Batman’s Catwoman Is ‘Woke’, But Her Politics Has Limits
Batman’s Catwoman may be too political for some viewers, but her worldview makes sense and isn’t as black and white as some might expect.
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for The Batman, which is currently playing in theaters.
As is tradition at this point, some critics consider The Batman be too political. Fans who have a problem with the portrayal conflicting with traditional portrayals of the characters might take umbrage that Zoë Kravitz was allowed to audition for the role of Catwoman/Selina Kyle, let alone got it. While her mere presence may be seen as too political for some viewers, her character’s actual politics might drive them up the wall. While Kravitz’s Selina may seem too “social justice warrior” to some, she has her limits.
Selina hates rich people. Its characterization in The Batman leans more towards Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli Batman: Year One street-smart survivor than the interpretations that trained her in high society. She has a personal reason to hate Gotham’s elite enough to approve of The Riddler murdering them: her illegitimate father is Carmine Falcone, the mobster who is the real power behind Gotham City’s corrupt hierarchy.
What’s interesting, at least compared to other Batman media, is that Selina doesn’t exclude the Waynes from her contempt. At least before entries like the Telltale video games and The Joker, the Waynes have been portrayed as universally beloved characters in Gotham. The death of Bruce’s parents not only sets up The Batman, but also serves as a loss of innocence for the town. The Batman sullies Thomas Wayne more than other adaptations, though this forgoes having him murdered to protect his family’s secrets, leaving that to Falcone. Selina grouping Thomas and Bruce with the rest of Gotham’s ruling class, including her deadpan father, exemplifies how they are all viewed by the marginalized people of Gotham in the Batman.
But Selina’s hatred for Gotham’s rich and powerful and their henchman like the corrupt cop who strangled her girlfriend Annika to death isn’t just a dad problem. Considering she didn’t grow up wealthy, there’s a real lived experience behind that. Audiences don’t get an explicit origin story as to why she puts on her jumpsuit and proceeds to rob the rich to give herself to herself. That said, it’s pretty easy to see why the idea would be appealing, if not necessary, to her, even without the perk of flying Falcone.
Selina is savvy enough to know that all of Batman’s wonderful toys, including the bulletproof vest that keeps him from dying multiple times, means he’s got a lot of money. She never seems to realize he’s Bruce Wayne, or at least has the decorum not to call him out if she does. The fact that she’s still tied to Batman enough that she suggests he abandon his mission and follow her to Bludhaven to overthrow some CEOs might seem like an inconsistency. Whether she knows he’s Wayne or not, she should hate someone with Batman’s resources who uses them primarily to beat up the poor.
It’s a constant inconsistency for Catwoman across all media, though. The mutual attraction between Catwoman and Batman has always caused both characters to compromise their otherwise rigid principles. While she may act like she’s on board The Riddler’s campaign of terror, she’s not bloodthirsty. These qualities led her to work with Batman during the film’s climax. She puts herself in harm’s way to help stop The Riddler’s armed followers. This heroic streak has been another integral part of her character, at least since she transitioned from villain to anti-hero in the 1990s.
The Batman‘s Catwoman is not the left-wing activist some might expect her to be, given some of her political activities. If that makes her incoherent, it also makes her human, giving her the only kind of realism superhero movies can achieve: emotional realism. The BatmanCatwoman behaves like a real person, or as much as someone defending herself against gangsters with a leather whip. If that means its politics are inconsistent or even inconsistent, that makes it more accessible to people who aren’t extreme in their views. That Catwoman can’t go that far in questioning Batman’s motives makes her consistent with the film’s inconsistencies. And fans on the opposite end of the “policyless” Squad spectrum can always hope that Robert Pattinson’s Batman changes enough that he will one day accept his offer against the CEO.
To see how the story handles Catwoman’s politics, The Batman is now playing in theaters.
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