The Killing Joke.. Not another review but definitely another rant
Everyone has that comic- the one that turned them on to comics. For some it was Archie, others had X-Men and Wolverine. Mine was The Killing Joke. I was 16 when it came out. I wasn’t new to comics. My mother and my brother were major comic nerds and our weekends were spent at the comic book store. I had a few comics I liked and would steal from their collection. The Killing Joke was the first comic I remember seeking out and reading over and over. It was fascinating. And fodder for nightmares. this book had everything a 16 year old romantic could want. The humanity of Joker. The emotions of Batman. Gordon’s pain.
I was in love.
And The Killing Joke gave me my love of comics.
I can’t imagine who I would be without comic books. There’s nothing better than sitting down in the recliner with fresh, still crisp books and a hot cup of coffee. And as the proud owner of a magazine dedicated to independent comics I cannot imagine not spending my free time talking about and reading comics.
So I was really excited when I got the invitation to a screening of The Killing Joke animated feature film. I was so excited I drove to the wrong theater. and then freaked on the ticket girl when she had no idea what I was talking about. And when I got to the right theater I fangirled to the popcorn man when he clearly could care less.
By the end of the movie I was no longer excited. At best, I was confused. A lot creeped out. And annoyed.
Before I even get to the movie itself let’s have a side rant. I need parents to start googling before they take their kids to a movie. I wasn’t shocked when I walked in the theater and saw a bunch of teenagers. It was a hot weekday during the summer. That’s what teenagers do. I, also, knew that for the most part they would not really understand The Killing Joke. They may have heard about it but probably hadn’t read it. They had no idea what they were in for. What did shock me was seeing parents with young kids, six and ten year olds. A simple google search would tell you that this isn’t Saturday morning cartoon Batman. This is a gritty, raw and violent Batman that children don’t need to see. Or at least I don’t need to see them see that. There was one young boy who would leave the theater everytime he got uncomfortable. He would start moving in his seat and then sneak down the aisle and run out the door. After a while I would just slide my legs to the side rather than let him step on my feet on his rush out. I became uncomfortable because he was so uncomfortable. And it’s not my job to reassure your child when he’s scared. A responsible parent would have called a babysitter so they, and the rest of the audience, could enjoy the movie in peace.
Parents: Just because it a cartoon doesn’t mean your kid needs to see it. Or should. Google. Research. Be a responsible parent.
Side rant over.
I don’t have to rehash The Killing Joke’s plot. Everyone knows it. Joker is a sadist who wants to make someone as insane as he is. So he shoots and paralyzes Barbara Gordon, assaults her and takes pictures of her naked body to taunt her father into insanity. But Jim Gordon is rescued by the Batman and Joker thwarted.
The Killing Joke is where we got a very sympathetic backstory for Joker that feels real (in a world where he makes up a new one in every incarnation), we get an empathetic Batman and the infamous “Women in Refrigerator” storyline that reduces Barbara Gordon/ Batgirl to a plot device and not a real character at all. I don’t really need to discuss any of those.
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room?
Since when do Batman and Barbara Gordon become lovers?
I saw it coming. The sexual tension was palpable. Every sentence was a double entendre, every interaction a study in unrequited love. But my question is…
Why was this necessary?
I’ve been thinking about BG and BM’s relationship since I saw the movie. How is it that they are so close, physically and emotionally (as emotionally as the Batman can be) and they never have had a sexual relationship in the comics? It’s because it is possible for men and women to work together, to train together, to fight together and not be attracted to each other. It’s called being a professional.
But what’s most disturbing about their sex, if one can ignore that Batman is practically Barbara’s uncle since he’s been in her life as her father’s friend and peer for a long time, is that it doesn’t drive the plot or story in any way. Its sex for sex sake. Creepy old man and young girl sex on a rooftop with no dating, no romance and no reason.
So Barbara remains what she has been in The Killing Joke from the beginning; a way to drive someone else’s story.
Which I knew was going to happen when I went to see the movie. I really went to the Joker. I love him. And I love when we have opportunities for insight. And I got that. I got a lot of joker. And a lot of fun joker, sad joker, and crazy joker.
But I also got more of Barbara and Batman that didn’t need to happen.
It made me sad that someone who does have her own story is reduced to a line in someone else’s plot.
It makes me sad that someone that I know as brave and resilient becomes just another boy crazy girl.
It makes me sad that the story that I loved because of its storytelling was distracted by a story it didn’t need to tell.
I had high hopes for this movie and while I know I will watch it again I can;t say that I would firmly recommend that others do so.