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Adam West & Burt Ward - Batman - Screen Tests (RARE) (1 of 3) Lyle Waggoner & Peter Deyell vs Adam West & Burt Ward - Batman Screen Tests (RARE) (2 of 3) Yvonne Craig - Batman / Batgirl - Network...
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Gotham - the okay-est not-Batman Batman story part 2: Makeovers
As mentioned in part 1: Diversity, I'm currently rewatching Gotham on Netflix, and just writing up a whatever thoughts I have about the show. I find this show to be really good and really bad in a...
As mentioned in part 1: Diversity, I'm currently rewatching Gotham on Netflix, and just writing up a whatever thoughts I have about the show. I find this show to be really good and really bad in a lot of places, both in storytelling in general and as a comic adaptation.
Warning, there will be spoilers for the first three seasons (what I've seen up to).
What I'm calling a makeover trope
I'm basically defining any transformation, usually from undesirable/imperfect to desirable/perfect in the eyes of someone (usually a love interest). How this trope plays out is generally very gender specific, so I'm breaking it up into men and women. This trope is definitely not limited to what I'm going to cover.
Women and the power of makeup
When this trope is applied to a woman, there's generally shopping, hair and make-up involved. Examples includes:
- creepy kidnapping, bathing and redress of a woman before presenting her to usually a man
- common whip off her glasses and let down her hair
- evil or sad all-black with heavy eyeliner
- crazy/mad extra sexy make-up and clothes
- girl-power shopping/spa day
Men and the power of pushups
When this trope is applied to a man, there's generally a training montage. Examples include:
- hitting the gym
- arming themselves with new weapons
- new sharp tailored clothes
- spiking up their hair, or shaving
- turning evil after a betrayal
Why I hate them
I admit, it's a bit unfair to say I hate them, since this trope is pretty central to a lot of stories and will go unnoticed if done well. Character growth (in either direction) move stories. However, they stick out so much when tossed in poorly or for no reason, and I really do hate them then. Generally when I see them:
- they are often shallow, such as just changing their hair (sure you can argue the symbolism of this, but it's cliche it's likely to be a reach to do so)
- they change an individual character, but doesn't add to their relationships in a meaningful matter
- (for women) they come with a sense of "taming", usually including a "breaking" phase, and usually by a man who just knows better
How they can be good
The makeover trope can be a very powerful character development tool. It can be driven by the plot or drive the plot. For me a good makeover trope will likely include:
- internal desires to change, such as acknowledging a personal fault and wanting to improve
- natural transformations, such as growing up or learning from experience
- improves (or breaks down) existing relationships by comparing or contrasting our character with their close ones. This can work great to emphasis who they were to who they are or who they want to be
Finally getting to Gotham
Gotham, as a prequel to Batman, are origin stories, which by definition are transformation stories. We're watching the city of Gotham being transformed, Bruce Wayne becoming Batman, Oswald becoming the Penguin, and so on.
In no particular order, here are some makeovers that stood out to me:
Ivy Pepper (Hotness makeover)
She's a tiny stupid kid with frizzy hair, who magically grows ten years and becomes super hot. So now you have childlike innocents meet boobs. But she's Poison Ivy, and she grew like a weed...get it?
Safe to say, I did not like this change.
Leslie Thompkins (Evil makeover)
She's hurting after her husband is killed, and decides to use a drug to "free" herself. Though I didn't like this plot, I actually have no issues with this transformation, except for two things:
- Why the booby black clothes and eyeliner? This is just a pet peeve of mine. I just want to see a woman turn evil and not become some sexy fetish.
- No follow through. There are no consequences to this transformation. Jim, being the hero, will force her to take the antidote, and that's that. As cliche as it would be, I would prefer Jim somehow talk her into taking it, instead of just forcing it on her. Now it's just a weird take on the damsel in distress trope.
