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This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Friday, April 14, 2017


Now that I've finished my review of the 2016 DVD-adaptation of the Moore-Bolland KILLING JOKE graphic novel, I may as well return to a long-neglected subject: how the word "objectification" came to be used as a buzzword for anything a given critic does not like.

Here's a sampling from online reviews, with my responses, and golly gee, the first one I found-- just a little above my own, when searching "Killing Joke+ dvd+ objectification-- is my old pal ENNBEE, telling the GUARDIAN readers that you just can't update "sexist source material."

Well, certainly not as easily as a critic can lie about what a film shows:

Pursued by a creepy stalker mafia tough-guy villain, Batgirl makes amateurish mistake after amateurish mistake, prompting Batman to sneer to her face that the bad guy “led you like a lap dog”.

Does Batgirl make some mistakes in handling the "creepy, etc." villain? Yes, but not in the repetitive manner asserted by Ennbee. Nor, despite Ennbee's claim, does the Batman character ever "sneer" at the Batgirl character. I can well understand why Ennbee would make such a claim, since he's addicted to victimage. But as written, Batman has no reason to bust Batgirl's lady-balls. The storyline, whatever its failings, does make clear that Batman values Batgirl as a partner, and when she starts going off the rails, he loses an ally thereby. He gives a tough and unsympathetic assessment of the ways in which Batgirl has allowed herself to let the villain get inside her head, and he dismisses her from the case not because she's a woman, but because she has fucked up.

And then there's this willful misreading of the whole arc of the Batgirl-prologue:

In response, Batgirl whines that Batman doesn’t trust her, has impulsive sex with him, and then indulges in a series of violent emotional tantrums before deciding to retire her Batgirl identity on the grounds that the stress is too much for her.
Really, Ennbee? When a woman protests a man's verdict, it's just "whining?" They oughtta kick Ennbee out of the Liberals' League for that one. It goes without saying that Ennbee would not approve of the sex-scene, but after the sex-scene there's only one "emotional tantrum," in which the villain Franz attempts to kill Batman, almost succeeds, and is beaten to pudding when Batgirl comes to Batman's rescue.

I'm reading along as I write this, so I'm betting that Ennbee will still top this. Let's see--

As a bonus, Batman hypocritically lectures her on the dangers of objectification while the bad guy compulsively and smarmily sexualizes her, and the cartoon lingers on a closeup image of her butt when she jogs. Girls aren’t emotionally or mentally tough enough to be heroes, is the message; they’re just too darn emotional. But hey, they look good in those tight costumes, right?
Bingo! Yes, ultraliberals cannot divorce the hero's actions from those of the villain. I pointed out that Batman letting Batgirl shag him would be problematic in real-world terms-- that is, if Batman were a person. And I'd expand on that to say that a fictional portrait of sex between two people who shouldn't be together is practically the foundation of Western drama. There is of course nothing hypocritical in Batman's warning: he's not talking about objectification per se but about the effect one crook's smarminess is having on one character's psyche. There is also no blanket condemnation of women as crime-fighters. Will Ennbee even mention the DVD's reference to Barbara Gordon's transformation into Oracle?  I'm betting not, but I'm sure I can find more prevarications.

Let's see, after he quotes one of the creators about what they meant to do, Ennbee decides that the faults in KILLING JOKE are not those of the specific creators, but of all males, and that only female creators could have possibly obviated them (though probably not in an adaptation of KILLING JOKE, which is explicitly beyond saving):

Perhaps different creators could have managed to craft a non-misogynist Batgirl story, especially if those creators were women. But a big part of the problem is, simply, that this is a Killing Joke adaptation. 

I won't waste repeating Ennbee's driveling, repetitive claims that Batgirl's failure is automatically the failure of all females, and therefore leads to a "misogynist cartoon."

However, this particular review-subject didn't allow for Ennbee any enlightened posturings on the subject of race. Therefore he drops the subject of KILLING JOKE and starts harping on why the new GHOSTBUSTERS was racist because it didn't automatically make the black character a great scientist. I think the movie's greatest crime was that it wasn't funny, but I'm not surprised that Ennbee decided to cram both race and sex into one pre-digested package.

Damn, when I started this, I thought I'd just skim a few representative quotes from different reviewers. Once again, though, Ennbee's addiction to both victimage and prevarication has taken up the whole dang post. More later, perhaps.

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