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 was a major comic nerd and my brother quickly filling her shoes. Saturday mornings in my family were spent at the comic book store. But I had a few I liked and would steal from my brother. The Killing Joke was the first comic I remember seeking out and reading over and over. I was fascinated by the humanity of Joker, by the emotions of Batman, by the pain Gordon endured.
The Killing Joke gave me my love of comics.
So I was really excited when I got the invitation to a screening of the animated feature film. I was so excited I drove to the wrong theater and almost freaked on the ticket girl when she had no idea what I was talking about. And I was so excited I gushed about Batman to the popcorn man when he clearly could care less. But in the end I was more confused than excited.
Before I even get to the movie itself I really have to 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. They had no idea what they were in for. I knew few of them had actually read and understood the comic The Killing Joke. They saw the words “batman” and “the joker” and put some money on the counter. But I was shocked to see parents with little kids.Im talking about six and ten years old. A simple google search would tell you that this isn’t Saturday morning cartoon Batman. This is a gritty, raw and violent 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 was uncomfortable because he was so uncomfortable.
Parents: Just because it a cartoon doesn’t mean your kid needs to see it. Or should. Google. Research. Be a responsible parent.
Ok, back to the actual movie.
I don’t have to rehash the 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 why? 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? Its because it is possible for men and women to work together, to train together, to fight together and not be attracted to each other.
Yes. 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.