January 22, 2012

women in batman’s world

Reading Brian Enk’s The 7 best unproduced Batman screenplays (and what happened) got me thinking about the women of the Batman universe. I recoiled when I read that one screenplay planned to feature Madonna playing Harley Quinn as Joker’s daughter, which is a version of Harley that’s not even close to the one I secretly wanted to be after watching Batman: the Animated Series.

Then I realized that some time ago any version of Harley lost her appeal to me. She is too ditzy and childish. And when she’s portrayed not as Joker’s daughter but as the former psychiatrist the Joker subverted to become a lover he could manipulate and abuse, she represents an archetype I never want to be.  

So I wondered which of the women in Batman’s life I would want to be.

I immediately thought of Catwoman, who has such a strong power and allure. But the thing is, she’s almost too strong. She’s such a defined vixen-bitch that ultimately she’s not that interesting (I know many, many men would disagree, but they’re not really concerning themselves with mental and emotional dimensionality. Ahem.) Sidebar: To me, Talia al Ghul shares many of Catwoman’s characteristics, and without the kickass costume, she’s never been someone to emulate.

Despite the name connection, I have no interest in being like Poison Ivy either. I never have. She’s self-righteous, which negates much of the intelligence and beauty she has.

No, the woman I find to be most interesting, and the one I’d most like to emulate, is actually one who doesn’t receive the honor of being called a woman at all (although she should). She’s Barbara Gordon as Batgirl. She is a complex, strong, clever, beautiful woman who does not have ├╝ber-bitch dominatrix tendencies, but instead displays acts of nobility and kindness. Unfortunately, women don’t seem to be allowed to have such depth in Batman’s world, so the writers kept her as a not-quite-grown-up daughter figure (the girl in Batgirl) and then they crippled her, allowing her to be smart, but less physically alluring, as a wheelchair-bound Oracle. Even so, she’s the one I’d want to be. Because she, in many ways, is a paradox. 

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