The Killing Joke Tropes Batgirl in the WORST Possible Way

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In one of the worst bits of news I’ve heard in a long time as it relates to a comic property that I love and a movie that I was severally looking forward to seeing, it sounds as though the producers behind the upcoming release of The Killing Joke, the adaptation of the 1988 Alan Moore Batman comic, have gone and done the unthinkable.

All of the latest reports from San Diego Comic Con, where the film is being initially screened, have Batman and Batgirl involved in a sexual relationship that was not portrayed in the graphic novel. While this on it’s face isn’t necessarily a huge deal, it does completely change the dynamic of the plot and lessens Batgirl to nothing more than the highly degrading ‘woman in a fridge’ trope.

:::SPOILERS:::

In the comic, the Joker abducts Barbara Gordon and eventually shoots her in the back confining her to a wheelchair, which leads to her new comic identity, Oracle. It’s a big moment in her life which changes her character at it’s core. It was heart breaking to see for the first time and the ramifications were huge, but sadly, given the new dynamic, it will take away from most of that.

Let me try to explain…

:::END SPOILERS:::

For those who are unaware of what the ‘women in a fridge’ trope is, it basically goes as follows; a woman, typically a love interest or someone close to the primary protagonist, is either severely injured or murdered in such a way as to serve as a motivating factor for the male protagonist to seek revenge or to accomplish their mission at hand, often times their corpse is discovered in a literal abandoned refrigerator or car trunk, but it’s not specifically confined to those parameters. It’s a long standing narrative device that has become not only cliche, but it’s also viewed to be extremely misogynistic in it’s portrayal because it uses almost universally injured women to motive male leads.

While on it’s face most probably won’t view this as a big deal, but all misogyny aside (which it really shouldn’t be), it also completely changes the dynamic of Batman’s motivation and simplifies down to a lowest common denominator. In the comics Batman’s relationships with his allies are complex at best and he’s always hesitant to have others join or aid in his crusade because of the apparent dangers. He works hard to keep them out of harms way and when he fails it basically brings him back to the death of his parents and further deepens his neurosis. By making Batman and Batgirl lovers, it turns the story into a simple, uncomplicated revenge piece instead of the deeply complex psychological thriller that it should be.

Also, it’s really just lazy as all hell with a side of misogyny sauce. It’s gross. It’s repugnant. And it’s completely, 100% unnecessary to the actual story and has me completely turned off. Whereas I was once very excited for this movie and even said something to the effect of, “this is the Batman movie that I’m excited for this year,” it’s gone and cheapened itself very much in the vain of what Zach Snyder has done for the DCEU franchise by adding an additional cheap element that just doesn’t belong there in the first place.

According to Kevin Conroy, the voice of Batman himself, “They’ve actually expanded it a bit, they’ve expanded some of the story a bit. There’s much more of a Batgirl in this, um, so that plotline is more developed, and the struggle, the internal struggle that Batman has, that Bruce Wayne has in wrestling with the demons in the Joker is much more explored.”

Sadly, this just goes to further the point that Batgirls crippling isn’t about how it effects her, it’s all about him and takes those feelings and emotions away from her in order to drive the Batman’s revenge narrative.

Don’t get me wrong, I am no purist. I do not mind changes to comic cannon for adaptations, but when those changes come in the form of cliche, tired, and misogynistic tropes that serve to lessen the role of an amazing female character, who I love dearly, only to drive the simplistic motivations for a character who is designed to be complex, I lose all interest and frankly, I probably won’t be seeing this movie for a while.

You’ll have to excuse me now while I go and take a shower in order to try and wash all this ick off of me.

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  • MJ77

    I disagree… and I wonder if you read the original graphic novel that this animated film was based on? While I do hate the idea of a relationship between Batman & Batgirl being shoehorned in for the sake of ticking some supposed target audience boxes (which it wasn’t really, because a sexual relationship between the two had been heavily hinted at in other iterations of this era), I am not sure that it changes what happens to Batgirl that much… Her being shot in the first place had nothing to do with her as a character, it only happened because of her relationship with Batman to begin with, well, not even that really, it was actually because of her dad’s relationship with Batman and was even LESS about her as a character originally.

    Joker didn’t kidnap her because she was Batgirl (which in the GN neither he nor Batman knew), he kidnapped her because she was Jim’s daughter, and he was fucking with the Gordon’s because he knew Jim meant something to Batman and wanted to push Batman to engage with him further… he knew that Batman’s biggest exploitable flaw is that he cares about those close to him – the fact that she went on to become Oracle because she’s fucking kick ass as hell wasn’t really the focus of it at all.

    She was already a woman in the fridge originally, so I don’t think her now being a love interest with Batman changes that much.

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