Sunday, July 2, 2017

Superhero Media: Batman - The Killing Joke (2016)

Remember that my major complaint with Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice was that it seemed like several, radically different scripts jammed together? Well, guess what? Half of The Killing Joke is a reasonably faithful adaptation of the graphic novel and half is a pretty decent draft of a Batgirl film; the two do not quite fit together. First of all, let's get to the elephant in the room, Batman's penis. Now, it was actually Batman Beyond that first introduced the idea of a relationship between Barbra Gordon and Bruce Wayne, though in that it is made clear that she basically rebounded from Dick Grayson after college. In The Killing Joke, just where Babs is in her life is unclear, she's working, though just where is never clarified. She has been Batgirl for some amount of time, though there is also no Robin around to give us a timeline. In this, it feels like there was an attempt, on some level, to provide a film where Batgirl was the protagonist. Hell, I want to see that film, it sounds awesome; even if it ended with the shooting from The Killing Joke and Babs becoming Oracle, I think it could be pretty great. However... 

The Killing Joke, like much of Alan Moore's work in the DCU, isn't focused so much on a single character, but rather is more interested in how the broken personalities that are superheroes interact with each other and the world at large. Although it's often seen as such, the story was never intended to be a origin story for The Joker and was only folded into the broader Batman canon retroactively. This makes the inherent misogynistic objectification of Babs and her near-murder as inciting incident for the male characters slightly better, but this is undercut by the rape allegory (or possible actual rape) that follows. Ok, so Babs may not have actually been raped by The Joker and his crew of sideshow "freaks" (another point, objectification of the differently-abled, fucking hell Moore), but the fact that it is heavily implied, simply as a way of getting at Jim Gordon makes it seem as if Moore didn't regard Babs as human. 

Thing is, I really like Oracle as a character, she adds well to the Batman mythos and makes sense as a support character. I also like Cassandra Cain as Batgirl (before she turned evil) and there may not have been the opportunity for her to come into the Bat Family if not for Babs becoming Oracle, so there's something of a conundrum. I don't think that paralyzing and [probably] raping Babs just to give Joker and Batman something more to fight about was a good choice and neither was adapting the comic the way they did. I believe that Oracle paid off dividends for the DCU and Batman franchise in particular and that the character wouldn't have become that if not for The Killing Joke. I think the sex scene between Batman and Babs is unnecessary and adds nothing to the plot and was done for reasons of titillation and to ensure that no one thinks Batman is gay. Seriously, what does Batman's sexuality matter? Or The Joker's? This thing is a mess and is probably best avoided. 

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