Compare and Contrast: DC Animated Sex Scenes

While we’re all fighting over how good or bad the live action DC Extended Universe are, I would like to take a moment to remind people that a DC animated movie series exists.

DCU Movies.jpg

These are direct-to-video, hand drawn animated films, usually based on popular comic storylines, and they tend to vary in quality. Some of them are really great, others…not so much. And I think right now two animated movies are very relevant: Batman: The Killing Joke (the newest offering) and Batman: Assault on Arkham (which is basically the ORIGINAL Suicide Squad movie).

Batman: Assault on Arkham is amazing. It’s just as good–if not better–than most Hollywood blockbusters out right now. It’s genuinely exciting and compelling, with a plot that’s layered but not too complicated, characters you actually like and feel sorry for, and it’s graphic without being overly gratuitous. Batman: The Killing Joke is…pretty bad. The main reason for this is because it chooses to have a long prologue dedicated to Barbara Gordon, which makes her out to be an insecure, sexually frustrated young woman who loses more than she wins, and does make her own choice to retire…only to get shot, paralyzed, and assaulted later.

But I think the main thing that illustrates what makes Arkham great and Killing Joke not is how they deal with the sex scenes regarding the main female characters, Barbara and Harley Quinn.

This is the sex scene between Batgirl and…Batman. You know, the man who is much older than her and is supposed to be a father figure. And who she’s never had a real romantic or sexual relationship with in the comics (she had one with the first Robin). Throughout the scene, she is extremely angry at him, and he makes it clear that he doesn’t see her as an equal. She fights him and pins him down in anger…and awkwardly kisses him. They embrace, and she takes her clothes off and we get an offscreen sex scene. On a public rooftop. Where someone could see them. Oh yeah. *Insert erotic music here*

(Image via Time.com)

It doesn’t look like either character is truly enjoying it. It also feels like it comes out of nowhere. Why are these two having sex? Why don’t they look like they’re into it? Apparently it’s to make us feel more sorry for Barbara when she gets shot, but it just makes the situation infinitely worse, especially since their relationship only gets more awkward from there.

See, The Killing Joke is an INTENSELY misogynistic story (to the point where Alan Moore, the original writer, disowned it). Not only is the Joker’s main reason for going insane the (offscreen) death of his wife and unborn child (yay for fridging women!), but the treatment of Barbara is disgusting. She only appears two times: once, when she’s at home and shot (and there’s even a pause between when she sees Joker and when she gets shot, she doesn’t even fight back) and again when she’s in the hospital, frightened and paralyzed. And we never see her again. The movie tries to remedy this by giving her an extended role, but rather than humanizing Barbara by expanding on her relationship with her father (which would’ve made her paralyzing actually tragic), the movie focuses almost entirely on her sexuality, having her lust after characters and characters lusting after her (which causes her to nearly go over the edge and kill someone, after which she decides to retire), thus making what happens to her all the more insulting. It reinforces Barbara as a body, not a person, and as a plot device, not a character. Course, that might have to to with the fact that the writers and producers are literally ALL MEN, but hey, the glass ceiling is thick.

Honestly? If the movie wanted to be respectful to Barbara, they should’ve written her out entirely. You don’t have to add any of this. Just have Joker kidnap Commission Gordon and try to drive him insane with all the horrors of the world. Focus more on the dynamics of Batman and the Joker. You don’t need to bring Barbara into this mess.

By contrast, here’s a sex scene between Harley Quinn and Deadshot in Arkham:

Look how into it they both are. Harley has found someone to move on from the Joker, and Deadshot has found a companion. It’s also very quick and contained. Both partners are willing and enthusiastic. And later, you see them have a steady relationship, where they both look out for one another and work together. And Harley Quinn isn’t objectified one bit; here, she owns her sexuality, and has her own character, and is important throughout the movie (and we don’t need to have her defiled)! She even helps save the day in the end! And it’s important to note that there are also two other women (Killer Frost and Amanda Waller) who have their own character development and role in the story (unlike Barbara, who was the only woman in her movie and had a lot to bear).

In short, how a female character expresses herself sexually can tell a great deal of what her character is like and how the narrative treats her. And considering how a lot of superhero movies are struggling with how they represent their female characters, these two movies can be used as lessons on what to do and what NOT to do in handling them.

Alternatives To Marvel

Marvel dominates the superhero scene, so for people who are looking for something different (or are in no rush to support a company with lots of whitewashing/racism, sexism, and Hydra Captain America), here are some other superheroes you can check out.

HELLBOY

Based on the Dark Horse Comics (which I think they’re easier to get into since it’s one continuing series by the same author/artist, Mike Mignola), Hellboy is an intelligent, thought-provoking series, rich in religious and mythological symbolism and themes and a rather unique hero.

