i was watching batman: the animated series, and i think i’ve pinpointed one of the reasons why writers/artists often fail to give us good female superheroes. so you know how in btas, batman always looms over people, becoming a shadowy, inhuman bat creature and striking terror into his enemies? this, by my standards, is one of the coolest things about batman. when batgirl is introduced, she does this. but the catch is that she was actually just pretending to be batman for plot reasons. when she gets her own version of the costume she gets rid of the full length cape, and while her outfit isn’t sexy or “revealing”, she is still sexualized. we talk about sexualization as disempowering, and argue about whether or not female heroes should wear certain things, but we never think about why sexualization is destructive to superheroes. but as made apparent in btas, one of the main problems is that sexualization gets in the way of the inhumanity that’s necessary for certain types of superheroes. barbara gordon cannot become a formless cape with glowing eyes because the artists are too focused on her female form and by extension her human form. she cannot become inhuman because people feel the need to draw her with boobs.
after that initial pretending to be the actual batman thing (where she did some serious looming and lurking), we have this scene from the next episode:
it’s a pretty cool shot, but her body is clearly visible in a way that batman’s routinely isn’t. while animated batman is normally drawn with physical details, his standard intimidating-his-enemies pose is more like this:
i could address the problematic ways batgirl is written, but in such an aesthetically appealing show, images are just as important.
how can batgirl be vengeance and the night if we are constantly reminded (via her body and gender) that she is human?