The release of the R-rated animated feature “Batman: The Killing Joke” has been met with debate among fans due to the way it expands upon Batgirl’s role in the story by adding a sexual encounter between Batgirl and Batman that was not present in the original story. “The thing about this is that it’s controversial, so we added more controversy,” said screenwriter Brian Azzarello when asked about the addition. But that’s not the only change that was made to the story, although the change involving the Joker is possibly more subtle.
In an interview with Vulture, “Killing Joke” producer Bruce Timm weighed in on the perception that added lines of dialogue not only establish the Joker’s sexuality, but also imply that he raped Barbara Gordon after attacking her, reinforcing a theory many fans have long held about the original graphic novel.
The first line of dialogue in question comes from a prostitute that says that the Joker has sex with prostitutes every time he breaks out of Arkham Asylum. Joker’s sexuality has been a question in the past, with writers writing him with a number of different orientations. Timm weighed in on how intentional this line of dialogue was.
“I think that’s just a line that Brian [Azzarello] had written into the script and it didn’t jump out at Alan [Burnett] or me as being wrong,” said Timm. “I don’t want to say that we weren’t paying attention, but it seemed to kind of fit. I don’t normally think about the Joker as being asexual or normal, with usual sex drives, or whatever. To me, it was just kind of a throwaway line. It wasn’t like, Oh, we have to make this point. It was just kind of one of those things.”
While that line implies that this film’s Joker has sexual desires, another line has more serious implications. The prostitutes note to Batman that the Joker didn’t come visit them after his most recent breakout, positing that “maybe he found himself another girl.” Pairing the line with Joker’s actions upon breaking out of Arkham (attacking Barbara Gordon, shooting her, undressing her and taking photos of her), Vulture asked Timm if this implies that Joker also raped Batgirl.
“I don’t think that, actually,” answered Timm. “I did not think of it as supporting that. If I had, I probably would have changed the line. I never, ever thought that he actually raped her. Even in my first read of the comic, I never thought that. It just seemed like he shot her and then took her clothes off and took pictures of her to freak out her dad. I never thought that it was anything more than that.
“Here’s the thing: Whether he [raped her] or not, it’s still sexual violence,” Timm continued. “It’s still a horrible thing. So in my own head, I was already self-censoring the moment. Maybe just to make it a little more easier to get through. But it’s still a very horrible, horrible thing.”
“Batman: The Killing Joke” is now available for Digital HD download, and arrives on Blu-ray/DVD on August 2.
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