Jyger’s Rant – The Killing Joke (WARNING – ANGRY RANT, FOUL LANGUAGE, AND MATURE SUBJECT MATTER AHEAD)
… … …So, it’s been a month. I decided to take some time away from the blog for a few reasons, none of which I really wanna get into. Well, except maybe for the sake of refocusing my efforts on Power Rangers Guardians of Gaia Season 2, but that’s another story for another day. Point is, after a while, I knew that, if I was gonna come back, it would have to be something big that would bring me back. And then DC decided to give me a gift: Something to rant about until I’m blue in the face. Really, you guys, you shouldn’t have…Y-…You REALLY shouldn’t have. I was kinda hoping you wouldn’t, what with DC Rebirth moving along pretty well so far, and the trailers for upcoming DC Films actually looking rather decent (or at least more-so than they were)…And then The Killing Joke happened!
So, I was originally gonna do a review of this movie. Then I decided not to, because I decided I wasn’t gonna see it, for a reason I will explain in a bit. Then I decided that I probably SHOULD see it, and that a review of it would be something worth posting on the blog. So I saw it…and then I read some of the fallout…and ultimately, what I’ve decided is not to review it. Instead, I’ve decided to just highlight one or two problems the movie has, particularly one where I felt like I got gang-raped up the ass…! … …So, let’s.
First off, I should probably make it clear that I’m not talking about anything that was specifically lifted from the book. I’m not here to talk about the book. I think people have talked about the book enough, and I know it’s one of maybe three or four books the higher-ups at DC actually remember releasing, so I’m not gonna go there. I will also award the movie this much: It did exactly as I specifically asked them to do almost a full year back. They not only had Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill reprise their roles as Batman and The Joker, but they also included in the mid-credits a scene where we see Babs become Oracle. This did not save the movie, mind you, but it did keep it from getting no stars whatsoever, or worse, being…
However, for the benefit of those who have never seen the movie or read the book, and I don’t know how you can be a fan of the character Batgirl and not know this, but this is the story all about how a life got flipped, turned upside down, and I’d to take a minute, just sit right there, and I’ll tell how Barbara Gordon got stuck in a wheelchair. Yes, this is the story where Babs gets shot in the spine by Joker as a means to try and make her father crack, and she loses the ability to walk. This later resulted in her becoming Oracle, where she REALLY got to shine as a character, until the New 52 decided to make her Batgirl again for reasons of iconic, which they themselves can’t even seem to properly define. For a while, we were left to assume that she never was Oracle in this new universe, but the new Batgirl and the Birds of Prey book have re-established this part of her life as being canon. However, all of this occurred after The Killing Joke came out, and none of it was planned, and, in fact, when writer Alan Moore approached Len Wein with the idea, he said, and I quote, “Yeah, okay, cripple the bitch”. Moore has later admitted that maybe this wasn’t a good idea, and it really shows how bad the relationship is between Moore and DC when, unless I missed something, he isn’t credited for the book in the movie, Brian Bolland is.
So, what’s my point? Well, in realizing the story only involved Barbara as a prop, Bruce Timm and Brian Azzarello decided to maybe tack on a prologue of sorts to make her a more active part of the story. Now, here’s the thing: That’s actually not a bad sentiment to have. The biggest problem with the story is how it mishandles her, so making her an actual character and not just someone who acts as a motivation for other characters is a good idea… … …They fucked it up. Royally. And really, should we be shocked? Let’s look again at those names, shall we? Bruce Timm and Brian Azzarello. Now, first off, Azzarello is the guy who decided it was a good idea to have the Amazons be made into lying, raping murderers who traded their children for weapons. Not someone I typically trust to write women in a positive manner. Then there’s Timm. And this is where I actually kinda hate this movie on a personal level, because now I have to say something I KNOW I’m gonna regret later, but I still HAVE to say it, so here goes: I love Batman The Animated Series, and I always will, but it REALLY says it all when the character Bruce Timm helped create that gets the most attention in the media was a female supervillain who was the victim of an abusive relationship. Why? Well, let’s just get to the biggest problem with the movie, and it’s summed up in one scene. ROLL IT.
…Now, in case you’re wondering, this is not what pissed me off. On the contrary, watching this scene in full for the first time? It actually made me laugh. It was like a REALLY bad fanfic brought to life. And trust me, I’m speaking as a fanfic writer who has both read and written some bad Batman-related fanfics in the past. In fact, and I probably shouldn’t mention this, but once, a REALLY long time ago, I once decided to write an adult fic involving Poison Ivy and Batwoman. I don’t wanna go into detail, but it was bad. Not only was it bad, it was offensive, and the moment when I realized that and what a horrible thing I’d created, I got rid of it. So, yes, sometimes people will create bad or even offensive stories in an attempt to be dark, controversial, or titillating. That’s not what pissed me off. What pissed me off was listening to Azarrello and Timm defend this decision and actually act like this was a good thing, not just for the story, but for Batgirl. Let’s hear what Bruce Timm had to say about it, shall we?
