Over the course of the years, DC has presented a plethora of successful animated feature films that illicit a generally favorable reaction from fans – so when DC announced The Killing Joke would be included next, fans went crazy. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the “celebrated” graphic novel, it includes the character of Batgirl being shot and paralyzed by the Joker and pushed into the background until eventually becoming Birds of Prey leader, Oracle. The films creators stated beforehand that they really wanted to give Barbara Gordon a storyline as opposed to the lack of plot for her in the comic, but the film left me with a bad taste in my mouth and here’s a few reasons why:
Batgirl is merely used as a plot device.
In Batman The Killing Joke, they try to add character depth to Batgirl, but as it progresses you realize her main purpose is to fuel the feud between the Joker and Batman. After the major event of the plot occurs involving Barbara, she becomes a ghost in the film and her inclusion quickly dwindles which further proves her trauma wasn’t going to truly take her down a different path other than making Batman more gritty and angry, which we’ve all seen plenty of times before.
The film feels overtly sexist.
During the film’s duration, they add an extremely forced sex scene between Batgirl and Batman, completely tainting the mentor-like relationship they’ve always had. The sex scene didn’t act alone, but it’s the doe eyed Barbara Gordon and the rather cavalier Batman that fulfills cliches of media depicted relationships. Batgirl can’t just be a badass, she has to be distracted with her adoration for Batman (that shouldn’t even exist) and all of her scenes are focused on that unlike methods used for male comic book characters. It’s okay to care, it’s not okay for female heroes to only be portrayed as lovesick damsels who can’t function to the capabilities of their male counterparts.
Fascination with sexual violence.
Fans of the film and graphic novel are die-hard fans of The Killing Joke in a world with thousands of comics and truly moving tales, but what plot earns itself a film? Well that would be the one that deliberately suggests rape after a gruesome shooting and paralysis to a character who already fits the unfortunate tragedy stricken female. Having an audience become privy to the unbuttoning of a blouse after being shot in the spinal column serves no purpose other than twisted shock value.
Aside from my obvious major complaints, the character of Barbara Gordon (Batgirl) is one that deserves to be told, but there is no doubt in my mind that she deserves better. As I tried to find the positives out of Batman: The Killing Joke, I was often reminded of why I can never find a justified reason to back the original (or even new) creative material – and when a few audience members around me applauded after the most unsettling moments of the movie, I couldn’t fathom what was viewed as acceptable by those who enjoyed the film.