Is “The Killing Joke” Sexist?

batgirl

“It’s all coming back, it’s all coming back to us now!”

Recently, J.K Rowling gave us a new Harry Potter story to read and Kevin Conroy, Tara Strong and Mark Hamill returned as Batman, Batgirl and Joker. What year is it again? My inner 90’s kid is SAAAcreaming!!!!!

Since I just received my new Harry Potter book, first up is my thoughts on ‘Batman: The Killing Joke’. The is the first DC animated film that is rated R for blood, violence, rape(ish) and #batsex. Now don’t you whine at me if you didn’t know that beforehand; it was all over the social feeds and comic con that Barbra Gordon and Bruce Wayne got it on. Hell they even tweeted the entire scene, which to be honest, for an R rating, Titanic’s love scene in the car was more graphic. Well boy oh boy did people have a field day with that one. “She’s too young!” “You’re making her co-dependent on a man!” “She doesn’t need Batman to justify her choices!” “They were never like this!” Actually that’s wrong. The animated universe did tease and confirm that at some point Bruce and Barbra had a thing. They confirmed that in ‘Batman Beyond’ and the animated film ‘Mystery of the Batwoman’ to just name a few. I mean, its Batman ok! He’s known to get “close” to his female partners at one point in time or another.

The deciding factor on whether or not ‘Batman: The Killing Joke’ is a good film or not shouldn’t weigh on the moral code of  Barbra and Bruce’s relationship (which I honestly wasn’t bothered about) it should be how this expanded storyline works with the original narrative. Which I’m sad to say, doesn’t. I really REALLY wanted this film to be epic. Kevin Conroy is back (my favorite) Mark Hamill is back (also my favorite) and we get an R rated Batman story (which peeked my interest). An animated universe that I’ve grown up with has grown up with me. This is “our” generation’s cartoon. This is our film. And honestly it would have been great….had they gone a slightly different route.

The film opens with a completely new story that takes a good 45 minutes off the running time of the film. Bruce Timm and company wanted to flesh out more of Barbra’s character before she takes a tragic turn. First problem from this standpoint is, ‘The Killing Joke’ was never about Barbra. It’s about Commissioner Gordon and the Joker. Its about the Joker trying to prove that, given the right circumstances, anyone can go as crazy as him. The new expanded storyline had nothing to do with the Joker and didn’t follow that theme. Had these been two separate episodes I would have been fine with both. As a story as a whole there’s no connection. The Joker isn’t present until the original comic begins which is the second problem, if the theme and driving force of something called, ‘The Killing Joke’ revolves around the Joker….then involve the Joker. Have Barbra and Batman hunt him down. Have Joker start nurturing the sick game of his to test Batman and his will. What can he do to send Batman over the edge? How many moral codes will Batman have to notch off in order to get him? Then after failed attempts he finally decides to go after Gordon…the one true ally with the cops he has.

“But what about what they did with Barbra?” sigh, ok we can talk about that for a bit. There has been a few critics that have called Barbra’s feelings towards Bruce to be sexist and antifeminist. Barbra states that the reason she became batgirl was because of Batman, the reason she does this is for him. Last I checked, so did Dick, Jason, Tim and Damien. When did it become antifeminist to be inspired or even attracted to a man? A damn hot, smart, badass man at that. Sure, he’s got a major ego problem but not once did Barbra back down and coddle towards him. In fact, when he was acting misogynistic she called him out on it and said she wouldn’t have it. That doesn’t sound like a groveling female to me. She also was the one to realize her feelings for him was effecting her work as batgirl in the film and decided to bow out for her own mental state. Batman didn’t do that, she did.

Now I will admit they went a little too far with Barbra throwing a random girlfriends’ boyfriend into a bush because she overheard them arguing over the girlfriend being clingy and the boyfriend wanting space. Um spoiler? It was a little too on the nose and really didn’t need to exist for us to get what was happening to Barbra. I also really didn’t need the gay friend talking to Barb about her love life either. Also spoiler? Maybe? Eh who cares. I think a lot of times people confuse feminism as “anti-male” when it just simply means “equal to male”. Yes a girl should not live and breathe for a guy but that doesn’t mean she can’t be inspired and attracted to one either. Same case can be argued for a man’s attraction to a female. It all goes down to I think, is Barbra only doing it for Batman to like her  or does the work itself also intoxicate her? I’m voting for the latter.

Is ‘Batman: the Killing Joke” sexist? No. Is it a good film? eh, its better than Suicide Squad : /


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