by Ali Slate (@glittergeekali)
I love Batman – ever since I can remember, Batman has been in my life. Anyone that knows me knows that my father has had a huge role in shaping my interests. As a nerd himself, of course he would pass his nerdery down to his only child, and my father was a giant fan of the Adam West Batman series of the 1960s. I fondly remember Caesar Romero’s Joker’s antics. I was also shown every other piece of Batman media to be seen. There was no escaping the Dark Knight in my home.
While Adam West is my dad’s Batman, Kevin Conroy is mine. Kevin Conroy famously voiced The Caped Crusader in Batman: The Animated Series. I remember getting pulled into the story then, and I still do today, when I go back for a rewatch, as I often do. Although Bruce Wayne was certainly the constant on the show, the other characters were just as important. Along with the Dark Knight come a gallery of villains, or rogues, rather. Yes, Joker is certainly at the top of the list, but some Batman villains that also happen to be women are just as fearsome, and Batman: The Animated Series proves that.
Harley Quinn (whose first appearance was on the show and not in the comics), Poison Ivy, and Catwoman all made their mark on the show, and did it while being distinctly feminine. Not only are they great villains, but as women, we kind of want to be like them, too, and it’s not because they’re bad, but it’s because we see ourselves in them.
I’ve never bought into the belief that I could not identify with a character just because I wasn’t the same gender. Maybe that’s because I was forced to as there weren’t as many women heroes in the entertainment that I preferred, but Gotham City’s sirens did something that we as women put up with every day: on the surface, they were always underestimated because of their femininity, but underneath, they were brainier, craftier than their male counterparts.
Am I saying that men are not brainy or crafty? Absolutely not, because they obviously are. What I am saying is that society often looks at women as surface-deep. Batman: The Animated Series challenged that idea in a way that many television shows (especially ones for children) rarely ever did at the time.
While Catwoman, Harley Queen, and Poison Ivy were all looking gorgeous and honestly, pretty sexual for a program aimed at an elementary school audience, they were the smartest of Batman’s foes. Catwoman was a master jewel thief that could steal the ring right off of the person wearing it without them noticing, Harley Quinn was a psychiatrist who had skipped years in school and also was an Olympic-level gymnast, and Poison Ivy was once a leading botanist in the field. All of their physical appeal was nothing compared to their brains, and oh, how it screwed with the minds of every man they came in contact with. And if you’re a fan, you know that Harley and Ivy eventually fell for each other’s feminine spells, too.
Do we want to commit acts of evil every day (even if it is in the name of saving Mother Nature)? No, but Batman: The Animated Series gave me multidimensional women to think about every Saturday morning, and now as an adult, I more strongly identify with their struggle than I did as a child.
We take thrill with the villains because while we often want to fight back against our aggressors, even in the smallest ways, we cannot. So, as women, we’ve always had to be craftier when dealing with our frustrations, for fear of being labelled as something that most men wouldn’t be called, even when asking for the same thing: to be taken seriously.
Should Harley, Catwoman, or Ivy ever be a little girl’s hero? No.
Should little girls admire their grit? Absolutely.
Ali Slate describes herself as a “lifelong geek” and is currently a graduate student.