Tuesday, October 26, 2021 • R.I.P. Edition • The Outhousers of Earth Ugh

DC Celebrates Success of Batgirl of Burnside With Creepy Variant Cover Glorifying Sexual Victimization

Written by Jude Terror on Friday, March 13 2015 and posted in News with Benefits

DC Celebrates Success of Batgirl of Burnside With Creepy Variant Cover Glorifying Sexual Victimization

The drought is over! DC is back in the stupidity game!

Source: CBR

If DC hadn't provoked a counter reset with their very stupid day yesterday, their streak would have ended just one day later, as the company revealed the latest in its line of Joker variants - a cover for Batgirl #41 by Rafael Albuquerque.



Based on the look of the Joker and the history of the characters, it's clear that this cover is referencing The Killing Joke, an Alan Moore comic in which Barbara Gordon is visited by the Joker, assaulted, and paralyzed. Though not explicitly stated in the comic, it is a widely held belief that the assault was sexual in nature. It is also one of the most well known examples of "fridging," in which a female character is harmed as a plot device to affect a male character. This is an age-old debate, so I'll just give you the Wikipedia summary of the criticism:

The book has been the subject of feminist critique, criticizing the treatment of Barbara Gordon. Author Brian Cronin, in Was Superman A Spy?: And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed (2009), notes that "[many] readers felt the violence towards Barbara Gordon was too much, and even Moore, in retrospect, has expressed his displeasure with how the story turned out."[26] In Superheroes and Superegos: Analyzing the Minds Behind the Masks (2010), author Sharon Packer wrote: "Anyone who feels that feminist critics overreacted to [Gordon's] accident is advised to consult the source material ... Moore's The Killing Joke is sadistic to the core. It shows Gordon stripped and mutilated, with before, during, and after photos of the attack displayed before her bound and gagged father, the police commissioner. She is more than merely disabled."[27]

Gail Simone included the character's paralysis in a list of "major female characters that had been killed, mutilated, and depowered," dubbing the phenomenon "Women in Refrigerators" in reference to a 1994 Green Lantern story where the title character discovers his girlfriend's mutilated body in his refrigerator.[28] Jeffrey A. Brown, author of Dangerous Curves: Action Heroines, Gender, Fetishism, and Popular Culture (2011), noted The Killing Joke as an example of the "inherent misogyny of the male-dominated comic book industry" in light of the "relatively unequal violence [female characters] are subjected to."[28] While male characters may be critically injured or killed, they are more than likely to be returned to their original conception, while "women on the other hand, are more likely to be casually, but irreparably, wounded such as when Barbara Gordon's (the original Batgirl) spine was shattered by the Joker just for fun and has been restricted to a wheelchair for over a decade now."[28]


Fast forward to 2015, and Barbara Gordon is something of a feminist icon. Her current comic run, by Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, and Babs Tarr, has received widespread acclaim for breaking the traditional superhero comic mold and having the potential to appeal to a growing audience of young women. No disrespect is meant here to the regular Batgirl creative team or to artist Rafael Albequerque. This is a management decision, like the oft-referenced Milo Manara Spider-Woman cover. There's arguably a place for everything. Is the cover of a book like the current Batgirl really the appropriate place for a variant cover that provokes imagery of sexual violence and female victimization?? 

Claire Napier of Women Write About Comics doesn't think so (and her tweets are what brought this to our attention):


And she points out an obvious alternative as well:



And that's a great point. Here's the other variants, none of which allude to sexual violence:


Of course, there's still more covers to be revealed, so perhaps we'll see a rapey cover featuring the Joker and Green Lantern or Sinestro... but somehow I doubt it.

In any case, the Has DC Done Something Stupid Today counter has been used for a wide array of subject matter. Some trivial and snarky, and some serious. But one thing I'll always use it for is to call out sexism and misogyny, and it's with that in mind that I say: it has been 0 days since DC Comics did something stupid.

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