The Killing Joke : Killing the Bad Joke (6000 words)
Ok, so now that I’ve read the comic, seen the animated film and watched a lot of reviews and read stuff on Wikipedia and read interviews, I’d like to make a statement:
The Killing Joke, the 1988 comic, is bad.
Job offer: "I'm looking for a bunch of dwarves to walk around in suspended stockings and panties with a nice pink bow on their heads, under the rain, and capable of keeping their eyes buldged for about five minutes. Please send a curriculum vitae. People who are scared of naked old men should refrain from answering the offer." Tsss.
But, what’s good, and what’s bad ? What do we look for in a Batman comic ? Isn’t it normal that it should appeal differently to different people ? After all, if it’s a classic that’s because so many people were sensitive to its qualities. Doesn’t that make it good ?
Well, no. It’s bad. Objectively bad. It doesn’t mean that it cannot be appreciated, but when a superior version is released and panned both by critics and fans, it’s time to kill the bastard.
Bad can mean a lot of different things. Sometimes, it’s not even that far from good, it just needs a little less flaws or a little more cool stuff and the fight is won.
But The Killing Joke is heavy in problematic things and light in interesting ones.
I understand that the violence and sinister tone of the comic represents a quality for some people (and maybe it was new in 1988 I don’t know). I myself watch a lot of gritty, gory stuff, but even in these genres, there’s good, there’s bad and there’s boring and uninteresting like the story of The Killing Joke.
The Joker is in Batman’s head. He knows that Batman is weighing the idea of killing him once and for all and decides to build a plea in his own defence. This plea relies on the idea that it doesn’t take much to become crazy and that even the most righteous man can become so after one truly bad day (a strange concept really). He thus decides to drive James Gordon crazy by shooting his daughter and taking pictures of her undressed and bleeding.
Joker's plan can result in two different outcomes: either Gordon becomes crazy and Batman cannot kill the criminal because he has a proof that Joker’s insanity isn’t his own choice, or Gordon remains sane and prevents Batman from killing Joker by being able to still want things to be done by the book after such a horrible ordeal.
Seriously, this is not an interesting story. Trying to drive someone crazy by torturing him psychologically is just a very weak plot; even more so when the plan is simply to lash out at his family. It’s unsubtle, unfun and close to purely gratuitous. The Joker's idea is just random. Why just shooting her in the stomach and undressing her ? Why not killing her ? Skin her alive ? Or enucleate her. Make a soup out of her and feed it to James (He should ask Cartman for that kind of ideas). Yes, I know all of this would be censored (and a bit extreme for an audience to watch), but shooting her in the belly and undressing her seems rather uninspired and very light compared to what Joker could do. All the more so when, in the end, the plan doesn’t work, James Gordon doesn’t become mad. “If the rating had been NC – 17, I would have succeeded!” shouts the Joker.
Also, why would it mean “madness” if Gordon had told Batman “Don’t arrest him, just kill this mothergufdrer !” Since when has revenge become insanity? I’m not saying it would be the right choice, neither am I discussing the “no killing” of batman’s logic. Simply, if Gordon asked Batman to kill Joker, it wouldn’t mean he’s lost his mind.
As a consequence of this dysfunctional logic, most of the events of the comic feel arbitrary and, as the writer himself said, “shock value for shock value,” which is a type of bad.
(An interesting opinion on that matter: http://lovedatjoker.livejournal.com/10386.html)
But there’s also Barbara Gordon’s character. Her development is ridiculous. James Gordon’s sanity is supposed to be at stake here, but not Barbara’s ? Shot, undressed, photographed by a madman, certainly scared of being raped or killed, she wakes up paralyzed and asks about her dad and is not even given room to feel sorry for herself. Naa, she’ll be fine, she’s just lost her ability to move, to make love and to have babies, nothing that was useful to her.
1- Ok, so she's just taken a bullet in the spine and she sits up to hug Batman. I'm sure she's gonna recover quickly. 2- And she cries, and she is scared and gniagniagnia. Is she Batgirl or what ? 3- Thank god they removed that link between the two scenes in the animated film.
