Last week, news broke that Joss Whedon (creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly, director of the first two Avengers movies) was in talks to direct a standalone Batgirl movie. Now it seems that the talks have turned into an actual deal, and barring a large meteorite slamming into the Earth and killing us all, Whedon will helm this picture.
This news has polarized the fandom, and, to get personal, has left me with some very mixed feelings. Whedon has created one of the most widely recognized feminist characters with Buffy Summers, but he has also expressed some very ignorant views in both his writing and in interviews.
In order to sift through exactly what this means for the DC fans looking forward to a Batgirl movie (which should be all of you, let’s be real), let’s break this down:
Good News: A Batgirl movie is being made! Is it sad that, at this point, I care less about who is making the film and more that the film is actually being made? This is a movie with a female lead! A female superhero lead! A female superhero who kicks some major ass! Think of the merch! The companion materials! Another role model for women everywhere! DC doesn’t have many positive portrayals of women. But I am so excited that they are giving attention to the female characters that they do have. Marvel has yet to release a female-led movie. Maybe the fact that DC is releasing two (Wonder Woman comes out on June 2nd) movies with female protagonists will light a fire under Marvel’s butt and we’ll finally get the Black Widow movie that we all deserve.
Bad News: Whedon’s recent track record with female characters isn’t the best. Yes, he’s given us badass girl-power moments with Fred Burkle standing up for herself with a crossbow in Angel and River slaying everyone in sight in Serenity, but in his past few projects Whedon has fallen a little flat when it comes to portraying women, especially women who have been violated physically or mentally. Whedon received major backlash for the way Black Widow’s backstory was handled in Avengers: Age of Ultron. For those of you who don’t remember, there was a scene in which Black Widow tearfully stated that her forced sterilization made her a monster and implied that her inability to have children was a deficiency on par with killing millions of people. That scene alone would make me wary of Whedon handling the stories of violated women, but he’s done this before (the whole Cordelia Chase/Jasmine debacle in Angel, Buffy nearly being raped by Spike, and on and on). And let’s not forget that Barbara Gordon, aka Batgirl, has a backstory with one of the most heinous, unnecessary violations I’ve ever seen in fiction. In The Killing Joke, the Joker captures and cripples Barbara, for no other reason than to make her father miserable and persuade him to do violence. No word on if this movie will include this bit of Barbara’s backstory, but I can’t see Whedon doing a good job with it.
Good News: Whedon is an excellent story teller. Say what you want about Joss Whedon, the man knows his way around a character-driven narrative arc. On a sentence-level, his dialogue is known throughout the writing community as being some of the snappiest and most well-crafted. He’s an expert at creating fantastical situations that really push the characters into discovering new things about themselves. Put it this way: I’ve never seen something that Whedon created that didn’t make me feel something (love, anger, pity) for the characters. Seeing as how the DC movies have been lacking in this department with their past few endeavors, Whedon’s input would be a refreshing change for the franchise.
Bad News: Whedon isn’t creating original content, at least for a while. These big budget movies take years to make. If Whedon is committing now, he’s probably heavily involved with the pre-production phase (writing, casting, etc.) and will be tied up between now and the movie’s release. That means that he won’t have any time to devote to any original projects. It’s been a few years since we’ve gotten some new material from Whedon, and that’s a shame, because many of his shows and movies go on to become cultural phenomena. The Cabin in the Woods, Whedon’s last significant foray into original screenwriting, came out five years ago. His thought-provoking original material would be a welcome voice in times like these when many voices are clamoring to be heard.
Bad News: Once again, a female director is passed over. Yes, I realize that Whedon is more than qualified to take on directing this film. He’s directed two very successful superhero movies so far. He obviously knows what he’s doing. But in a world where females only account for 7% of directors in the entertainment industry, don’t you think that the bigwigs of DC could stand to hire a female director for a female-led story of one of their most well-known female heroes? Whedon has had the microphone; he’s shown us his take on the superhero genre. Can’t someone else have the floor? And would it be so terrible if the person telling the story was someone who also experienced what it’s like to be a woman? It’s not like there’s a shortage of talented female directors out there. It’s not like Whedon was the only one available for the job. He’s a big name that will bring in money to the studio, and I get that. He’s a safe bet for a franchise that has been hit or miss in the past. But just because it’s the safe thing to do, it doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. I wish DC would have picked a director that could relate a little easier to Batgirl and what she means for girls everywhere.
Every director has their pros and cons. Joss Whedon just happens to be a highly visible director. He’s been so active in the nerd community that nearly everyone has a strong opinion of him, one way or the other. And, let’s be real, regardless of how well he handles the story or not, I’m gonna go see this movie. A lot of people are. Because Batgirl is awesome, with or without Whedon.
Are there any pros or cons to this announcement that I missed? Feel free to express them in the comments!