I should also add, I actually don't like how characters need an excuse to do bad things. I think it would have been better if she just decided to screw Jim over, instead of this whole roundabout way of doing so, but still basically saying she loves him. Guess this saves the writers a redemption line.
Barbara Kean (Madness makeover)
Barbara is kidnapped and tortured by the Orge who believes she's his soulmate. Though this has makeover tropes I really dislike, specifically the "breaking/taming" and the "I see you for who you are and I will set you free" that comes with a huge dose of patriarchy, I actually thought this was pretty well done and revealed to the audience. I just wished they had more follow through regarding Barbara herself after this, instead of the shift to simply crazy, but still obsessed with Jim.
Isabella (Dead girlfriend makeover)
After learning that Ed (the Riddler) accidentally murdered his old girlfriend, who she looks exactly alike, Isabella decides to dress up as his dead girlfriend to prove "he won't hurt her". Little bit of a reverse of the the common trope, as she puts on glasses and ties her hair in a pony tail for this one. She's a disposable refrigerator girl, so my expectations were pretty low here. Still annoying to watch though.
Oswald Cobblepot (Evil/power-up makeover)
This character actually probably transforms the most through the series. There are lots of cliche bits, including sharp new clothes, but his transformations are generally a result of his own work and are fun.
Selina Kyle (Dress-up makeover)
The writers generally handle this character really well, so I'm not sure why they decided to toss in a random "guy sends over boxes and bags of shoes and clothes so you can dress up". She does dress up for the charity event, but easily goes back to herself. So, this was cliche, but has no consequences, ...so meh?
Bruce Wayne (Toughness/reality makeover)
The entire series basically has Bruce's slow transformation to Batman in the subplot. His interactions with Selina gives him the reality checks he's looking for, while contrasting his believes, specifically with Batman's infamous "no killing" rule. His makeover is deliberate, strongly internally motivated and permanent. His growth is believable.
So this turned out way longer than I intended, and I actually didn't include nearly as much detail as I was going to.
Thoughts? How does Gotham compare to other shows or stories?3 votes
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Gotham - the okay-est not-Batman Batman story part 1: Diversity
I started writing this a couple days ago and it's turning into a bit of a novel with no plot, so I thought I'll break it up a bit. Warning, there will be spoilers. I'm not caught up - only watched...
I started writing this a couple days ago and it's turning into a bit of a novel with no plot, so I thought I'll break it up a bit. Warning, there will be spoilers. I'm not caught up - only watched the three seasons available on Netflix, so if you're in the same boat, you're safe.
Diversity in shows is not something I actively look for, but will generally notice if done really poorly or really well, the former more than the latter. Gotham as a whole swings in both directions.
There's lots of different ways for a show to be diverse, I'm going to focus on women, race and sexuality in this post. Disability is going to be its own topic (when I get around to writing it).
I'll start with the easiest check - yes there are women in this show, and they appear in frequency and numbers that more or less make sense for where they are. For example, in the bull pen, it's mostly men with a handful of women around, at a party they're about equal numbers, and so on. For named characters, they are in a variety of roles, both traditionally female and not. A short list includes, Sarah Essen, Barbara Kean, Selina Kyle, Renee Montoya, Fish Mooney, Ivy Pepper, Leslie Thompkins, and Tabitha.
There are stereotypes and caricatures, but mostly they feel like dramatized comic archetypes more than sexist, though it can definitely be both. There's plenty to write on each character, which in of itself is a good sign.
Now let's look at a few specific cases that caught my eye:
Spirit of the goat victims
This is just a little peeve. They went out of their way to specify that the victims are Gotham's first born to the point that Alfred points out that Bruce is a first born. Generally in stories, when referring to first born children, it's usually sons, but here, all victims are women. I'm going to guess it's for visual reasons, since the whole sacrificing a virgin in white on an alter is a pretty common trope. Still, can't decide how I feel about this one.
Now we're finally getting to who I really want to talk about - Barbara Kean, specifically from season 1.