I understand that the Joker’s origin story is part of the plan. He shows himself under a pathetic light in order to underline that he too could have been a normal guy. On a narrative level it helps make it more believable that Batman should hesitate to kill him. But it does not work with the Joker’s non-apologetic personality. He is not a loser, he is not unhappy and he is not talentless. So, even if we can easily imagine that this story is a lie, it still isn’t acknowledged as such and thus should be taken seriously when it doesn’t correspond to the character.
Plus, this origin story has other flaws. The treatment of the Joker’s wife makes her look unimportant. He is supposed to be driven mad by her death but there is no strong irony or horrific detail which would make us understand why things where so unbearable to him. She is just the cliché passive, understanding, loving wife who exists only so that the male character can lose her, be devastated and become Manly Mad Max.
Also, it might sound like a detail, but it just ruins another scene that the two criminals who want him for their raid should be particularly stupid. They don’t even consider cancelling the operation when they learn about the Joker’s terrible loss; and not because their plan is very complex and cannot be postponed, simply because they’re insensitive assholes, because when it comes to their plan, it is so well prepared that they get killed in five seconds.
These two criminals are so smart and sensible you have to wonder how they didn't die earlier while buying a pizza or walking the dog. "Oh shit ! We forgot to check whether there'd be some armed security !?!" "What do we do ?" "Let's just shoot at them, what's the worst that could happen !?!"
I understand the fact that surrounding Joker with deformed people isn’t an incoherent idea, but there, it really strikes as pure “shock value,” “nightmarish imagery” with no real meaning attached to it and it is quite disagreeable. So, deformed people are systematically evil? They cannot be looked at as human beings because of their deformity? It could work in a dream, or with a character like penguin who would represent these pariahs, but here it’s just gratuitous dehumanization. Seeing dwarves disguised as little demons is supposed to drive Gordon mad on the same level as seeing his daughter bleeding to death? Is he a child?
So, what’s left really? Ok, Batman wants to talk to the Joker about the dead-end that their “relationship” represents. Alright, it’s not the deep philosophical element that people seem to be seeing in it, but it’s still a good base, and obviously, the fact that Joker should find a crazy way to give it an answer is good too.
What anyone would have figured out in two or three encounters, Batman takes something like twenty-five years to realise. This is not laughable. And I love the "I've been thinking." He needed to think. But, yeah I know, it's manly. He confronts himself to the potential bitter end, so it looks deep and philosophical, and manly. I know I'm harsh, that's true though, and manly. You just need to make some obvious statements as if they weren't that obvious and needed some balls to be made, to mix it with a pinch of cold blooded manly murder and it looks deep. The worst part is that real philosophy is not necessarily always above that.
But then the execution is poor and every new scene is disappointing in that it doesn’t explore the question but just runs for the cheapest “unexpected” development. And certainly, people enjoyed the ride at the time. But for a classic, it’s pretty hollow and dumb.
Which brings me to the animated version that many critics have burnt at the stake. I first became curious of the adaption because of Grace Randolph’s reaction to the sex scene between Batgirl and Batman. I was intrigued by the fact that in the times of meaningless, desperate, nihilistic sex and of Game of Thrones, there should still be a sex scene to shock an audience. And it is all the more meaningful (and funny) that this shocking scene should be so very soft, tender and more evocative than anything else.
I watched the film and thought it was fine. As I said above, the story of the comic is really not an engaging one for me so, obviously, the second part of the film wasn’t going to blow my mind.
"John you can wake up, the prologue is over." "You mean the film is starting ?" "Yes." "What !?! They didn't start with the rain and the batmobile coming from afar ! I won't stay one more minute in front of this shameless cash-in on an inimitable classic !"
The thing is, people hated the prologue and Batgirl’s character. Let me quote a reviewer who expressed the problem nicely: “Filling out her role could have created a direct attachment between Barbara and Batman, but instead of humanizing her, it turns Barbara/Batgirl into a comic book cliche: The female character that feigns complexity, but, when given an expanded role, is only viewed through a sexual lens.” (Ben Travers)
I understand that people could interpret Batgirl’s character that way but it is tragically wrong. Truly the work that was done on this adaptation is incredible of subtlety. I think most people saw the prologue as some sort of bonus short which shouldn’t have changed anything to the general plot, even more so as Batgirl’s point of view disappears when The Killing Joke starts, but it is an incredibly well written introduction which gives depth to what follows and displays better writing.
