batman-the-killing-joke

This animated adaptation of Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s 1988 graphic novel presents a much darker universe than the nineties TV show Batman: The Animated Series that this reviewer remembers watching at the tail end of his childhood. Batman: The Killing Joke is by no means a juvenile outing, and contains some decidedly adult content, themes, and insinuations. The story concerns the origins of the Joker, but Joker enthusiasts may be disappointed that the Clown Prince of Crime does not appear until half an hour or so into the program. Before that, the screenplay is preoccupied with the complex relationship between Batman and his protégée Batgirl. One of the most bizarre of the Batman storylines, The Killing Joke gives viewers a sensitive Caped Crusader who worries about the nature of his “relationship” with the Joker and even offers to “rehabilitate” him and maybe collaborate – even after Joker has shot and possibly even raped Batgirl! The ending, too, is a bit of a head-scratcher, and likely to be a conversation-starter after viewing. The idea of the Joker and Batman having a laugh together might seem too insane to consider until one begins to understand the characters as a pair of Judaic archetypes.

4 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Batman: The Killing Joke is:

6. Anti-bankster, literally depicting a banker as an organized crime figure.

5. Anti-nuke, referencing the danger of nuclear holocaust, which, as one character puts it, could be ignited by a flock of geese appearing as a blip on a computer screen.

4. Family-ambivalent. Viewers are treated to a touching father-daughter relationship with Batgirl and Commissioner Gordon, but the Joker’s origin story, in which the financial and psychological strain caused by his wife’s pregnancy and death precipitates his downfall and transformative madness, is arguably antinatalist in character.

3. Pro-gay, perpetuating the homos-are-a-girl’s-best-friend convention.

2. Pro-miscegenation. “I don’t understand why you’re having fishing troubles when we are in the middle of a lake,” Batgirl’s gay friend tells her as he gestures toward a table full of young men including a bespectacled, intellectual-looking congoid. “What do these guys have to do to get your attention?” A white man and black woman are shown studying together in a library – marking race-mixing as the preference of the sophisticated – and a black floozy is also shown caressing the face of a white bad guy.

1. Sexist! The first act of Batman: The Killing Joke is concerned with young heroine Batgirl’s frustration with the limitations placed upon her by her mentor. She aspires to take more active part in Batman’s crime-fighting, but Batman views her as a rookie whose inexperience represents a dangerous liability. A burgeoning feminist, Batgirl objects to him “getting protective and sitting in judgment”, and confronts him with her previous understanding that they were supposed to be partners. “We are – but not equal,” Batman tells her, laying the bat-smack down on that uppity ho.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

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