“We were aware that it’s a little risky. There’s definitely some stuff in that first part of the movie that’s going to be controversial. Here’s where we came down on that specific issue: It was really important to us to show that both of the characters make some pretty big mistakes. I mean, his ‘parental skills’ aren’t that great. Maybe never having had any kids of his own, he doesn’t realize that if you tell a kid to not do something, they’re going to want to do it even more. And then she makes some mistakes and then he kind of overreacts to her mistakes and then she overreacts to his overreaction. So it’s very human; it’s a very understandable story. It’s tricky because it’s messy, because relationships are sometimes messy. But to me and to Alan and Brian, it was all very fascinating to us to explore that angle.”
…Okay, I’m gonna bring up something here. Part of my problem with Bruce Wayne and Barbara Gordon being in a relationship is the fact that she is young enough to be his daughter. I can buy her having a kind of schoolgirl crush on him when she’s just getting started, but beyond that, it’s just ridiculous. With that said, I was under the impression that she was presented in this movie as a consenting adult. You, however, Mr. Timm, are treating her like a child. So, which is it, Timm? Is she a child or an adult? Because if she’s an adult, then this line of thinking is incredibly demeaning. And if she’s not, though, then you’re a sick man for producing a movie where an adult Batman has sex with her. And considering Timm’s past with writing female characters on Batman TAS, Batgirl included, I’m honestly not sure if I believe him or not when he says he doesn’t remember whose idea it was to include the sex scene. And if it WAS Brian’s, and maybe it was, the fact that he jumped right in on it doesn’t shock me. Speaking of, Mr. Azzarello, thank you kindly for showing how much you really care about writing women as empowering by writing them as action and violence addicts who will beat up, kill, and yes, even RAPE if they so choose, and then you call someone trying to make a case for this problematic writing at a convention a “pussy”, you bloody moron.
And here’s the really sad part. Babs becoming Oracle in the mid-credits? It still feels really off-putting, and here’s why: We don’t really see her go through any kind of personal anguish over what’s happened to her. And just like in the book, when she wakes up after her being shot, stripped, and having had pictures taken of her, all she can talk about is how she’s scared of what The Joker is going to do to her father. Granted, this does paint her as someone who cares more for her father and what happens to him than herself, which can be seen as admirable and selfless, but honestly, between that and how seamlessly she goes from that to becoming Oracle in the end, she comes off as being in denial about her condition or that she’s lost anything of importance. Let me give you an example of how odd this is, and spoilers ahead for anyone who hasn’t read Power Rangers Guardians of Gaia: My Green Ranger, Patrick, suffers an incident in the story where he loses the use of his eyes, and has to rely on his other senses and powers to help him beyond that. Admittedly, part of those powers allow him to see mental images of everything the air around him touches, but even he acknowledges it isn’t the same as really seeing with one’s eyes. While he calls the loss of his sight “acceptable losses”, and states that he’d do it all over again for the sake of helping people, he still admits that he DID lose something important. He’s BLIND now. This will only serve to hinder him for the rest of his life, and he knows this. In this movie, however, Barbara is never presented as someone who acknowledges her loss. The only time we see her ever stress or angst over anything is her relationship with Batman and her concern for her father. In other words, the attempt to make her more of an actual character in this story instead only served to make her even more of a prop. Instead of fixing the biggest problem with the book, they made the story WORSE.
Now, because I wanna be a fair man, I wanna bring up something. Bruce Timm has since gone on record that, for him, the implication was never that Babs was raped by The Joker. There’s a line in the movie that highly suggested that for some people who watched it, and he’s said that if he’d known that would suggest that ahead of time, he would’ve changed it. Granted, it was still sexual harassment, but we can at least know that, in this version of the story at least, The Joker did not rape Barbara Gordon. Also, while I asked the question earlier, I’m pretty sure Babs is NOT a teenager in this movie. There’s a difference between being squicky and THAT squicky, and I honestly don’t think Timm is, and probably not even Azzarello for that matter. Again, though, that does not save this movie, just that it stops it and your reputations after releasing it from becoming even worse.
At this point, I’d like to share the closing paragraph from a similar article I shared from The Mary Sue, written by Jessica Lachenal, and I’m quoting once again here: “Ultimately, this Batgirl prologue to The Killing Joke failed to do what Timm said it would do. It didn’t ‘tell a Batgirl story,’ or let us ‘learn that she’s an interesting character.’ What was supposed to be a prologue about Batgirl was, in the end, nothing more than a story about Batman and why he does what he does. In that way, the movie just plain does not work the way that the creators thought it would. The fact that they thought this would be even somewhat of a good thing for her character is, perhaps, the most disappointing thing of all.”
Lastly, I just wanna bring up something somewhat related to this, since I described the Batman/Batgirl scene as bad fanfiction. As part of my site stats, there is something called the Search Engine Terms, which basically shows a list of things people have typed into Google or whatever that, in turn, led them to my site. Over the years I’ve been writing in this blog, I’ve gotten a number of…let’s call them odd terms, that have led people to here. Here are just a few examples…
- bruce wayne in bed with supergirl and powergirl fanfiction
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…Sometimes I hate my job…-_- Leave your comments below, but just know that if anyone starts an argument or trolls anyone, I’m deleting them ASAP. Ja né, and I’m taking a fucking shower.
… … …Don’t you dare follow me!