Animated ‘Killing Joke’ Changes the Nature of Batman and Batgirl’s Relationship [SDCC 2016]
Thanks to leaks coming out of San Diego Comic Con, we now know more than we wanted to know about the upcoming The Killing Joke animated movie. The movie was much discussed when it was first announced due to its planned R rating. Everyone assumed this rating was to allow for the level of violence found in the original comic, and specifically the Joker's sexual assault of Barbara Gordon. But now we've learned that the movie has made considerable changes from the comic that may also contribute to that rating. Spoilers follow.
Specifically, we now know that Batman and Batgirl share a sex scene in the animated movie. Most people didn't believe the rumor when it first circulated, but Twitter user @AcroNite7 confirmed it with an animated gif of a scene from the movie:
If that's not enough there's also an obviously unauthorized (and probably not long for this world) Youtube video in which Batman and Batgirl have an awkward batradio conversation, in which he gives her the cold shoulder and she eventually yells, "It was just sex, for god's sake! It doesn't have to mean anything!" But even as she says that, her tone makes clear that she's the one who has developed an emotional attachment.
So here's the thing: When the movie and it's rating were first announced, some people (myself included) made the argument that you could adapt The Killing Joke and tell the central story about Batman and Joker's relationship without faithfully adapting the assault on Barbara Gordon. The Joker could even still attack her in the course of kidnapping her father, and take her out for the duration of the story. But he doesn't have to shoot her, he doesn't have to paralyze her, and he certainly doesn't have to remove her clothes and photograph her, and there doesn't need to be the implication of anything more.
Pushback against all of this came from fans who said that their priority was fidelity to the original comic book. It's not that they were invested in the assault per se, they claimed; it's that it has to happen in the movie because that's the way it happens in the comic.
So to those fans, I say this: I hope to hear your outrage about these egregious changes to Alan Moore's original plot. Bruce Wayne and Barbara Gordon were not lovers in The Killing Joke, and in fact Barbara wasn't even Batgirl when that story happened. The depiction of Barbara as emotionally needy has nothing to do with any version of her from the comics, and everything to do with the worst tropes about women from male-dominated fiction.
And it only gets worse from there. If the Joker's assault is left intact, then Batman's pursuit of him becomes not just an attempt to rescue Jim Gordon and stop an out-of-control Joker; it becomes revenge for the violation of a woman who Batman had laid claim to. By the addition of these scenes, even if there are no other changes to the story, The Killing Joke becomes more toxic in its masculinity, far more built on tired action tropes, and even more alienating to female fans --- Batgirl's biggest following --- than it already was.
So if you're one of those fans who hates to see your favorite stories changed when they're adapted to other media, this should upset you even more than it does me.