Date of this Version
Brandon Bosch (2019). Bat Meets Girl: Adapting the Dark Knight’s Love Life to the Big Screen, Quarterly Review of Film and Video,
It is no secret that Hollywood loves a good romance. What is perhaps sometimes overlooked however is how important romance and female characters are to male-dominated action films. Esma Kartal argues women and romance are deliberately placed into action films to create “romantic relief” and attract female viewers for greater crossover appeal.1 In addition to romance, Yvonne Tasker observes how women in action films serve as a witness for “the hero’s suffering” and humanity in action films.2 Finally, a classic use of women and romance in action films is that of the damsel-indistress, which continues to this day in many superhero films.3
However, the standard script of romance and damsels-in-distress is largely absent in Batman comic books. Batman has been many things over the years in comic books,4 but he has never been in a committed relationship with a woman for very long. While Batman did often have to save girlfriend Julie Madison, Batman’s young male sidekick Robin was typically used for the “damsel-in-distress” role after he was added to the comic book in 1943.5 Julie Madison, Linda Page, and Vicki Vale were the main “normal” girlfriends that were romantically paired with Bruce Wayne.6 However, as Mike Madrid (2009) notes, “Bruce and Batman might have had romances with girls like debutante Julie Madison or reporter Vicki Vale, but showed neither any true affection.”7 The lack of women in Bruce Wayne’s life—coupled with his live-in adolescent crime-fighting partner Robin—led to accusations of homoerotism.8 In response, Batwoman (Kathy Kane) was added to the comics for romantic intrigue, but romance was still presented as a “trap for Batman to avoid.9 Summing up Batman’s philosophy about romance, Robin says that Batman “can’t risk a big romance now—not until he’s ready to retire”.10 However, even when Wayne did take such a “risk” and began dating Silver St. Cloud, he was abruptly dumped when she discovered his superhero career, telling him that she refuses to worry “when your luck will run out!”11 Batman’s poor love life is no coincidence, as DC co-publisher Dan DiDio argues that Batman-affiliated superheroes “shouldn’t be happy in their private lives.”12 Interestingly, the greatest source of romance and sexual tension in the Batman comics arguably stems from female antiheroes and villains.