Joss Whedon is known for his strong female characters having lent his talents to his series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly and Dollhouse in addition to work on Alien: Resurrection, The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron, the latter two coming with him playing a huge part in guiding the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Unfortunately, he expressed entering a state of burnout following work on Age of Ultron and developing Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and left the franchise, handing over the reigns to the Russo Brothers and his own brother Jed Whedon and his wife Maurissa Tancharoen. Fans instantly began speculating if he would eventually return to the franchise or take his talents over to Warner Bros. and DC Films, which he immediately shot down by revealing he was done with big budget superhero films. Outside writing and directing a small adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing, Whedon has stayed rather removed from filmmaking.
That all changed a couple of days ago at CinemaCon, where it was announced that Whedon is nearing a deal to write, direct, and produce an untitled Batgirl pic for Warner Bros. as part of its DC Extended Universe! Warner Bros. Pictures Group president and chief content officer Toby Emmerich is overseeing the project alongside producer Jon Berg (Justice League, Edge of Tomorrow) and DC Comics chief creative officer Geoff Johns. Sources for Entertainment Weekly have confirmed that the film will take its inspiration from Gail Simone’s 2011 New 52 run on “Batgirl,” which sees the character recovering from the Joker attack that left her paralyzed (chronicled in the 1988 graphic novel “Batman: The Killing Joke”) thanks to some experimental surgery. Although she’s regained the use of her legs, she is still heavily traumatized by the event.
While his previous swearing off of superhero studio films makes his participation here a surprise to be sure, Whedon’s involvement had already polpolarized fans and critics, with some believing he’s the perfect person to handle this film and others believing a female writer, a female director and a female producer would be better suited for this film in order to better identify with what could be problematic story elements. Those in favor of Whedon’s handling of the film cite his previous work with strong, female characters (which he was doing correctly when most of his contemporaries were still struggling with the concept), plus his influential understanding and impact on youth pop culture as reasons to get excited. Also, he’s proven many times that he can do both studio controlled projects and full creative controlled films as well, so he shouldn’t have an issue either way. However, many are saying that the only reason he would agree to do this film is if the studio had granted him some form of creative control. Proponents of the viewpoint that Whedon is wrong for this film feel that his ability to tap into that zeitgeist of pop culture-infused, youthful, female empowerment has diminished as he’s aged and that his once fresh and groundbreaking approach no longer has the same bite.
Detractors of the creative team as a whole also reference the poor handling of the character in last year’s animated film adaptation of The Killing Joke, directed by Sam Liu (Justice League: Gods and Monsters, Hulk Vs.) and written by comic book scribe Brian Azzarello (100 Bullets, Wonder Woman), which received negative criticism for radically altering Batman and Batgirl’s relationship by making them lovers. Fans also took issue with Batgirl’s characterization, such as Ben Travers from IndieWire, who commented:
“Instead of humanizing her, [the prologue] turns Barbara/Batgirl into a comic book cliche: The female character that feigns complexity, but, when given an expanded role, is only viewed through a sexual lens.”
With that bumbling of the character still very recent, the case for an all-female creative team is picking up notice as a valid alternative to the current all-male one in order to minimize unnecessary misogynistic elements inherent in male-slanted storytelling and keep the focus on Batgirl rather than the men around her, which the animated film did excessively.
Having male creative teams oversee storylines involving women, especially ones involving misogynistic-based trauma, is always a case on rolling the dice as far as how it will be received. With that in mind, this film could definitely benefit from some female creative input. My suggestion would be to have a female screenwriter or someone like George Miller come on to assist Whedon in writing the script. Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road has been heralded as one of the most feminist action films ever made and received high praise from critics and viewers for its handling of main character Imperator Furiosa (played by Charlize Theron). There’s been numerous rumors that the studio has tried to get him to helm both Man of Steel 2 and The Batman, so this could be a good way to get him involved in the franchise and assure that the script is devoid of as many misogynistic elements as possible.
We’ll bring you more information on this as it becomes available.