cramming in “one last episode” at 4am, your essay is long forgotten and you are lying in a pile of empty snack packets. True story.

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Gotham – Yes, Gotham has officially been renewed for a second season, which is super exciting news for my fellow comic book fanatics. If, like me, you have been following along in Britain, you’ll be a little behind our friends across the pond, but so far the first season is everything one could hope for a pre-Batman crime-filled city.  The casting is great, the narrative is top-notch and the character arcs are tantalising – I cannot oversell this show.

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Hannibal – Another personal favourite of mine, Hannibal is a cult classic. It’s based on a character from a novel Red Dragon, but you will most likely have heard of the Dr Hannibal Lecter; the forensic psychiatrist that moonlights as a serial killer with cannibalistic tendencies. This programme will have you all over the place, you’ll be torn between seeing him as a victim or a villain… It’s the perfect thriller-horror series that will keep you in suspense until you just can’t take it anymore and then immediately take you to a place so beyond your understanding that you’ll feel physically sick. You’ll watch it for the sadistic pleasure but you’ll stay because you start to have sympathetic feelings towards a cannibal… Deep stuff.

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So there you go, five shows that you can dig your teeth into and in the near future, you won’t feel the soul-crushing pain of cancellation. Happy watching! 

Like this list? Want more like this? Let me know by leaving a comment or posting on my Facebook page!

Fanatical About The Flash

As an avid DC fan, it’s surprising that The Flash is one superhero that I personally haven’t had a lot of exposure to, here is a take on their current TV series ‘The Flash’ from the point of view of a ‘Flash virgin’.

*SPOILER ALERT: This article will contain spoilers for the latest episodes of The Flash aired in the UK, this may also include theories on future episodes based on The Flash in other media.*

Unfortunately, I missed the opportunity to review the first episode of The Flash as I did with Gotham, so now I thought I would amalgamate all the previous episodes to form what is my understanding of the franchise so far. I haven’t had a lot of exposure to The Flash at all, only 90s TV series, which I don’t really remember. Most people view Aquaman as the ‘lame’ superhero, but as a child, I loved Aquaman and I thought The Flash was lame. Having super-speed as your sole ability always seemed a little less cool than say, Batman, who has no powers at all but is agile and smart, therefore can defeat his foes using his own resources. Having said that, now I’m older, I find it more interesting how in the new series, Cisco and Caitlin are helping Barry do all sorts of things with his speed, so it doesn’t seem like it’s ‘just speed’. I’m writing all of this a lot more personally, simply because I’m new to this franchise, so this is just my take on what’s happening so far.

Firstly I just want to bring your attention to something I did recognise, which I probably shouldn’t have and the only reason I knew this was because of the game DC launched a few years ago, DC Universe Online. In case you’re not aware of this, DC Universe Online is an MMORPG set within the DC comic universe, centring around Gotham and Metropolis. In the game, one of the first levels is a partnership with the Flash (if you choose to be a superhero that is!) against a gorilla with superhuman intelligence called (General) Gorilla Grodd. Some of you may recognise the name, it appeared on a cage that Doctor Wells was contemplating a few episodes ago at STAR labs. From what I gathered about Grodd on DCUO, is that he was a human at one point but he feels that by devolving into an ape he’s gained more than he gained by being a human. His aim is to basically devolve the general populace to their ‘ape form’. Because of the cage, I’m inclined to believe that the genetic work that Doctor Wells mentioned he did alongside (that other guy he killed) may have experiemented on Grodd and therefore caused his superhuman intelligence.

Gorilla Grodd as depicted in DC Universe Online

Gorilla Grodd as depicted in DC Universe Online

Speaking of Doctor Harrison Wells, I had my suspicions from the start of the series that he’s not part of the Flash canon. I googled it and there’s a number of theories flashing around about who he really is, implying that Harrison Wells may be an alias. Some of these theories include him being Flash from the future or a descendant of Reverse Flash (who presumably killed Barry Allen’s mother). An interesting thing to note about Doctor Wells is that he has the ability to see into the future. He asks Oracle (again, something I know because of DCUO) to look for the Flash in future headlines. I say this is interesting because this is something I have a theory about. This isn’t crystal because of how little I know about it and the fact I’ve never actually read about it and only heard of it but I have to mention… The Crisis on Infinite Earths. For those who don’t know, this was a twelve part series of comic books by DC that initially started to celebrate the 50th anniversary, but evolved into a way of correcting the continuity errors that DC were (and still are!) reknowned for. We all know the go to method of rectifying errors in the fantasy genre… Yep, it’s time travel.

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Doctor Harrison Wells

I now bring your attention to the latest episode, The Man in the Yellow Suit… At the very end, we see Doctor Wells looking at a yellow flash suit. So we know that he is a liar but “how so?” is now the question. Cisco mentioned that there were two Flashes, one red one yellow, but the one Wells has is yellow like the man in the yellow suit or Reverse Flash. We saw Doctor Wells get beaten up by this guy, so how is it that he has a yellow suit when the other Flash must be red? My thoughts are that either two Harrison Wells’ exist in the same time stream or one was his past/future self (yes I am focusing my theories on time travel). Or maybe there’s another Flash or even a robotic Flash that Wells controls… Either way I am completely hooked.

The Flash and Arrow

The Flash and Arrow

I also have to mention the Flash vs Arrow crossover episodes, of course. I have to admit that one of the reasons I was apprehensive about before The Flash started was DC taking advantage of crossovers and using them too much in a cheesy way to launch their new show. Arrow is absolutely brilliant and I was initially scared that DC would ruin Arrow in an attempt to make The Flash just as successful. I could not have been more wrong. The crossover was quite tasteful and I enjoyed how Felicity was brought in earlier to create more of a rapport between the characters so it wouldn’t be disjointed in the future. If DC really are planning to eventually create a TV Justice League, I’m actually quite excited to see it.

Overall, I think the series is going really well and it has definitely drawn me in. If you haven’t seen The Flash yet, I highly recommend this series. I sincerely hope it continues to soar to new heights in the new year, along with Arrow.