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I'd rather have no Batgirl film that one directed by Joss Whedon

There, I said it.

It's not like I haven't hinted at my feelings already. But I'm saying it officially: I'm no longer excited about the upcoming Batgirl film. Even back when it was first announced I didn't hide my confusion over the choice of director and an uneasiness on whether Batgirl was mainstream enough for the film to be a success. But as time has went on I've become less and less ecstatic about it.

A lot of this is to do with Joss Whedon. Those of us who like to geek out to film analysis, and have followed his work for a long time, already knew he was problematic. While the general public considered him feminist because he creates female characters who were powerful in a physical fight, those with a critical eye weren't blind to the lack of racial diversity in his work, the bi-erasure of Willow Rosenberg, creepy comments regarding Amber Benson's body, and spitting out the dummy over Charisma Carpenter's pregnancy.

But in August his cover was blown. His ex-wife spoke out about their marriage and how he wasn't quite the perfect little nice guy he had made himself out to be. I wasn't exactly surprised, but to have the confirmation from Kai Cole did make me even more disappointed that he was given the top job behind a female-lead superhero film.

Not just any female-lead superhero film, but Batgirl. She's my personal favourite and she's widely hailed as one of the most feminist characters in the DC Universe. Not only is she full of girl power, but she also has LGBTQ+ acquaintances and physical disability is part of her backstory. This is a film that requires the direction of someone who is sensitive to social justice issues. So, eh, not Joss Whedon then.

While Joss Whedon has incorporated social justice issues into his work, he has missed the mark on many occasions. This is what happens when someone (even the most well-intentioned ally) tries to speak on behalf of disadvantaged groups that they don't belong to.

One of the most obvious examples - to me anyway, my polysexual brain was startled straight (lol) away - is Willow Rosenberg's sexuality. Joss admitted that he had toyed with the idea of a Scooby coming out long before this storyline manifested. In fact, it wasn't until this scene that it was decided that it would be Willow and Tara.

They went on to become one of mainstream television's earliest same-sex couples, and I have no doubt Joss meant well by this. But those of us who fall under the polysexual umbrella didn't turn a blind eye to Willow identifying as gay. Did we imagine her infatuation with Xander? Or her healthy and loving relationship with Oz? Joss, this character has already had established romances with male characters - I think you need to do a bit more research on human sexuality, especially the bit about bisexuality being very real and valid.

Oh and then he killed Tara, aka the Bury Your Gays television trope.

Even when they break-up Willow speaks as though her love for Oz was real. 

If Joss had carried out a focus group with LGBTQ+ fans of the show or hired an LGBT+ writer, these two things could have been avoided. This is why it's important to have diversity amongst directors and producers, not just cast members. And why allies should never think of themselves as saviours or possessing the same level of understanding as someone who lives the reality of that disadvantaged group. 

This is why I want a woman at the helm of Batgirl. Even better, one with personal experience of LGBTQ+ issues and physical disability. Failing that, a female director who will do her research and seek opinions of these groups who do fit into these disadvantaged groups.

And, yes, I know it was Joss Whedon's idea to make a Batgirl film

In late August - in what looked like a PR stunt from the Whedon camp - it was reported that a standalone Batgirl film was not on Warner Bros radar until Joss pitched it. This does make sense given Batgirl's lack of mainstream clout. Why would Warner Bros consider a Batgirl film when they're already busy producing and promoting films involving Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Harley Quinn, Joker, Gothan City Sirens and Batman himself? Even though I love her, I can see why it wasn't on their radar (though I was hoping she would pop up within these films to help build her profile). 

If this news was meant to make me glad Joss Whedon pitched the idea, you can wipe that smile off your face. It doesn't mean I should roll over and not complain about him getting the job, even if he was literally the only option. I wasn't even getting my hopes up for a Batgirl film, and I'm sure as hell could have waited longer.

There's also been a lot of talk that he won't use a famous actress, which further ignites my worry that this might be a financial flop. You could definitely argue that Aquaman isn't big guns enough to have his own film. But Jason Mamoa has star power and he'll have the Justice League films to help build up the character's fan base.

It problematic as fuck that we have to even think strategically about female-fronted superhero films. Superman vs Batman might have been a pile of balls and Jared Leto's Joker might have been cringeworthy - but these characters aren't going to be pulled. Even that George Cloony Batman film didn't kill the franchise. There will always be room for male superheroes, even when they produce flops.

But female superhero films? Wonder Woman was successful. Largely thanks to known actors, loyalty to the source material and great behind-the-scenes work. But the creative industries work in a capitalist system, and ultimately film execs decide what to produce based on balance sheets. And that is why it's important that every single female fronted superhero movie does well financially, because the studios will only produce more if they make them money.

I mean, you remember Catwoman in the mid-00s? What on earth was that movie? It's no wonder the industry waited a decade to produce another female-fronted superhero film.

Oh, and then there's that leaked Wonder Woman script

Joss Whedon really wants to produce a female-led superhero movie, because Batgirl isn't the first film he has pitched. Several years ago Joss wrote a Wonder script that never got made. And thank heavens it didn't. The script opens with the focus on Steve Trevor landing on Themyscira, and stumbling upon the beautiful Diana. From the outset Wonder Woman is taking a backseat in her own goddam movie as it we see her through the eyes of Steve Trevor. In the version that did get made (spoilers if you haven't seen it) the film starts with Wonder Women's backstory and then we're later introduced to Steve Trevor. 

And the way he talks about other women in the cast isn't great either: 

Thank you for reminding us that middle-aged women can still be beautiful and "in their prime". I thought they were all ugly. 

And he decided to write the script while masturbating, evidently: 

If Joss Whedon had been given the go-ahead, the film would have likely ended up being wanking material for 14-year-old boys. Rather than the strong and inspirational story for girls we ended up getting. No prizes for guessing which version I prefer. 

Throughout the script Joss focused a lot on her love interest, Steve Trevor, more so than was probably necessary. The eventual 2017 film did feature him and they did kiss (because even Wonder Woman can't resist the puppy eyes of Chris Pine) - but their love story was not the focus of the film. The producers struck a nice balance between Steve being part of her life, but building her character to be more than just her romantic interests. Buffy might have been physically strong as hell, but a lot of her storylines still focused around her romantic life. 

Will I go see the film? Probably. Batgirl is still the leader of my superhero Dream Team and I'm not going to pretend I'm not curious. But there's a large part of me hoping that Warner Brothers decide it's better off in the hands of someone other than Joss Whedon, or work the character up a bit more in another superhero film. 

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