Let’s talk about motivation and character agency. I started watching Game of Thrones semi-recently, and one of the show’s strengths is how there are no clearly-drawn lines between right and wrong. There are outright villains, sure, but for the most part, all the important characters act according to their wants, needs, and personal views of the world. This is super-important to a convincing story. It is necessary that characters act like people because, fundamentally, characters ARE people. They just happen to be not real.
This brings me over to DC, which has traditionally had a problem with its protagonists in that they’re all SUPER BORING. As explained here by my buddy Brandon Wagner, DC mythologizes its protagonists, which is a highly idealistic perspective. While this type of view of a character tends to work for a single, introductory story, it gets boring really fast when the characters don’t face any real challenges or obstacles. It’s almost like Axe Cop, where a bunch of random stuff just kind of happens and there’s no real escalation or major conflict that can’t be solved with “I WILL CHOP YOUR HEAD OFF.”
I’m sure you’ve all heard of the Mary Sue character,
a fanfiction archetype that exists more for the gratification of the author than anyone else, and the final evolution of the mythologized character. She succeeds brilliantly at everything she tries, extraordinarily beautiful, inspires everyone, has special pets maybe. And because the audience is never given any reason to like or sympathize with her, she is INCREDIBLY BORING. This is what I hated so much about Daenerys up until Season 5. The Mary Sue seems like a spoiled child, in a world where their parent is god and controls all the events of the plot.
Perhaps this is the reason we like Batman so much, because he has the potential to be interesting regardless of this portrayal, when we totally deconstruct him. While Superman stories can’t suddenly take a dark turn without the tone being totally screwed up, Batman is already 3edgy5me, so a dark and gritty deconstruction of him such as The Killing Joke still feels like a Batman story.
So that being said, let’s talk about how the new The Killing Joke
robs Barbara Gordon of character agency.
Yes yes I’m sure you’ve heard enough about the controversy of Batgirl throwing around the Bat-pussy, but I’ve yet to see anything about the ENORMOUS PLOTHOLE that if Barbara Gordon retires as Batgirl BEFORE she gets paralyzed, she has no reason to become Oracle in the post-credits scene. If anything, this incident should have convinced her further that masked vigilantism is a shitty career choice. Originally, Oracle was Babs standing up and being a STRONG FEMALE CHARACTER and saying “nah son I’m still about this life, even if I can’t swing around on rooftops anymore.” But if she’s retired, regardless of the reason, she’s already put that life behind her.
This whole writing choice feels very Mary-Sue, wish-fulfillment to me. Like the writer really wanted to see Batgirl bang someone, ANYONE, even if it’s her father figure EW GROSS. Or maybe the writer wanted to write a strong female character and this was legitimately the best thing he could come up with. Or maybe both, I don’t know! I’m not sure who this was supposed to make happy, which says to me that it made the writer happy and that was good enough, much like the Mary Sue character.
But weird, creepy writer fantasies of having Batman sex it up with girls that are like 10-20 years younger than him aside, the fact that nobody on the production team was like “whoa dude, are you sure that’s a good idea?” says to me that DC is still woefully behind the times. It’s 20-fucking-16, and their main image of female strength is still the dominatrix.
Hey DC, let me introduce you to Michelle Obama. #YassQueen