As I described above, the comic is about The Joker making a point in order to save his life. Although, it should be noted that very few readers (I’m sure) are bothered by the fact that the whole intrigue relies on the (implicit) idea that Joker knows what Batman is coming to tell him at the asylum at the beginning of the movie, because very few readers actually care about the randomness of this very convenient plot element.
The prologue accomplishes multiple things:
- It develops Batgirl’s character and, more or less, leaves you the choice whether what happens to her is okay (we see her become oracle in the credits and she is as happy as if she had a broken leg) or tragic.
- It gives a reason to Batman’s sudden need to either kill the Joker or rehabilitate him.
- It gives a stronger base to the Joker’s origin story.
- It makes the Joker’s choice of Barbara as a victim totally understandable.
There are several ideas that I’d like to flatly and clearly contradict without any argumentation here before I give my analysis of the film:
Batgirl is absolutely neither incompetent nor idiotic. She doesn’t fall into Paris Franz trap. Paris Franz doesn’t even truly set a trap for her. She is as efficient as Batman (if not more). The fact that they should make love is totally justified. Batman is not indifferent to what’s happening at all. She is not one bit oversexualized. More, the whole sexualisation of the character is intensely empathetic and compassionate. She is not objectified at all. She is mature, intelligent and a healthy person. Batman’s behaviour is pathological. Every single risk that Batgirl takes is his fault.
What makes Batgirl look incompetent or stupid in this story is the fact that she is in conflict with Batman. Either you dare look into the very serious psychological imbalance of the cape crusader or you put the blame on Batgirl for everything that happens.
Bruce Wayne is emotionally damaged, by definition. His traumatic story might sound atrociously redundant in 2016 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtpxEmInvfg), yet, it is still what defines him as a character. I don’t know if it is a common consideration when it comes to him, but Bruce’s behaviour is strongly linked to the need to be loved and the need to feel deserving of love. The circumstances of his parents’ death made him feel responsible for all the crimes in Gotham and he uses his parents’ money to fight crime in order to get rid of the guilt and feel worthy of their love.
Bruce Wayne cannot be Batman and cured at the same time. Moreover his goal is always to find someone to love him. Whether it’d be Vicky Vale, Rachel Dawes or Catwoman finding love always allow him to distance himself from The Joker and Batman.
In this version of The Killing Joke, he is in love with Barbara Gordon. The problem is that this time there is no way he is going to try anything. He just can’t. There are several possible reasons for that and I can’t exactly choose from them.
It could simply be because she is the daughter of James Gordon who seems to quite fancy Batman and also to enjoy having a little asexual wife in Barbara. Yes, that’s creepy.
Or there is the risk of getting too attached to someone who could die next to him, but that doesn’t work because he is already in love with her, for lack of a better expression, and working along with her. So, if she was to be wounded, it wouldn’t make any difference that they kissed five minutes before, or that they kiss afterwards.
The idea that I find is the most probable relies on the fact that Barbara loves being a vigilante. She is perfectly fulfilled in this role and she is attracted to Batman simply because they do the same thing and they’re an excellent team. But if Bruce Wayne finds love, Batman doesn’t need to exist anymore. And if Batman doesn’t exist anymore, Batgirl might not be interested in Bruce Wayne.
It was said that Batgirl is attracted to Batman because of some sort of Daddy complex. I can see that. She is in an incestuous relationship with her Dad, her Dad loves Batman, she fancies Batman. I don’t see how this would be depreciative of the character. Because Batman is old ? It’s not his age that interests her, it’s the obsession with justice. James Gordon is an asshole obsessed with justice and who neglects his daughter for his official duties; certainly because, like many “important” men with “responsibilities,” he is trying to hide a lack of emotional maturity.
