I’ve been watching Justice League on Netflix lately, and I have to give it a lot more credit than I ever really did before. I’m really enjoying it. But it still subscribes to one of the biggest problems I have with the DCAU, when it could have really used Wonder Woman as a way to remedy that problem.
I was talking to another fangirl/feminist friend once and said “The problem with women in Batman: The Animated Series is that they can be divided into two categories, evil, or in love with Batman.” And I get it! If I lived in that Universe, I would 100% be in love with Batman. (Hell, I live in this one and I sort of am…) But that there isn’t a single woman who isn’t a sociopath who isn’t? That doesn’t make any sense. Oh, wait, there’s the lady who was engaged to Harvey Dent. But she’s kind of it.
I’m not saying that there aren’t strong female characters in Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, and The New Batman Adventures, but all of these shows are very guilty of a casual form of misogyny. There are female charactersin abundance. Lois Lane, Barbara Gordon, Kara Zor-El, Selina Kyle, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, Live Wire, Talia the list goes on. But in Batman in particular, these women are window dressing. Functional, of course, but mostly just there to look good. This isn’t entirely the fault of the creators of the DCAU, but they never did quite right by these ladies. I mentioned this when I talked about the times the shows crossed over, the episode “Girl’s Night Out” is particularly problematic for me. I enjoy it immensely, but hate the silliness and dismissiveness of the plot.
Barbara Gordon could have been the exception. Her relationship with Dick could have been written off as puppy love, and then moved on to her being an independent character. Or they get married, have babies and train those babies to be bad ass crime fighters. This is always the place my mind goes first. (Think of what a better show Batman Beyond would have been if every now and then Terry had to deal with Dick and Barbara’s way better trained progeny getting in his way!) But then Mystery of The Batwoman & Batman Beyond had to come along and confirm her and Bruce’s romantic involvement and she loses a bit of her agency.
This is fine, when it’s Batgirl. I mean, it’s not great. It still pisses me off, and is really, really creepy. (To quote my friend John, “It’s not just the age difference, but that she dated his foster son. BOUNDARIES, Bruce.”) When it’s not fine is when a similar dynamic is created between Batman and Wonder Woman.
Oh you read that correctly. There’s a romance between Bruce and Diana that’s a very big part of Justice League Unlimited. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, necessarily to have members of the Justice League hook up. The original Justice League series had a serious relationship develop between Hawkgirl and Green Lantern. It was amazing, but that’s because it was presented as a developing relationship between two equals.
Wonder Woman and Batman’s relationship is more like, “Ah! She has to be with someone! Heaven forbid we have a SINGLE WOMAN portrayed here! Crap, we already made her normal boyfriend, Steve Trevors a WWII spy when they went back in time and now he’s mega old. We can’t break up Lois and Clark, not this far along in their story, and we’ve shown her being disgusted with Flash. I know! Bruce Wayne is a big whore, she can hook up with him!”
It’s really insulting to both characters but also does a huge disservice to Diana. This version of Bruce is kind of used to pushing these sorts of thing aside for the greater good. (See, Gordon, Barbara and Lane, Lois) So when he blows her off and then is sad about it, it’s a little bit stupid but at least characteristic. When she follows after him pouting like Bella Swann and whines about how he doesn’t have legitimate reason to not be with her, it’s annoying and completely out of character.
I’m not saying that it doesn’t make for some great moments. The episode “This Little Piggy” is great and it’s entirely about this relationship. When they all get turned into eight year olds in “Kids Stuff” (My new all time favorite episode of anything.) and L’il Diana is terrible at hiding her crush and L’il John Stewart can’t stop teasing L’il Bruce about it, I nearly wet myself. Also, L’il Clark was not aware there was anything happening. Poor Clark. It must be hard to be in a committed relationship and hang around with those guys.
But those fun moments don’t make up for the arbitrary feeling the relationship has, and the fact that it weakens Diana’s character a lot.
Before I got to Unlimited, I had every intention of being excited that for once we had a main female character in this universe who wasn’t evil or in love with Batman.
There is of course the episode “Maid of Honor,” where it’s made very clear that Diana is into another woman.
So from a feminist perspective that’s pretty cool. But talking about how Wonder Woman may or may not be a lesbian is a topic for another post.
And even when she’s pouting because Batman doesn’t love her, she still kicks a whole lot of ass.