Feminism vs. Batman: The Killing Joke

This past Monday, I had the pleasure of seeing an animated feature length film of one of my favorite Batman graphic novels. Alan Moore’s Batman: The Killing Joke was a turning point in my love for Batman. I started becoming a fan girl of the comic book hero back in the 80s when the Tim Burton film was released but after reading The Killing Joke, I found a different love for the character. The Killing Joke showed Batman in a light that I think many people don’t want to see their favorite hero in.

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“All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy.”

He became more human, more damaged, more desperate in the story line and all of that is due to Alan Moore’s truly realistic and dark view of the comic book world. We’ve seen this type of sordid view of superheros from Moore in Watchmen or Captain Britain but here we see Batman essentially face himself through the Joker’s depraved acts and increasing insanity. Yes, his back has been broken before, yes his cohorts have died before; but here he is truly having to decide if he is as warped an individual as his all-time greatest nemesis.

I hope what I have just written will allow everyone to understand that I did not hate the animated film despite what is to follow.

The movie was somewhere around 30 minutes in when I sighed and decided that I was going to accept those first 30 minutes as not part of the film itself. My issues with it start with the addition of Paris Franz, an aspiring crime boss added to give Batgirl something to do. The character of Franz is so flat and brought nothing new to the story except flirt with Batgirl and treat her like a terribly toxic boyfriend who, instead of cheating, tries to kill her on several occasions. This character was also a placeholder for Batman to get jealous. Of course, the sexual tension increases, Batgirl and Batman engage in intercourse on a rooftop and, immediately after, Batgirl goes through the typical female crisis: “Why hasn’t he called? Where is this relationship going? What are we? Does he like me? What did I do wrong?” There is even a scene where she screams at him to say “It was just sex, I don’t care, you don’t care, no one cares,” or something to that nature.

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“Does this outfit make me look fat?”

I never really think of myself as a feminist but I was seconds from screaming at the screen in the half full theater. They turned a strong female superhero character like Batgirl, only a few scenes away from becoming a paraplegic, into a sappy, sobbing mess of a girl because she slept with her boss. I get it, she’s young and immature, but not every woman needs to cling to a strong male. I feel as if the screenwriters decided that women cannot be as strong as men, especially if that man is Batman. They decided that no woman can resist him, and even if they are partners, they must have intercourse.

I agree that the entire concocted opening to the film was there to give the audience an idea of how the events that unfold affect Batman in his core. He’s hard to read and allowing us to see him as a vulnerable human being gave us some insight into his personal feelings toward Batgirl. But what if this was Jason Todd? Would he have had to sleep with his Robin before he was murdered to give us some idea of how it affected him?

It is an unfortunate situation for Batgirl that she had to have that vagina. If she were only male, she would have just gotten over the whole Paris Franz thing, the whole “Batman doesn’t respect me as his equal” pouting, and she would probably still be Batgirl (not Oracle) with a fully functioning spinal column. I would’ve expected this treatment from an animated feature before but not in 2016 when a woman was just nominated a U.S. Presidential nominee for the first time in history.

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Cry on the Inside like a Winner

I would have never used the word “strong” or “feminist” to describe myself in the past. I depended on people I loved to make me feel happy, give me a reason to be alive, and to push me through things I wasn’t sure I could do. I was warned, a few weeks before starting derby, that feminism will take over once I get into the community. I didn’t believe it because how can a bunch of girls in fishnets and short shorts (sometimes tutus) be feminists?

A few days ago, I had cramps. Really bad cramps that made me weak in the legs and unable to walk without excruciating pain. I rested on the bed and my husband approached and patted my back. When I turned over, he seemed surprised and said “oh, I thought you were crying”. I thought for a moment and said “I want to play derby. I can’t cry.”

Derby has taught me that no matter what ways my mind tries to psyche me out, I can do anything. At practice, when we think they are telling us to do the impossible and yet we manage to do it with little injuries, the coaches say “see, you didn’t die”. This is my mantra now.

I can’t do it. Oh, but just try. O-m-g I just did it. See, you did it and didn’t die.20160212_172628-1

As a woman, we are constantly told we aren’t strong enough for anything tough. Sure, we can play sports but not something as dangerous as football, and even if we could, they’d “be easy on us”. Girls get pummeled in derby, its, essentially, the entire point of the sport. Then, we go home and take care of our husbands, wives, human children, and/or dog/cat children. We work our various jobs, go to college, make things with our hands, and just be awesome on a daily basis. While guys just play sports and depend on us to make everything easy.

And that’s when the feminism kicks in. Look at my busy life while I still have time to put 8 wheels on my feet and jump over piles of bodies just to score some points. I have skills that I cultivated just through sheer determination and practice. In the words of my husband after I complained of post-practice pain combined with cramps: I am a warrior. And being a woman made me that way.