So, ok, maybe Batgirl is interested in crime fighting and in Batman because of her relationship with her dad (Whom she is not attracted to). I don’t see how that’s wrong. “Because, it means she doesn’t care about fighting for justice and it makes her another female character who cannot have any goal beyond a love interest.” Ah yeah, so Batman the rich orphan psychopath who specifically fights crime for personal reasons that were carved in him is a true righter of wrongs, but Batgirl because her dad is a cop and her mother is dead loses all merit. That sounds involuntarily sexist to me. Both of them are complex human beings and struggle to find a balance when their situation is difficult.
Anyway, Batman and Batgirl are attracted to each other but Batman cannot let anything happen. It has to be noted that he is the one responsible for the existence of the team in the first place “I’m in this because of you, I did what you wanted. I made it work !” I absolutely don’t know what she could be referring to outside of the universe of the film, but here it just means that Batman cannot say “You’re the one who asked for this, I gave you a chance, you blew it.”
"This isn't about me. It's about us. It's about you getting protective and sitting in judgement. I won't have it" How can anyone not find this woman courageous and smart.
Libido can be suppressed or disappear, when you’re ashamed of it, when you’re ill (anorexia) or when you’re depressed. On the contrary, when you feel good and fulfilled as an individual, your libido blossoms. Sex drive and individuality are very strongly related.
Barbara’s relationship with her father is eating her individuality; she has the same name as her dead mother if you catch my drift. Her libido is repressed and it’s only because being Batgirl truly helps her to be herself that it eventually is able to surface. “there was a time when capes and cowls and fighting crime really was exciting.”
Barbara cannot fancy the guys at the library because her libido is her father’s. Batgirl is freer. Inevitably, she will find herself attracted to a guy and Batman is most likely to be the happy chosen one. The thing is, it’s not Batman, it’s Paris Franz.
Batgirl’s attraction to Batman remained unconscious because the latter carefully erased all indicators of such a dynamic between them. Not because he is not attracted to her, but because he wouldn’t be able to deal with the situation.
As a consequence, Batgirl finds herself attracted to Franz. Franz is the incarnation of what she spontaneously feels is missing in her relationship with Batman. “Missing” here doesn’t mean that she cannot have what she wants but that it’s incoherent that it’s not there. She knows that she’s Batman’s best pupil, that she is efficient and skilled, but he will never admit it. She knows that she is pretty and attractive, but same thing, this aspect doesn’t exist when she is with him. And eventually, she realises that there necessarily was a sexual dynamic between them but that it has never surfaced.
It is easy here to think that sex was never tackled because Batman is simply not interested but there is a huge difference between silent rejection and muffled attraction.
Franz is honestly appreciative of her talents and sex appeal, he is honestly attracted to her and doesn’t try to pretend that her words don’t get to him. And he is a criminal because in Batgirl’s world, all of this is guilt inducing. James Gordon and Batman both constantly depreciate her because they would have to confront themselves to very disagreeable truths if they started to treat her in accordance with her actual worth. James would have to accept that his wife is dead. Batman would have to admit his feelings and stop hiding behind the mask of the vigilante.
So they sacrifice her. They suffocate her true person to keep their personal comfort.
As many elements are developed in the prologue, I’d like to focus crudely on every detail that makes Batgirl look incompetent when actually, they don’t:
- Being awed by Paris Franz and getting kicked off the truck => she discovers her libido with a bad guy because Batman has made it impossible with himself.
- Getting saved by Batman when a henchman is holding her at gunpoint => She has the situation totally under control and a batarang in the palm of her hand.
The cliche situation in which the bad guy thinks he's got the upper hand when actually the hero can take him down in one half-second. But Batman intervenes.
- She proposes to carry on the investigation and find Paris Franz on this same evening, Batman asks her to leave and uselessly beat the guy who threatened her to a pulp => Paris Franz would likely have been stopped on the first evening if Batman could admit he has feelings for Batgirl.
"Hey Batman, maybe we should carry on investigating, you know, for justice and stuff and not get personal." "Hum, yeah... I'm just gonna beat the crap out of this guy who's just threatened you and whose bones I've just crushed with the batmobile, before I reanimated him artificially to now be able to destroy him again... for the sake of our investigation."