Brought to Earth by the Nazis with the purpose to bring about the Apocalypse but raised by a loving American father, Hellboy longs to be free from confinement, to mingle with people, and to be with his lover, Liz, but can’t be accepted by the world due to his appearance and questionable acts. While he’s rough around the edges, he has a good heart, and his love for Liz is pure. I strongly recommend supporting the two movies since a third Hellboy movie is having trouble seeing the light of day, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy what’s happening so far.

CYBERSIX

Based on an Argentinian comic, Cybersix is a moody,  haunting, atmospheric, and beautiful animated series. It’s about a creation who is struggling to be human, falling in love, making friends, and fighting the evils of her creator. She’s also a great example of a female superhero that is sexy without being sexualized and is actually in control of her sexuality. The show lasted only thirteen episodes but every episode is solid. Please give it a watch. It’s very dear to my heart.

MEGAMIND

A DreamWorks film that starts out as a parody/deconstruction of the superhero movie but becomes a superhero film in its own right. Megamind, an alien who feels that he HAS to be the bad guy because people treat him as such, learns that being good is worth it and that he is about to be a hero despite all odds. While not spectacular, it’s still very enjoyable, and worth a watch at least once.

THE INCREDIBLES

This movie pulls absolutely no punches. It’s very intense, very action packed, and even very adult at times, but the bond between the family and their struggles is what makes the film really good. I’m not sure if there’s much I can say that others haven’t, but, well, this movie is…incredible.

Teen Titans, the DCAU, and other DC properties

DC can be as problematic as Marvel at time, but I can say that these two properites are solid. Teen Titans is a perfect balance of comedy and drama, with lots of character development. Batman: The Animated Series is a classic, but other shows in the DCAU (especially Justice League/Justice League: Unlimited) also hold up really well. They are full of brilliant animation, gripping stories, and compelling characters. DC has also made a lot of animated movies, all of them varying in quality. From what I’ve seen, the better animated DC films are Batman: Under the Red Hood, Batman: Assault on Arkham, Supermna/Batman: Apocalypse, and Wonder Woman. There’s also independent superhero titles such as Watchmen. DC is very big so you’ll probably have to look around for stuff (and yeah, there are some gross/problematic DC properties) but those that are worth it are REALLY worth it.

THE POWERPUFF GIRLS

The Powerpuff Girls – Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup

And I’m referring to the original show (from the first four seasons at least; I don’t think the last two seasons are very good) and NOT the reboot. It’s definitely a classic. It’s funny and clever with memorable characters. My favourite episodes are “Knock It Off” and “Members Only”, which are some of the greatest moments in TV.

Big Hero 6

http://vignette1.wikia.nocookie.net/disney/images/c/c8/BH6_Team_Transparent.png/revision/latest?cb=20141011040004

No surprise here. While it has it’s ROOTS in Marvel history, it has become it’s own unique identity (and its production had absolutely nothing to do with Marvel, and any continuing products will not have Marvel’s involvement either). You can look through my Big Hero 6 category to get a good idea of why this film is worth it. Just watch it!

There are plenty of others out there that I know of (Spawn, Miraculous Ladybug, One Punch Man, to name a few). I haven’t seen them so I can’t really recommend them, but you can definitely take a look for yourself. You can start HERE to continue looking.

Here’s just a small list of Marvel alternatives. If you have more, feel free to mention them in the comments!

Why I Love Deadpool

In an age of (live action) superhero movies taking themselves too seriously, along comes the very refreshing Deadpool. It was highly profane, extremely violent, very sexual, and totally awesome. It was a movie that totally didn’t give a crap, and I admire it for that. Here are some other reasons why I love this movie (and by extension, the titular character).

It’s The Perfect Length

For some ungodly reason, a lot of superhero movies feel the need to be over two hours long! This movie is only just over an hour and a half. Just enough time to tell a story with some action and comedy without padding it out with pointless scenes.

It Perfectly Balances Comedy and Drama

It knows exactly when to be serious and gritty and when to be funny and totally not serious. The movie gives you enough drama without being totally overwhelming. We don’t need the entire movie to be all about Deadpool’s pain and suffering and angst. We just need one major scene to explain why he is and that’s it. For the most part it doesn’t take itself serious (which is pretty refreshing), but when it does have to be serious, it knows for how long.

There’s No Political Bullshit

I’m starting to hate it when superheroes bring in politics because a lot of the time it doesn’t work. It either gets brushed aside and/or takes up all the fun. With this movie we aren’t bogged down with Deadpool having to be held accountable or having to obey the law or any of that shit. He does what he wants and takes us along for the ride. (And I know you’re probably thinking ‘but he’s not a superhero!’ well we’re meant to root for him in the movie that was marketed as a superhero movie so yeah, I’m counting this as a superhero movie.)

