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Batman as the Victim of a Rape Fantasy: A Look at the New Catwoman #1

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There’s a very nervous buzz going around about the recently relaunched Catwoman comic.  Why nervous?  Check it out for yourself: Rich Johnston posted selections from the final pages over at Bleeding Cool.

Does that look and feel just a little bit creepy to you, but you can’t you can’t quite put your finger on it?

That’s because that scene, especially if you read the whole thing, appears to be a gender-reversed rape fantasy.

(If you’re not familiar with the rape fantasy genre of romance novel look at http://www.geekachicas.com/index.php?option=com_myblog&show=rape-and-romance-novels.html&Itemid=55 or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romance_novel and do Cnt-F for “rape fantasy” — this is a trope that goes back at least a century in the romance world)

Batman is Scarlett O’Hara and Catwoman is Rhett Butler.

Instead of Rhett carrying Scarlett up the stairs and into bed, Catwoman throws Batman to the ground and mounts him.

“Every time… he protests.”

“Then… gives in.”

That’s not from a trashy romance novel, that’s in the actual comic (again, see the link).

And so there you have Batman getting mounted right in front of the balcony window (you’d think Batman might want to pull the curtains – he seems a bit of a privacy freak, normally) and it’s, ahem, “keep the masks on.”

Is this a throwaway scene for titillation?  The title of the story is “…and most of the costumes stay on…” – i.e., the caption on the final page.  The next story is billed as “The Morning After.”

It has long been said that pro wrestling and comics are both soap operas for dudes.  There’s an element of truth to that and DC seems to be trying to make Catwoman a trashy bodice-ripper of a romance novel for dudes.  A bit of an escalation from soap operas.

The thing is, normally the victim of the rape-fantasy is the heroine.  Here the victim is Batman.  Given that DC’s readership is thought to be overwhelmingly male, is it intended that the little fanboys identify with Batman and have a… we’ll be generous and call it a ROMANTIC fantasy about being overpowered by a catburgler/ex-prostitute in a leather bodysuit?

‘Cause, y’know, if that’s what’s going on, that’s pretty creepy.  I’m not saying there aren’t a lot of fanboys who wouldn’t have that high on their bucket list, but that’s still pretty creepy.  Maybe I’m just well-adjusted.

Is Catwoman taking Batman by force considered feminist?  I suppose that’s the other option.

It also raises some questions about the curation of the Batman brand.  Normally, Batman is portrayed as someone who is in control of his emotions in an extreme way.  Here, he’s shown as periodically letting Catwoman throw him to the ground and shag him over his protests.  It seems… a bit out of character.

You’re also walking a fine line when you’ve got a very morally rigid character (at least in all the other Batman comics) having random hook-ups with what is clearly an active thief.  And if your reply is “but it’s more romantic that way,” I’m going back to the romance novel / rape fantasy theory and wondering who the target demographic is, all the more.

Oh, well.  DC did say they were going to try new things and that certainly was… different.

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7 Comments

  1. Rape?! Okay if that’s what you saw you need to see a therapist.

  2. Not rape. Rape fantasy. See the links. It’s a standard romance novel trope (if creepy). Standard enough to be one of the better known scenes from Gone with the Wind.

  3. If I may, I find your review quite insightful and well written. I would like to humbly offer a rebuttal.
    http://ultranerdrevenge.blogspot.com/2011/09/stray-cats.html

  4. Todd, I think you you absolutely nailed it. I hope DC is paying attention to these reviews, because certain books are getting a LOT of negative publicity now. I quoted you (with a link) in my writeup about this here: http://wp.me/p1Hi9G-7U

  5. The Red Hood one is particularly bizarre. I get that they’re doing a teen-marketed R-rated comedy (or Two and a Half Men with super powers, if you prefer), but Starfire retrofitted into Space Bimbo… that’s just really poor judgement.

Trackbacks

  1. DC’s push for the New 52: ‘This is a Catwoman for 2011′ | Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources – Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment
  2. The DC Comics 52 Re-Launch: Week 3 Capsule Reviews | Indignant Online

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