- Batgirl tries to stop Paris Franz on her own at the storehouse because Batman humiliated her. She is indeed trying to prove something, but only because his opinion matters for her and this asshole found it easier to tell her to go home as if she was a burden instead of confessing that he was scared for her life. It is important to realise that she is not a burden and that it is therefore a lot more violent to treat her as such than if she were because she is left powerless and disoriented in front of these accusations.
- Paris Franz has the upper hand in their first fight, manages to spray a sleep inducing liquid on her face and nearly… nearly what? Rape her ? Not exactly. The reason he manages to do so is also in relation to her sexual situation. Batgirl is curious of this man who keeps on complimenting her on her skills and sex-appeal because it is new to her and she simply wants to understand it. She is not seduced, simply intrigued and flattered. The sleep-inducing liquid is Paris’ power of seduction. If she had been seduced by him, it would have worked. Falling asleep would have meant that Batgirl was unconsciously attracted to him. Instead she gives him a knee-blow in the stomach and runs away into the safe. Paris’ superiority in hand-to-hand combat is only metaphorical; she cannot stop him yet because she doesn’t want to. Again, all of this wouldn’t exist if the guy who should logically be attracted to her and truly is, just opened his mouth. Paris Franz is intriguing only as long as Batman doesn’t have balls.
Paris Franz has the upper hand because Batgirl can't imagine he is truly attracted to her (I think). His locking hold is unexpected because he is touching her breasts, or maybe, is efficient because she doesn't want to escape this. Her libido is stronger than her other motivations right now. But she is not interested in going any further... for the moment. Coming next => scavenger hunt.
- When she suggests that they use the fact that Paris likes her, it makes her look naive and “under Paris’ charm” because of the scene of the storehouse. But it simply is a relevant suggestion that Batman rejects because he is jealous of the man’s capacity to confess his feelings so easily.
- Paris Franz leads her to his “gift” which appears to be the corpse of his freshly murdered uncle and now Batgirl has all his henchmen going after her. The “biggest boss” in Gotham represents patriarchy. This “scavenger hunt” during which Batgirl gets “hotter and hotter” is her learning how to masturbate. Sorry but that’s true (“you let him play you” 17m38s ah ah ah). The gift, the dead boss is Paris Franz teaching Batgirl that she doesn’t need men (in position of power) to define her as an individual. She decides of the objects of her desire. It seems as if Paris Franz is trying to pin the murder on her, but actually, it is a real “clumsy” gift from a criminal to a female vigilante: the body of the biggest criminal in the city.
"So, what do you think Batgirl ? Are you happy ? Is he big enough !?!" "Franz you're crazy, he's the biggest boss in Gotham. You shouldn't have really. I'm not worthy of this !" "It's because I love you Batgirl. I want you !"
- While fleeing from the boss’ bodyguards, Batgirl finds herself pinned down behind a chair. She is fighting at 5 against 1. She is holding her batarang. This time, the situation truly looks bad and she contemplates death. The doors of the elevator open, Batman appears and destroys everybody. She lowers her eyes. The thing is, why did Batman’s intervention had to be in interaction with Batgirl’s escape route? By that I mean, if Batman hadn’t taken the elevator, it would have reached Batgirl’s floor earlier and she might have been able to take it. We’re not talking about real probabilities here, we’re watching a film written by people and Batgirl tries to escape using an absent elevator of which batman emerges two seconds later.
"Dammit, I need this elevator now !" "Shoo ! Shoo ! Go away Batgirl ! I want to make a dramatic entrance !"
- When Batgirl is on top of batman and her eyes become round before she kisses him, I hope nobody thought she was simply suddenly overwhelmed by her feelings and let herself be taken away by passion. She feels that Batman has an erection and realises for the first time that he is attracted to her and she won’t let this opportunity pass. I find that extremely moving.
- After their sexual encounter, we see Batgirl reflects upon her act, she is not fighting crime anymore. She feels stupid. She is angry. Many people understand this situation as if she had been a vigilante only because she was secretly in love with Batman, which is totally wrong. But at the same time, why should she look stupid for taking this story seriously? when they both do, and it is serious. She calls Batman who is fighting crime instead of chewing over what happened on the rooftop some people might say; fighting a crime called “Paris my rival,” yeah right.