Comic book fans will recognize Barbara as Gordon's first wife and mother of the original Batgirl (also named Barbara). In the comics, she has a mental breakdown and leaves Jim and Gotham (their daughter refuses to leave and stays with Jim). She's the character that Gotham literally broke, and though she is not an unsympathetic character in the comics, her relationship with Jim is pretty glossed over for an emphasize on her lack of a relationship with her daughter. There is also an implied break in her and Jim's relationship where she supported him in his extremely stressful career as best she could, but he didn't support her when she needed him (and depending on the version, he actually cheats on her because he was so stressed...).
This little background is why I was super excited to see Gotham's take on Barbara. This is probably the first time we get more than a flashback or half mention of this character in any medium. And she's treated with a lot of respect. She's supportive and compassionate, but still very human. At the start of the series, she's on relatively equal ground with Jim, asking to share his life, believing him (and in him), and just generally being supportive.
As an audience, we see Jim take from this relationship, and never really give anything back, so we know it's doomed.
She's not a flawless character, and suffers from what a lot of supporting casts do, which is that they are defined by the main character. Her fall, her mental break, can still arguably be classified as a women-in-refrigerator trope. She becomes a different person, but is generally there to haunt Jim, or help him, as the plot requires.
Honestly, her flip to the dark side, will check of every bad sexist trope you can think of, including magician's assistant. So, she's easily one of the best and worst written characters of Gotham.
She is everything I wanted Le to be...until she's in a relationship with Jim. She starts off being a strong, competent doctor. She stands up for her patients and what she believes in, and is unafraid of sticking around when things get tough. Then she starts dating Jim, and does crazy things like demand PDA at work that is unprofessional and more importantly, that Jim is uncomfortable with. Nobody should ever kiss someone if they feel uncomfortable. Demanding it doesn't make you confident, it makes you creepy!
From there she ranges from damsel to pregnant to evil. There are too many incidents to really cover, but, I do want to talk about the gas-lighting, which is a particularly poor choice of plot in my opinion.
There's an entire arch where she, as the medical examiner, discovers evidence that a murder occurred, but is asked to believe it's suicide. She points out the inconsistently and basically points out that Jim is lying, which he was. She takes this from co-worker to co-worker, and literally every guy tells her she's just seeing things because she's grieving the death of husband. This is never addressed for what it is. The resolution comes when she turns herself to her "darkest desire", which is to wear lots of dark eyeliner and f*** Jim.
This, compared to her comic character, who let Batgirl (Brown) die to prove a point to Batman. She's not a strictly good character in the comics, but she's definitely a strong character. So yeah...she's probably the worst written woman in Gotham, and is unfortunately the main female protagonist.
Sure, the good competent guys are mostly white, and I'm always up for seeing more Asians, but the casting in general feels fine to me. No one feels out of place or token. I would say there's more stereotyping based on class than on race. So we have "hats" like Russian gangster, Italian mob, posh 1%-ers, and circus freaks.
Not to say there aren't awkward parts, like Alfred's British(?) accent.
As far as I can tell, there's no real representation here at all.
There's three women, one man:
- Renee is gay
- Barbara is bi
- Tabitha is bi
- Penguin is gay
They're a bit shallow, but probably because these women aren't as core as other characters. Renee and Barbara's relationship feels a bit more authentic than Barbara and Tabitha's. Maybe because Renee really is gay and an alcoholic in the comic, so the writers had more to draw from. Maybe because Barbara and Tabitha's relationship seems more for plot, or worst for easter-egging (not-Harley and not-Catwoman running the Sirens, with mini-Ivy popping in).
Penguin being gay is actually really cute, in a creepy way. He spends a good deal of the show wanting a "friend" and finds one in Ed. Though there is an extreme selfishness to his love, it's still a pretty good subplot.
So these are my quick thought on diversity in Gotham. What are your thoughts? Anything else stand out from the series (or comics) for you?
Edit to add: I forgot about Penguin being gay.5 votes
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