ByRob Taylor, writer at
Rob Taylor

The Killing Joke has arrived and it is safe to say this is definitely worthy of its place as the first R-Rated member of the Batman series of movies.

It's nasty, cruel and in some places deals with some VERY deeply unpleasant themes. If you want to remain spoiler free (not that it's possible with the furor that has been caused by certain scenes) then leave now as we're going in depth here.

Girl Power

The movie starts with what the makers refer to as a "Bat-Girl" story, which they claim they've never had the chance to do before. Yes, this does put Bat-Girl and thus Barbara Gordon at the forefront, but many fans have been upset by her portrayal as impulsive, one step off being a damsel in distress/stalker victim and, as some have put it, using sex to get what she wants.

Yes, Bat-Girl and Batman get it on, and she is very much the instigator and feminists in particular are in uproar while the filmmakers argue that Barbara is in control of the men in her life, from they guys who try to date her, to the gay BFF and even Batman.

It's a layer we haven't seen before, but not one that should be either alien or quite as "hot button" as it is. It's not the first time in canon that Bats has slept with someone he shouldn't. Talia Al-Ghul, Catwoman, Silver St. Claire, Vicki Vale, hell in World's Finest he even hooked up with Lois Lane, basically an endless list of conquests that Bruce Wayne has not stopped himself from making. Few batted an eyelid when Wonder Woman and Superman became a couple, so why so serious now?

Where there is some "ickyness" in THIS case is that Bruce/Batman will have known Barbara Gordon for a long time, indeed since she was a young teenager and while Barbara is clearly the one making the moves, there is a lot of fault on Bruce Wayne here.

Not The First Time

It's somewhat reminiscent of the scene in James Gunn's Super, where Libby/(Ellen Page) argues that while Frank (Rainn Wilson), the man behind the Crimson Bolt's mask is married and deeply loves his wife, as their alter-egos they are free to fornicate. This culminates in what amounts to a male rape, somewhat played for dark laughs. It is still deeply disturbing and while Frank is a disturbed man who arguably doesn't have the strength of character to stop it, Bruce Wayne/Batman definitely does. He has a moral compass and it is either switched off or he chooses to ignore it.

Arguably this is why so many fans are in uproar; It's not about Bat-Girl taking control or using sex to try to save their failing alliance, it's that their beloved Batman became just as flawed as the villains he fights against. He chose not only the wrong path, but one that actually is pretty dark. He betrays a paternal relationship to a girl he has known since she was under-age AND his friendship to Jim Gordon who is oblivious to his daughters role in the Bat-Family, in one sexual encounter.

After the fateful "break-up" of course, we learn the Joker has not only escaped but shows up at the Gordon's door and, as per the comic book, intentionally cripples Barbara Gordon for life. Where the movie goes somewhat further is that there is clearly a sexual assault that takes place thereafter, an implication of rape, but most importantly, The Joker takes photos of a naked Barbara Gordon in her most vulnerable state, fighting for her life.

It is the ultimate depraved move on the part of "The Clown Prince Of Crime" and is definitely not funny to Jim Gordon when he is shown the pictures as part of a Willy Wonka type tunnel ride. The Joker is nuts but not that sick/depraved so why would he do it? Outwardly it appears it's all part of his plan to make Jim Gordon insane, but there is more to it than that; why would it actually be funny to The Joker to do this?


Joker was already following Bat-Girl, who was clearly not as cautious about her identity as Bruce is. Joker had been out of Arkham for a significant period of time, enough to scout out and plan his crime. By following Bat-Girl, he, like her stalker-ish nemesis Paris Franz developed a bit of a fascination, but Joker wanted to know who she was.

The rooftop gave him his opportunity as Barbara clearly takes off her mask (and suit) revealing her identity. Bruce clearly doesn't do the same, thus protecting his identity. In her post coital, confused state Barbara would be easy to follow home even if he couldn't see her face clearly. Now Joker knows EXACTLY who Bat-Girl is and that he's heading there to get her dad anyway is a sweet punchline to his joke.

On watching the film, I think it's clear Joker does rape Barbara, yet he never tells Gordon this nor about her liaison with Bats or her identity as Bat-Girl. Why?

Joker wants to send Gordon insane, and either the knowledge of Batman banging his daughter or her rape at Joker's hands would send him the opposite way, into rage. Joker doesn't want Jim to be angry as you can be sane and angry. Like John Doe's ultimate mistake in Se7en (see my early article on this) derails his plan. Joker wants him to be a total lunatic by the end of it and the best way to do that is to let Jim's imagination work out what happened when he failed to protect his daughter, with the photos as stimuli.

Likewise, it means there is a very sick joke being played on Batman at the end of the film. He is there trying to legitimately help the Joker, while Joker knows exactly what he has done and that as much as Batman doesn't WANT to kill him... all that needs to happen is Joker to tell how he saw them on the roof and will be the "last man to have her." That would no doubt send Bruce into that kill mode. Joker knows he has this over Batman going forward and to him, that is pretty funny. It's debatable if Barbara was conscious or aware, she probably wouldn't tell Bats either, as she wouldn't want the guilt to fall on him.

To me, The Killing Joke is not the insult it is being portrayed as. It is simply a darker tale than even die hard fans expected and shows that everyone in the DC Universe can be flawed, make mistakes and have urges and impulses that sometimes they choose not to control. We don't like our superheroes to do that very often and it's uncomfortable.

It's not trash, but it's certainly not something I'd want to particularly watch again. From DC's perspective it's interesting as this is the darkest thing they've put out since Watchmen, which also had some of the same themes and drew similar criticisms, notably how Sally Jupiter ultimately had a child (and feelings) for her would be rapist, The Comedian. It's a brave move for DC to allow this into the world of Batman, and while many will hate and rail against it, it's shown there IS a place for an R-rated universe with these characters.

Tell me what you think below? Did the Joker see the illicit tryst between heroes?


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