- Then Batgirl’s monologue makes her look like a weak woman who is ready to accept anything from the man she loves when actually she is being extremely mature. They had sex, Batman hasn’t spoken to her since, she concludes that he considers it was a mistake and tells him “it was just sex, I don’t care, you don’t care” in order to save what’s to be saved. She is ready to grit her teeth and take the pain if he is not interested in her because she liked her life as a vigilante.
"It was just sex for god sake's it doesn't have to mean anything. It's not like we have to care. I don't care. You don't care. We just go back like it was, that's all." "Bruce you fucking coward tell her that you care, how dare you let her suffer like that !?! Are you gonna watch your life pass by like that forever ?"
- And finally, there are several reasons why stopping to be a vigilante makes her look bad. Was she in it only for Batman? Did she realise that it was too tough a job for her when she kicked Paris Franz’ ass or that she didn’t have the strength to resist “the abyss” and therefore acknowledged the veracity of all the bullshit Batman had been giving her since the beginning of the story? Well, no. She stops because at the end of the story she destroys Paris Franz when actually Batman is responsible for how everything went to shit. She lowers her eyes when the guy says “I love you Batgirl, I love you” because she has been unfair to him, used him, and doesn’t deserve his love anymore. Yes, he blew up Batman with a rocket launcher but it’s another story, we’re on a metaphorical level here, blowing up Batman with a rocket launcher means both Batman and him feel that Batgirl has chosen Paris and thus => inflated manliness/rocket launcher. She stops working with Batman simply because she has realised that her vigilante activities could transform into the satisfaction of an urge that has nothing to do with the desire for justice. The “abyss” represents the fact that fighting criminality can become a drug, a substitute to the object of other desires. She acts as if her behaviour proved her incompetence only to make things easier. And when she tells Batman “I saw that abyss you spoke about, so tempting, so scary, I don’t know how you resist it,” she might be aware that he simply has stopped resisting a long time ago.
So, there is literary no moment in this story at which Batgirl should look bad. And that’s something that shocks me, not that she is so mature and skilled but the fact people should find her ridiculous so easily and not realise that she is just a very human character.
Yes, her motivations are sexual but in the deep sense of the term, that is to say, they are only sexual as far as sexuality is the core of individuality. She is only trying to escape an unhealthy situation and when she is close to managing to do that, her libido reappears, which means she was really a repressed individual before that. Sadly, she ends up in a similar situation when she stops being a vigilante. “ I'll find some way to fill my time.” And her voice over disappears because she regresses to a prior state of individuality. She doesn’t live for herself anymore. It’s tragic.
Several critics disliked the fact that Bargirl should be so “sexy” on screen. Her costume reveals a prominent chest, she takes some “explicit” poses when she falls from the truck or hides above a door. And finally there’s the shots when she is jogging.
"So, batgirl is going to get shot and paralyzed and thus the film's direction should underline Batgirl's relationship with her body, unlike this filfthy comic BUT we need to avoid showing any part that might arouse the male audience because it's degrading and absolutely not an aspect of what a female body should do. As a consequence, we decided that she would jog with an overcoat on and that her Batgirl costume would be made of wool."
But we’re not in front of a Megan Fox in Transformers. There is absolutely no objectification here, on the contrary there is a deep understanding of what’s going on internally and also, a deep understanding of how un-seperated libido and individuality are.
When Batgirl appears on screen at the beginning of the film, we’ve already heard her calm and precise voice (individuality first but also sadly seperated from her body). We follow her gliding over the city, landing on rooftops, using her grappling gadget. She is full of grace and the fact that yes, her costume fit closely to her body underlines her sex-appeal shouldn’t be perceived as objectifying one bit. This is a part of herself that she is forced to repress when she is not Batgirl, but this is a part of herself.
These shots establishes Batgirl as Batman's equal. But critics and fans found her ridiculous. The fact that Batman should be a pile of testosterone is never questioned but Batgirl's breasts make her less deserving. Strange music I hear.