The Women Are Awesome

I am utterly in love with Vanessa. She’s sexual without being demonized for it, she doesn’t take anyone’s crap, and even manages to save herself. But she also manages to be kind and caring, too. I like how even though she’s brought up as this tough woman you see her honestly concerned for Wade’s health and would do anything for him. Negasonic Teenage Warhead was a very believable teenage girl, not made into being overly childish/infantilized or overly mature (and is just overall really cool) and I like how Angel Dust is given super strength (a power you don’t often associate with women) and was allowed to go toe-to-toe with a man. In short, the women were all genuinely INTERESTING. I need to see more of that.

And, this is the most important reason why I love Deadpool (both the movie and character)…

It’s One of the Better Portrayals of Mental Illness

What I absolutely love about Deadpool is that he’s gone through so much and is no longer mentally well or sane but is ALLOWED to be a funny, likable, and even sympathetic and compelling character. While the movie doesn’t go into detail about all his mental disorders due to budget and time constrictions, it’s still really clear that Deadpool doesn’t exactly have a sound mind, and is, well, insane. In any other movie, Deadpool would either be the oh so ‘scary psychopath/sociopath’ with no feelings or nothing but tragic. Deadpool is a unique and even uplifting portrayal of someone with mental health problems. While I do think Deadpool (both the movie and comic book versions) should get help (which is probably not going to happen, unfortunately), I like how Deadpool is such an enjoyable character who’s difficulties and disabilities don’t completely define him.

There are other reasons, but those are my top five. I love Deadpool so much now I want him to appear in all superhero properties (which WON’T happen, but it would be such a riot if it did). In short, Deadpool is one of the better and more enjoyable superhero movies to come out recently, and I hope the sequel maintains that.

The Seven Problematic Sins of the MCU

I love superheroes. A lot. I’m so utterly fascinated by a band of empowered beings coming together, befriending one another, and saving the world while exploring their characters. That said, I’ve beginning to notice that the superhero properties I gravitate the most towards to are either family-friendly (ie Big Hero 6, the Teen Titans animated show, Justice League Unlimited, Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes) or R-rated (ie Deadpool, Watchmen). I’m probably not alone in this, but I’m getting kind of tired with PG-13 rated superhero films; I think they teeter-totter between being serious and complex (like an r-rated superhero property) while still being entertaining for youngsters (like a g-rated superhero property). So it’s probably easy to expect I have some problems with the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Recently I just watched Captain America: Civil War hoping that I would enjoy it. I…did not. I apologize in advance to all the fans who did enjoy it, but for me, it encapsulated a lot of MCU’s problems. While it wasn’t HORRIBLE necessarily (it had some good action, funny moments, and the characters of Black Panther, Falcon, and War Machine were fantastic), there were still a lot of issues that prevented me from enjoying it. This movie, along with a lot of other MCU movies, have the following, err, sins (warning for spoilers!):

NUMBER ONE: Being WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY Too Long.

I’m sorry, but there is no reason why a superhero movie needs to be over 2 hours long. There’s a lot of scenes that could  be whittled down, but aren’t just to pad out time. I don’t think the film would suffer if a few fight scenes or talkie scenes were cut down or cut out entirely. CACW just went on way longer than it needed to go, to the point where I kept asking “okay so when’s the movie going to end? I feel like the movie can end now.”

NUMBER TWO: Expecting the Audience To Know Everything

The problem of making an interconnected universe is that the movies expect their audiences to have seen (and care) about ALL the films and related properties. This often results in dropping characters into a film that we’re supposed to know and care about but instead go “wait, who are you?”. Continuity tends to get screwed up a bit throughout the course of the movies due to different writers and directors, so for people who missed out, a lot of plot points can make heads swirl. People who go to see these films for action probably won’t mind, but those who want more substance will probably be lost.

NUMBER THREE: Bad Villains

A lot of people have pointed this out. With the exception of Loki, all the MCU villains have been dull and forgettable. I think the reason why Loki worked while the others didn’t is because he’s ALLOWED to be a complex villain. Being portrayed by the fantastic Tom Hiddleston makes him more expressive and interesting, and we actually see him go through a wide range of emotions, from angry to sad to even joyous. We know why he does what he does and even sympathize with him. But with the other villains, they just come across as either angsty or boring. I think another factor is design. Loki has a pretty cool design with vibrant green and gold and some awesome headgear. The other villains don’t really stand out in looks. Granted I don’t think Marvel was ever really that great with it’s villains (I think only Spider-Man had really great and memorable antagonists for a lot of people?) so this might be a harder problem to resolve.

