Variety reported that Joss Whedon is in talks to write, direct, and produce a standalone Batgirl movie that will be a part of the DC Extended Universe. Of course, the nerd corners of the Internet erupted in geeky euphoria at the thought of Buffy’s creator bringing an iconic comic character to life… except for me.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against Whedon (I’ve gone on record with the assertion that Firefly is a perfect season of television), but this choice feels oddly safe and uninspired. Proponents will point to his track record with strong, female characters in the past and his identification as a feminist, but I don’t know if that’s enough in this day and age. Buffy was twenty years ago, and the definition of a strong, female lead is more nuanced, and I wonder if he’s still got what it takes to translate Batgirl to the big screen. Part of me thinks he can, but another wants more for this particular character.
So, I’m just going to put my biases out on the table. Yvonne Craig’s Batgirl was one of my first crushes thanks to Nick at Nite reruns of the 60’s Batman TV show and was one of my earliest entry points into comic book culture. Admittedly, I cannot recall any of her storylines, and I didn’t jump headfirst into comics, but the character holds a special place in my heart. It’s from this loving place where my hesitations are coming from. Joss no doubt has the chops for the job, but that doesn’t mean he’s right for it.
Some online have advocated for a female creator to take the reigns of this project, and while I’m usually ambivalent or wary when it comes to diversity quotas, I wholeheartedly agree that Batgirl should be helmed by a female writer/director/producer. No matter how good Joss Whedon is, he’s not a woman. His voice is not feminine. He cannot relate to this character at a base level, and that’s why I’m skeptical.
Sure, there will be people out there who will roar, “Gender shouldn’t matter! If a writer is good enough, they can write any type of character! Shut up, you SJW!” I can understand this argument to an extent, but Batgirl means so much to so many people that I want her to be portrayed correctly. Whedon probably can do it, but I don’t think he’s more qualified than a female creator because she would be able to tap into that character like no man could.
Then there are those who point out, “WB wants to go with a proven director who will make them a lot of money.” Yes, Whedon has proven himself with Buffy, Angel, Firefly, and The Avengers (let’s just ignore Dollhouse and Age of Ultron), but there are plenty of worthy female directors as well. The name that comes up the most is Lexi Alexander who directed Punisher: War Zone (some would say the most faithful adaptation of the character), as well as other comic book properties such as episodes of Arrow and Supergirl. And before people scream, “But that’s TV!,” remember that Kevin Smith has also directed episodes of Supergirl. Then there’s Green Street Hooligans; you cannot get more macho than soccer (I refuse to use football, so suck it Eurosnobs) hooliganism. That’s some serious cred in my eyes.
Truthfully, Alexander’s filmography is not as stacked as Whedon’s, but she’s way more qualified than say Josh Trank (Fantastic Four), and that’s ultimately the problem. There’s a perception that unproven male directors are given big, tentpole movies while their female counterparts are not even a part of the conversation, and in this case perception is reality. The funny thing is, some would argue that a female wouldn’t get Batman or Superman or Spider-Man. If that is true, then why is it unfair to claim that a male wouldn’t get Batgirl? Hypocrisy knows no bounds.
Some of the loudest anti-lady director voices come from those who believe that studios should hire the best person for the job, and I agree with that, but what if the best person for the job is not even at the table? Oddly enough, we’ll never know until names like Alexander or Kathryn Bigelow (Oscar winner might I add) are in serious contention for a comic book movie. And yes, we have Patty Jenkins with Wonder Woman but that’s just the start. What’s ironic is WB took a huge step forward with that call just to take another step backward.
At the end of the day, I’m sure Joss Whedon will give us a serviceable version of Batgirl, but I probably won’t be convinced that she’ll be the Batgirl that we deserve.