The Killing Joke Trigger
I wish to begin this commentary by stating that I am a somewhat fan of Alan Moore’s “The Killing Joke”. As twisted and dark as the comic is, it is a defining moment in the life and crime fighting career of Barbara Gordon. Her transformation to Oracle was an event that reverberated along the whole DC universe and many fans have often stated they prefer her Oracle storylines to her Batgirl ones. I am one of those fans. When I heard they were turning “The Killing Joke” into an animated movie and that the one and only Mark Hamill would return to voice the notorious villain, I admit that I was a little excited. Despite the misconceptions I’ve read on forums of sexual abuse and rape, claims Alan Moore himself has denied ever occurred, I awaited the movie with hope. Unfortunately my hopes were dashed very quickly.
A trigger warning to any person that has experienced sexual abuse, rape, sexual harassment or been stalked, I suggest considering long and hard to as whether this movie is for you. Whilst the entire second half of the film was verbatim to the comic and pure perfection…except perhaps the ending which was vaguer then the comic, the first half felt like unnecessary filler. I understand that the creators needed to fill out the movie or else it would have been a twenty-minute short, but I do not feel they did justice to the original story with how they chose to do so.
There’ll be spoilers from here sweeties.
Bruce Timms said, “If we’re going to add a whole bunch of new story, let’s make it all about Barbara,” but it’s not. It’s really not. Yes she has the majority of the screen time at the beginning, but by placing it before “The Killing Joke” story they failed in making it about her, instead she was simply more fodder for Batman. Oh…and Barbara and Batman hook up. Ok, so I’m a little pissed about an already ‘woman in refrigerator’ storyline being pushed further. Her sleeping with Batman serves as further fuel for his motives to catch the Joker and it simply was not required. Surely kidnapping the commissioner and shooting a woman, let alone Batgirl, his partner, in the spine is motive enough. Then there’s Barbara. Whilst I liked that she chose to walk away from the life of Batgirl before the incident, she did so because she feared crossing the line. Why did she consider crossing the line? Because of a man; a man who became obsessed with her. The first twenty minutes were pure sexualisation and objectification of a woman who was already copping the short straw in the film. Barbara pines over Batman, complaining to her work colleague, wishing they could become more than simply partners in crime fighting. She then stumbles upon a case and becomes the center of a deranged young man’s sexual and power fantasies. As the Joker manipulates Batman, Paris Franz manipulates Batgirl. It’s pretty obvious from the context that he gets off sexually, even requesting a prostitute to wear a Batgirl mask. Why are the two manipulations so different? One has sexual connotations and one does not. Some may read this and shrug, perhaps suggest that I am making a mountain of a mole hill, but as someone who has been stalked, who has been harassed, who has been the center of someone’s obsession…this event is far scarier, far more triggering then opening the door to the Joker.
Consider that. The Joker is arguably one of the scariest villains going and yet he pales in comparison to the real world harassment and violence that so many women face. “The Killing Joke” has long been a controversial piece and Barbara is already objectified and takes a trope position in the storyline, and somehow the team behind the movie furthered this. Somehow they managed to damage Barbara even further. They managed to torture her more than the Joker did. The inclusion of the scene with the prostitutes, yes there’s two scenes with prostitutes, where Batman questions them and they state that the Joker always finds one of them after escaping Arkham also twisted the story to a more sexual level. I’ve always considered the Joker to be asexual, so to hear that he has a penchant for prostitutes and that, unbeknown to Batman, but known to the audience, he was currently with Barbara Gordon was jarring. Team that with the images of her naked and tortured…I may finally see where those perverted fanboys who insist she was raped may be coming from. Whilst Bruce Timm has said he didn’t think the line of “maybe he found himself another girl” would be interpreted as such, it still comes across that way to me. Maybe it’s that having dealt with sexual harassment and violence thing again.
If you’ve read this far then I suppose you want to know my rating. If you skip right to the scene of Batman and Joker sitting in the cell playing cards and watch it from there, I’d give the movie an eight out of ten. It rings true to the comic and, whilst I’m not a fan of the Joker having an origin story as I believe it retracts from his spontaneous madness, it is a pretty decent watch. If you enjoyed the comic then you would enjoy the film, but I can’t judge it in pieces, it needs to be judged as a whole. From start to finish, I give “The Killing Joke” a four out of ten and strongly suggest that anyone with known triggers consider whether or not they think they can handle this movie unscathed.