Entertainment Weekly, among many other comic book and pop culture news sources, has just reported that Batman: The Killing Joke, the new Batman flick that will hit theaters this coming Monday, will deviate from its source material by developing a sexual relationship between Bruce Wayne (AKA Batman) and Barbara Gordon (AKA Batgirl). The question is, which of the original story’s actual gritty and often sexually degrading elements will be retained for the coming Batman screen revival?
Batman: The Killing Joke, originally a graphic novel written by Alan Moore in 1988, while extremely well-lauded by critics, was already mired in controversy in the Batman fandom because of its plot, which many view as utterly misogynistic. The plot of the graphic novel is fairly complex, but the gist is that the Joker captures Barbara Gordon and her father, proceeding to shoot Barbara in front of her dad, paralyzing her for life. The Joker then strips Barbara naked and takes sexually degrading pictures of her, showing the photos to the father in an effort to drive the man insane. Of course, Batman soon arrives and saves the day.
There was nothing in the written source material that even alluded to Batman and Batgirl being romantically or sexually linked in any way, but the fact that Barbara’s brutal maiming and sexual humiliation was used only as a plot point that was simply laughed off once the conflict was over caused many, many more conscientious Batman fans to rise up in arms.
“[Batman: The Killing Joke] is built upon sexual violence and misogyny masquerading as character building,” writes Fusion, reflecting the arguments of many Batman fans in response to the notorious tale.
Again, though, Batman: The Killing Joke was very well-received. In fact, reports Comics Alliance, it is regarded by many as one of the best Batman stories ever written.
It is not a huge surprise, then, that Warner Bros. is making the story into an animated film, even though the controversy behind the Batman installment could alienate a few viewers.
What is weird is how the Batman: The Killing Joke film has shaped up and what it has chosen to include. Not only will all the original controversial content with Batgirl’s sexual degradation remain in the screen version, but another even more controversial storyline is being added: a sexual relationship between Batman and Batgirl. It is believed this relationship is being included solely to up the stakes of Batman’s fight to save Barbara Gordon, an objectification that is only further incensing some Batman fans.
When word of the upcoming sexual relationship between Batman and his female counterpart began circulating online, many people assumed it was just the fantasizing of bored Batman fanboys. Before long, though, Twitter user AcroNite7 posted a GIF of Batman and Batgirl kissing. There is no nudity, but the GIF implies that sex follows.
Sure enough, Comics Alliance soon got ahold of a short clip from the movie in which Batgirl calls Batman, who is cruising around in the Batmobile, and begs him to have sex with her again. Batman refuses.
As Blastr points out, setting Batgirl up as a needy sex-addict before she is degraded just so that Batman’s heroism can seem more impactful is not doing anything to help The Killing Joke‘s rather negative reputation as a work of misogyny.
The upcoming Batman animated film has already received a hard R rating from the MPAA – a rarity for any superhero flick, let alone an animated Batman adventure. If the filmmakers are not afraid to shy away from sexual humiliation and sexualization of Batman, a beloved cultural icon, then where will they draw the line?
Attendees of Comic-Con 2016 can find out the answer to that question when the film shows at the event on Monday and Tuesday nights, and all Batman fans who cannot attend can see for themselves when the movie is released on Blu-Ray on August 2.
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