NUMBER FOUR: Throwaway Politics

This was my biggest problem with CACW. At the beginning, we’re introduced to a really big deal: the Avengers need to be held accountable for what they do and need to be more responsible when they’re working. It’s actually a really brilliant idea: if someone wanted to keep tabs on you, would you comply, or fight against it, and why? Is there a way to compromise? It’s all really interesting…until it becomes abandoned in favour of making it all about Bucky Barnes, and how it’s all one begrudged person’s fault. Like I legit felt cheated when the movie shifted gears and dropped politics. Like…why would you introduce something important and then cast it aside later? The movies paint the government and the military as almost completely wrong and the superheroes as almost always in the right, leaving no real room for nuance.

NUMBER FIVE: Characters Not Getting The Help They Need

This one is pretty personal to me. Iron Man is clearly not mentally healthy. People have talked about him displaying signs of PTSD, panic disorder, and even Narcissistic Personality Disorder, but I think he has a lot more issues that started from the first movie. That first flight he does? To me, it feels less like a man trying to be free and more like a man desperately trying to be in control of something and taking extreme risks. It’s pretty clear that he’s not getting the mental health treatment he needs because, in CACW, he looks like he’s on the verge of tears throughout the whole thing, is wracked with guilt and grief, and decides to solve his problems violently. I notice that a lot of the characters don’t really bother to seek each other out and talk to one another; a lot of the time, they seem to deal with their problems and pain in private. The reason why this is a problem because it kind of enforces the idea that strong people (especially strong men) can’t cry and don’t help each other emotionally and the best thing to do is fight. Not really a positive message.

NUMBER SIX: Whitewashing, Lack of Diverse Leads and Disposable Foreign Bodies

Yeah this is a pretty major issue. Almost all the MCU films focus on white men, even white men we don’t care about (was anyone really asking for an Ant-Man movie? Does anyone want ANOTHER Spider Man movie so soon? why was he even in CACW if he was only in it for about 20 minutes?), while movies about women and MOC struggle to get off the ground. Black Panther is supposed to get his movie soon, but beyond that, there’s no real news on anyone else getting the proper movie treatment. The movies aren’t especially kind to the minor diverse characters. What really disturbed me in CACW is how they just casually show dead black bodies as a statement. It’s gross. And while the films have been getting better at showing some awesome black men, it still has a lack of other minority groups (especially women of colour). The worst offender is the upcoming Dr. Strange; not only did they whitewash the main character, they also whitewashed the Ancient One and changed the setting from Tibet to Nepal in order to appease the Chinese Government (which doesn’t like to acknowledge the horrors they committed against the Tibetans). MCU has a representation problem, and while it’s certainly not alone, it’s pretty major considering how marketable their movies have become. I just find it strange how the Star Wars movies introduce women and POC leads with no problem but Marvel movies have trouble doing the same even though both are owned by Disney. I just hope at some point Marvel takes a cue from Star Wars at some point.

NUMBER SEVEN: Failing Balancing Act

This plugs into the problem with PG-13 rated superhero movies. A lot of these movies try to remain family friendly but still contain a LOT of violence and some gritty themes. This sometimes ends up compromising a character’s personality and morals. Iron Man feels ashamed of causing the death of someone’s child…but then turns around and is willing to recruit someone else’s child to fight other adults in the name of entertaining the audience with Spider Man. Captain America is supposed to be altruistic but, since the movie can’t really focus on politics, it turns to him risking everything and breaking the law and even breaking off friendships in the name of Bucky Barnes to keep the plot from getting TOO political. A lot of the movies end up not knowing whether they want to be deep character studies or just movies where stuff blows up. Now keep in mind, this isn’t a problem that ONLY the MCU has; a lot of others have them too. But I think what makes it kind of worse for the MCU is that they repute themselves as being family friendly even though there are times when they don’t really want to be. I also can’t help but notice while people may not mind this tough balancing act at all at first, over time people begin to pick apart at it. I think this contributes to why we like MCU movies as a whole, but we don’t really LOVE them individually. We’ll gravitate towards one of them for a little bit and move on. And I think the fact that none of them really stand out as either a serious political drama with some action or a lighthearted fun flick (with maybe the exception of Guardians of the Galaxy and a few others) doesn’t help at all.

Now keep in mind, this is mostly just my opinion. Feel free to disagree. But these are the reasons why I’m not super stoked for the MCU anymore. I’ll definitely go see the Black Panther movie, but beyond that, the MCU’s flaws are starting to really wear on me. I hope they start to change a bit so that I (and others) won’t rage quit the movies forever.