Matt Reeves’ The Batman (2022) is a beautiful disaster. Gotham is a rain-lashed living contradiction, with Times Square-sized LED billboards built into 19th century Gothic gargoyle-studded skyscrapers. The fight choreography features moves as brutal as Ben Affleck’s, or the Arkham videogame series. But beneath the superficial veneer of neo-noir lighting and the war drums of the score, is a rotten plot infested with progressive talking points. From the declining sales of DC’s comics, to the overt and covert racial politics of this newest Hollywood adaptation, the Dark Knight Detective is being damaged by the ideological obsessions of unimaginative writers.
As a Batman aficionado, I am infuriated by the legacy media clapping like seals for The Batman’s “more diverse cast,” without buying the comics which keep the character’s legacy alive. But Zoë Kravitz’s casting as a black, bisexual, polyamorous Catwoman is as fraught with issues for progressives as it is for those who care about continuity.
It is contemptible that the tale of tragedy turned heroism that Batman has been for over 80 years has fallen prey to the critical race theory narratives of contemporary politics.
A great example of how the left eats its own is progressives’ complaints that Claudia Rankine’s police brutality poem Citizen focuses on black Americans and so racially excludes Latinos. The same logic goes for Kravitz’s Catwoman, whose casting erases the character’s Cuban heritage via Catwoman’s mother Maria. After she fled Castro’s communism, Maria Kyle’s refugee status was one of the reasons why Catwoman grew up impoverished and developed a talent for theft. A line by her illegitimate father alludes to this in the film: with Falcone inverting the comics’ criticism of socialist dictatorships by having the profit-driven villain joke “That’s why communism didn’t work: austerity.” In ascending the progressive stack of oppressed identities to make Catwoman black, Reeves and the rest of the film’s crew have erased a part of Catwoman’s canonical non-white heritage which was instrumental to her character.
It is equally irritating when cast and crew claim to have consumed the source material, but have still maladapted the moments and morals of iconic issues. That being said, DC Comics’ recent releases have set this suicidal precedent.
The Batman brand has been polluted by contemporary obsessions with representation, and superficial diversity of race, gender, and sexuality. Writer Tom King was unceremoniously sacked from his infamous Batman run, when decisions like making Batman depressed and play second fiddle to Catwoman caused lower sales. (Robert Pattison cited King’s comics as an inspiration for his portrayal, by the by.) Afterwards, planned diverse recasting initiative 5G was repackaged as Future State, with 12 Years A Slave writer John Ridley penning The Next Batman, placing Tim Fox, son of long-time black Batman ally Lucius Fox, behind the mask.
This trickled into media. The CW network show Batwoman pivoted from emphasizing the heroine’s lesbianism — going so far as to guest star Rachel Maddow — to recasting the role with a bisexual black actress with “strong ties to her racial identity.” Other DC shows, Titans and Gotham Knights, and the upcoming Batgirl movie will feature race-swapped Robins and Batgirl. The Robin race-swapped in Titans was recently retconned as being bisexual.
The Batman panders to the same racial divisiveness. The only virtuous characters embedded within Gotham’s corrupt government and judicial system are: the race-swapped Captain Gordon; a helpful black cop; a kind black nurse; a Hispanic cop who conveniently gives Batman the crucial clue to uncovering Riddler’s scheme; the black female Democrat mayoral candidate; and Catwoman, whose complaints about “white privileged a**holes” we are supposed to sympathize with. The white male members of Gotham’s establishment are corrupt cops, gangsters, or a cheating incumbent mayor with the on-the-nose name “Don Jr.”
The Riddler, too, appears to be the archetypal “incel” that media outlets appeared convinced would be inspired to commit mass shootings by Joker (2019). It is my suspicion that reshoots in New York last year changed the ending to include Riddler’s “fringe” followers shooting up the mayor’s victory speech, based on media narratives around online domestic terrorism and January 6th. This backs up Ben Shapiro’s opinion that the film is a materialist left-wing critique of Batman’s retributive, rather than restorative, brand of justice. Riddler’s henchmen state they are “vengeance,” and Riddler keeps diaries much like Batman’s. This prompts Batman to rebrand himself as a symbol of hope, rather than the fear he is famous for striking in “superstitious and cowardly” criminals, and conduct enough philanthropy that poverty is eliminated, and thereby crime with it. Packaged into Riddler’s downfall is the assumption that the appointment of black Americans in powerful institutions, and the donation of wealth to social programs, will undo systemic corruption and eliminate evil.
In my American Spectator review of the new bisexual Superman — sales of which have since plummeted — I wrote that rewriting every hero to have a new, supposedly marginalized, identity de facto renders other identities to be villains. If Superman’s virtues lie in being black or gay, then being straight and white makes you as bad as Lex Luthor. How is identity politics in comics any different to classic racist beliefs that you are evil from birth, because of the color of your skin?
It is contemptible that the tale of tragedy turned heroism that Batman has been for over 80 years has fallen prey to the critical race theory narratives of contemporary politics. One wonders if the Ben Affleck Batman movie planned instead would have turned out better. But one thing’s for certain: I’d sooner rewatch Batman and Robin that be lectured by Catwoman on my white male privilege.
Next Bat-Time, I’ll change the Bat-Channel.