When I read the superhero movie news on Variety that Joss Whedon may write, direct, and produce DC's Batgirl standalone, I experienced a rush of emotion. On one hand, Whedon is responsible for Buffy The Vampire Slayer, which is basically the best show television has ever seen (in my humble opinion) and does a great job expressing the intense feelings of super strong female characters. I won't even go into the awesome development of lady-identifying characters in other Whedon shows, like Dollhouse and the Buffy spin-off Angel. And yet, those details aside, a female director could bring so much to Batgirl, because the world has seen, heard, and watched male voices telling female stories enough times. If anything, too many times.
Batgirl is an incredibly popular character in the DC comics universe, just like Wonder Woman who is only recently being commemorated with her own movie. The Wonder Woman standalone, starring Gal Gadot in the titular role and directed by Patty Jenkins, comes to theaters June 2. Now, it seems Batgirl will be next.
There have been a few versions of Batman's teen sidekick in DC Comics, but the character initially made her way into the universe in 1967. As Variety noted, she was Barbara Gordon, Gotham City police commissioner James Gordon's daughter, in The Million Dollar Debut of Batgirl! There's a lot going on with the girly bat that could be handled beautifully by a female writer and director.
Again, I have no ill will against the one-and-only Whedon. However, many were infuriated when he made the call as writer and director of Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron that Black Widow's storyline would veer from troubled killing machine to love interest for the Hulk (come on Whedon, what was that?). I'm sure he's learned from the Great Black Widow Mistake of 2015 and will instead hook up Batgirl's story with the confidence of Inara from Firefly and the awkward teen pluckiness of Willow from Buffy.
For pretty much as long as there has been written word about female characters, it's been written by men. Men who — no matter how much they read about women, or learn from women, or watch women on a screen — aren't actually going to be able to relate to the perspective of a woman.
Now, that doesn't necessarily mean they're going to do a bad job telling the story of a gal, but it feels unnecessary to hire a man in this situation. It's not like there's a lack of women desiring to become female writers and directors — but as Kate Rees Davies, a filmmaker and member of the Alliance of Women Directors, put it to CNN, "The Hollywood system is, 'I am a white male in my 50s or 60s, who has had a phenomenal career, and now, I'm going to mentor a younger me.'" While the candidates are there, now the studio executives have to be willing to give someone else, who might not have the same level of experience, a chance.
Whedon is a man, a myth, a legend — I mean, have you seen The Cabin in the Woods? Everything the man touches is gold (except, of course, for The Great Black Widow Mistake of 2015). But it's 2017, gosh darnit, and it's high time we get more women telling the stories of women.
I'm not poo-pooing the progress. It's great that we've made it to a point where there are not one, but two upcoming female superhero standalone films in the DC world. But, like always, there is room for improvement. Batgirls aren't mean to be sitting under a glass ceiling; they're supposed to be flying up through said ceiling, shattering it to bits. Having a female director of a Batgirl standalone is just one part of this ceiling-shattering.
At the very least, let's hope Whedon hires a heavily female-populated production team and maybe spares us the love interest this time.