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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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!

Gallivanting into Gotham

A look into the first episode of Gotham and how it could build even more into the Batman franchise.

*SPOILER ALERT: This post WILL contain spoilers for the first episode of Gotham.*

The episode starts like every other Batman origin story, Bruce’s parents get shot in an alleyway, there’s the whole pearl necklace/wallet thing and Bruce yells into the sky etc. Cinematically, this part was cliche and it failed to bring anything new. There was just the regular; slow motion pearls dropping to the ground and wide shot of Bruce with his parents dead at either side of him. This is definitely visible in Batman Begins and if you thought about, you could probably trace that scene back further. Nothing new. With such an iconic first scene,one could argue that is was expected to be the same scene we’d all seen before because there’s always the fear of ruining it.

The next part is where it got decidedly more interesting, instead of the jump straight back to Bruce that occurs in almost all Batman spinoffs, we got some real backstory content. What I was most pleased with, was Jim/Barbara Gordon. They are often overlooked in the screen versions of Batman because they act as mainly a periphery to the focus of Batman. We got a glimpse of their home life before they get married and have children and I hope to see more of this chemistry between them.

This gives us real characters with individual stories to tell. Character development is extremely important in shows such as this one, so one can only hope that this high level is maintained throughout the entire series. The juxtaposition of Jim Gordon and in their unruly partnership highlights the theme of conflict even within Gotham’s own police force. This theme is prevalent throughout and will undoubtedly be a focus point in all of the episodes. It was established particularly well, as it is noticeable but also the underlying elements such as Gordon’s other relationships (with Barbara, Fish etc) make for an neat package overall.

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Something that would please a lot of Batman fans was the constant references to known Batman villains. Firstly, the casting is amazing. Though our protagonist Gordon is well cast and delivered the role exceedingly well, one has to nod casting of the villains. Oswald didn’t need constant references to ‘Penguin’; he was recognisable as the character already. The same goes for a few other iconic villains, one that comes to mind is Scarecrow, which may not be apparent to new fans but is particularly prevalent to the built in Batman audience.

Having a child named Ivy was a nice twist, whether or not she will become the Poison Ivy can be disputed. However, seeing as Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character in The Dark Knight Rises, who was supposed to be a sidekick character to Batman, was called Robin as a nudge to the comic verse. Maybe the same tactic is being used with the character of Ivy, which should make for excellent intertextuality and overlapping or parallel narratives between characters.

Another character that we see at the start, who witnesses the murder of the Waynes and keeps cropping up in unexpected places, is a young nameless woman who possibly could be our first inkling of the character of Catwoman, due to her poise and cat-like qualities.

This episode was a terrific start to the show and if this level of writing and acting is preserved, Gotham will surely become an immense hit with audiences.

Missed the first episode? No problem! Watch it on Demand 5 now!

Link to Pilot Episode of Gotham on Demand 5