Many critics accused the film of shifting from “plot device” to “sex object” as if both put Batgirl at the lowest level of character development, when they are opposed. In the comic, Batgirl is an object, in this film she is an individual and she could not possibly be without that sexual aspect. It is an intelligent move to have written her that way.
Moreover, she is going to get shot and to become paralyzed. As complacent as it might sound, celebrating her body in the first part of the film is the least the screenwriters could do. And what could have been best than to have her make love to someone who matters!?! What could have made her getting shot in the spine more tragic than the fact that she is a young, athletic, beautiful, active, sensitive and sensible woman who has just found a fulfilling life, discovered her sexuality and made love for the first time and is in want for more? Nothing.
You have to be quite susceptible to get angry at the panning shot of jogging Barbara which goes from her legs to the middle of her back. And yes, she has a beautiful behind, but what the camera is filming at that moment is what she is going to lose and where she is going to get shot !
Criticizing her representation in the film is missing the fact that women are sexual beings naturally, are happy to be and are not only when men look at them as such. More, it is forgetting that they have a body and that looking at it is not criminal.
“A terrible storm was moving in.”
This storm is the same as in The Hateful Eight or Ghosts of Mars: The Gordian Knot, the necessary decision.
Batman didn’t want Batgirl to leave (He still calls her Batgirl when she arrives on the roof). He would never have asked her to give up on being a vigilante. By leaving she puts him in a difficult position. His mad, atrophied and deformed inner self threatens to come back to life and Batman decides to visit him before he does harm again. I’m talking about The Joker of course.
A cop calls Batman and shows him the corpses of five conventioneers who were kidnapped three years ago. Three years. The amount of time Batgirl and Batman have formed a team together. Joker has been quiet exactly for the same amount of time as Batman and Batgirl have worked together. It’s not a coincidence. The “like” lines of the cop is a wink at the fact that Batman is never truly opposed to what the Joker does, so he always “likes” to see his crime scenes.
Batgirl’s jog is the last scene before the comic starts. We can see in this how the writers subtly managed to make her personality and her sexuality coincide. Practicing sports is, most of the time, trying to soothe a frustrated libido (Louis Tully in Ghostbusters, John Matrix in Commando, Nathan in Ex Machina). Barbara doesn’t know how to deal with her sexuality anymore because she is able to express it only as Batgirl (When Reese asks about sex, she goes “God no !”), but also, jogging is killing time (“I’ll find some way to fill my time”). So, from a sexual and an individual point of view, she is now in a dead end.
This sounds like something depreciative of the character (the fact that she should be stuck and powerless), but it is unavoidable for what’s to come to bear a meaning. If Barbara suddenly found a meaning to her life or a way to be herself, the following events could not take place as there necessarily is coherence behind them.
The last we see of her is thus that phone call of James Gordon who won’t be able to spend the evening with her because he wants to see his boyfriend who is not even Batman anymore for her. This is a complete disqualification of her. Not only is she stuck in the role of the wife of her father, hence no sexuality, but she is the neglected wife of a man who spends his time with the man with whom she wanted a relationship. She is nothing. Batman and Gordon killed her. End of Prologue.
When he enters the Asylum, Batman states clearly that he is not here because of the corpses that they’ve recovered. So, these corpses really were added to the plot to underline the fact that the Joker hasn’t been active for three years.
Now, and that’s where the idea of “unfaithful adaptation” comes back with a vengeance, Batman’s visit to the Joker cannot mean the same thing as in the comic because of the prologue. The question of killing the joker or not doesn’t need an introduction and that’s why the comic could use it as a starting point. But in the animated film, Batman now has a reason to want to raise the question at that precise moment.
Because the Joker always acts in accordance with Batman’s secret desires. He here is the incarnation of Batman’s strong desire that Batgirl would have stayed although he doesn’t consider that possible. So, he would like to get rid of the pain of losing her, which means getting rid of the Joker, or trying to improve, to get better a little bit, so that he manages to talk to her, or well... she could lose that annoying libido.
But the Joker has already taken initiatives. The conversation with Alfred underlines the fact that Bruce Wayne could guess what the Joker is up to by looking into himself.
