It’s a well-known fact that making The Avengers: Age of Ultron just about broke Joss Whedon. But creating franchise film installments for the superhero industrial complex must be like childbirth — give it a few years and you forget all the pain and think about doing it again. Because Whedon is returning to the fray, this time for Warner Bros. and DC Comics with a stand-alone Batgirl movie.
As of this writing, not much is known beyond the fact this is probably happening. If and when the deal goes through, Whedon will be attached to write, direct, and produce the film for the DCEU, much to the chagrin of Twitter fanboys who have used Joss Whedon as a beacon of everything that is “wrong” about the Marvel Cinematic Universe and why DC’s darker aesthetic is ultimately superior. They can take solace in knowing Whedon will only be “ruining” Batgirl with his love of quips and a color palette not drenched in an inky wash.
Despite being one of the most recognizable superheroes on the planet, Batgirl has never received her own film. Alicia Silverstone played Barbara Gordon in Batman & Robin but let’s all pretend that never happened. And while Whedon will always be a lightning rod in the feminist geek community — he’s a straight white male writing women — he’s one of the better allies. If Warner Bros. couldn’t or wouldn’t get a female writer and director, they could do a lot worse than Whedon.
With the 20th anniversary of Buffy the Vampire Slayer still fresh in the public’s mind, it’s easy to imagine translating Whedon’s signature style into a Batgirl series. It could even be one starring not only Barbara Gordon the supporting cast introduced in recent comic book arcs that moved Gordon to Burnside, Gotham’s equivalent of Brooklyn. These include friends such as Black Canary, Frankie Charles, Alysia Yeoh, Nadimah Ali, and Qadir Ali. Whedon has the clout to request such a cast, one that could make the rainmakers at Warner Bros. otherwise nervous as it would turn the film into one that was majority POC (People of Color) and could touch on disability, religious, and trans issues. But it would also be a major step forward. If writers Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart could interweave Batgirl’s diverse friend group with butt-kicking action, so can Joss Whedon. And quite frankly, someone needs to move the needle here and Warner Bros. is already ahead of Marvel in the diversity game with Wonder Woman headlining her own solo film, and now Batgirl.
Not only could Whedon expand DC’s film universe in terms of diversity and color palette, he’s also a good candidate to fix — once and for all — the nonsense that is Barbara Gordon’s history with The Killing Joke. I’ve talked exhaustively about my distaste for Batigirl’s treatment in Alan Moore’s seminal work, and how DC Comics could fix it without erasing Barbara’s time as the Oracle. You don’t have to be sexually assaulted to wind up paralyzed, as the comics have hinted at in recent times.
If Whedon finalizes his deal with Warner Bros., Batgirl has the potential to show a completely different side of the DCEU, one populated with young diverse heroes who aren’t bogged down with emotional baggage about moms named Martha. It could just be the infusion DC needs to save their live-action films from themselves.