The long awaited premiere of Batman: The Killing Joke has finally come and gone, but many would-be fans of the film are now saying that the animated adaptation of the Alan Moore classic leaves much to be desired. While pretty much everyone agrees that the hype surrounding the R rating of the film was very undeserved, the biggest complaints about Batman: The Killing Joke centers around the treatment of Batgirl, A.K.A. Barbara Gordon. As it turns out, all of the talk about making Barbara and Batgirl more essential to the story and giving her a more fleshed out story arc was just that: talk. When it comes down to it, Batgirl is still victimized and abused.
Batman: The Killing Joke Turns Batgirl Into An Even More Tragic Figure
The Batgirl story arc, which was added to Batman: The Killing Joke in order to give Batgirl a greater presence in the film, flopped miserably with audiences and, as Movie Web points out, there’s good reason this fail was so epic. Instead of taking an opportunity to build Batgirl up as a superhero and a role model for female viewers, Batman: The Killing Joke really tears her down from the very beginning. Even before she meets up with the Joker, Batgirl is seen pining over Batman, pursuing a romance with him while he couldn’t be less interested if he tried.
Eventually, Batgirl and Batman do team up for a night of passion, and while not all May-December romances are shady or perverse, this particular pairing just seems off. Perhaps it has something to do with the father-daughter relationship which fans of the franchise are so used to in Batgirl/Batman interactions. In any case, here is a peek at that love scene.
Conflict Arises During The Batman: The Killing Joke SDCC Panel
Following the Batman: A Killing Joke premiere at SDCC, the film’s panel was polarized by questions regarding the Batgirl story arc with panel members opposing one another in front of audiences. Gizmodo shares the source of the conflict, which arose when one fan asked the panel why Batgirl was changed from being a strong female character to a female character pining over the men in her life. In response, the screenwriters, including co-writer Brian Azzarello, insisted that Batgirl is still a strong female character in Batman: The Killing Joke.
“Yeah, by using sex and then pining for Bruce,” retorted Bleeding Cool reporter Jeremy Konrad, who had previously viewed the film.
Mr. Azzarello clearly took the criticism to heart, because he responded with a challenge to Konrad.
“Wanna say that again? P***y?”
Bruce Timm, executive producer for Batman: The Killing Joke was quick to jump in before things escalated further. Timm argues that Batgirl isn’t really pining over Batman.
“I actually like that in that opening story both Batman and Batgirl make a series of mistakes and then it kind of escalates, because Batman kind of overreacts and then she overreacts to her overreaction,” said Timm. “That’s a very human thing.”
The Batman: The Killing Joke executive producer adds that he feels as though there has always been an attraction between Batman and Batgirl with an implied sexual chemistry between the two characters throughout the comics, animated series, and even in the Adam West/Burt Ward Batman series of the 60s.
Whether or not there has always been an attraction between Batman and Batgirl, Batman: The Killing Joke seems to have been the wrong place to explore that because it negates the importance of Batgirl as a hero in her own right and implies that she needs a man to feel complete. While Alan Moore’s original Batman: The Killing Joke victimized Batgirl with good reason to propel the story forward and create further animosity between Batman and the Joker, this new story arc seems to subject the Batgirl character to emotional abuse for no reason other than to stroke Batman’s ego.
[Image by Warner Bros.]