Batman: All these years and I don’t know who he is any more than he knows who I am.”
Alfred: Are you sure of that?”
Batman: What do you mean?”
Alfred: I mean don’t underestimate him.”
And am I wrong or does Bruce simply states: “He drives me ?”
Anyway, James Gordon is excited by the Joker’s escape. The whole conversation with Barbara is just sexual innuendo after sexual innuendo. James plunging a little brush in the white-out is masturbation.
“Tonight I could use something a little stiffer.” Erection.
Barbara is his fucking servant. Catwoman scrapbook behind the wardrobe is James secret masturbation over another of Batman’s woman. Barbara’s suggestion to file it, is the result of her repressed sexuality, she cannot see in others what she suppresses in herself, but also, she is taking revenge upon him for what he does to her. It’s seems far-fetched? Go spend an evening with a middle-of-the-road couple. “You’ve got paste squidging out.” James Gordon telling her that she is “fussier than [her] mother was” deserves death in my book as it’s only because of him that her life is so meaningless that she has to pay attention to insignificant details in order to fill the void.
This sentence is the death blow, it is the final humiliation for Barbara and the executioner is at the door.
1-Joker is not aiming at her stomach. 2-Barbara as Batgirl would have avoided this without any problem. 3- The thing is, everybody wants her asexuated (even the audience) and so, she let's Joker shoot her... there.
Happy everybody ? Now she can become another picture to be "glued" in her father's folder. Oh, what a coincidence she fell right on it !
Then you have the added “throw the book” scene which sees the Joker putting the blame on Batman for what happened to Barbara. On a surface level, it just means that as he is doing all of this to prove a point to Batman, the vigilante can be hold responsible. But on a deeper level, he is referring to the way Batman behaved with Barbara and deprived her of the only exit she had found to her perverted relationship with her father.
When afterwards the Joker shows Barbara’s pictures to James Gordon, it is an accusation too. It is only a representation of what the father does to his daughter.
The prostitutes’ scene has several interesting element in it. I’ve dwelled lengthily on the fact that a healthy libido is to be associated with a fulfilled individual, it is thus understandable that sex would be such an enigma to Batman.
He cannot guess what the prostitutes are talking about and the dialogue ends with “Hey, somebody wants you.” The prostitute doesn’t say “Hey somebody wants to talk to you” but “wants you.” She suggests that she is not attracted to Batman.
And so, arrives the end of the story. Batgirl is in a wheelchair and now that her autonomy and her libido have been killed Batman can enjoy her partnership and her father doesn’t have to treat her like a servant. They both have what they wanted and it was easy not to kill the Joker for what he had done.
Ha, and the Joker’s love story, is the story of a loser who kills his wife because she loves him and she becomes an insufferable reflection of his mediocrity. The Joker’s overreaction to her “ho” underlines that.
... this not being an accident. I know, he learns that his wife was killed, but if he is already "crazy" he couldl very have suppressed it. What if he did not become crazy at the end of that day but before ?
When Barbara decides to stop being a vigilante, Batman is faced with his incapacity to seize an opportunity to become happy. To truly feel loved, he has to make his lover accept his inner self who is the Joker.
That’s why Paris Franz resembles the Joker so much. Batgirl only sees Batman (not Bruce Wayne). And after he’s failed on all levels, Batman decides to show her his Paris Franz’ side. But at the moment he knocks on the door, James Gordon reminds Barbara of when he had terrified her with the Joker’s pictures… because he was himself in awe in front of the Joker.
He has conditioned her to be terrified by Batman’s inner self. Now, that she is an adult she can see it in other men, but she remains traumatized by the Joker. Or is she ? Isn't it accepting Batman the way he is to let Joker shoot her and allow them to have an asexual relationship ?
Did I say that I disliked this story by the way ? I mean, seriously, give these superheros a break ! Why can’t they simply enjoy a little bit of life ? I’m going to write myself a fanfiction in which things end happily ! Batgirl is not hurt, Bruce Wayne tells her that he likes her very much and he is sorry to have been an asshole, Paris Franz loses his megalomania and marries a certain ginger prostitute, and James Gordon is raped by a horse.