Crazy Cat Lady

I just wanted to write about Catwoman because I think she’s a great female character and in a world saved by men, there needs to be more female role models for comic fans. We saw a glimpse of Catwoman aka. Selina Kyle, in Frank Miller’s Year One, but being a Batman feature, we don’t get much information about her. She is very much an independent, fierce femme fetal of sorts, with martial arts training, stealth, and a compassionate love of cats. Selina Kyle’s back story is a tragedy, where both her parents die while she is young and she ends up on the streets of Gotham city adopting a life of thievery to survive. She is somewhat of a gymnast, as well as having skills in martial arts and hand-to-hand combat, all of which give her ‘cat like’ reflexes.

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It is said that Catwoman is only a street fighter and thief until she encounters Batman, and something changes. As in Miller’s depiction, Selina Kyle sees Batman on the street fighting thugs and trying to break up the corruption in Gotham and soon decides to make herself a costume and seek justice in her own way. She goes by her own morals and motives and isn’t impressed when people interpret her as an associate and assistant of Batman. She is represented as sort of an anti-heroine, straddling the line that separates hero and villain. She is a strong and independent female, who disrupts the conventional hero/villain dichotomy, and no one knows what to make of her. Originally she was meant to be a good match up against Batman, but she is also represented as his love interest, his ally against the greater evil, and even as just a female version of Batman.

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In the 1992 Batman Returns movie, Michelle Pfeiffer dons an iconic Catwoman suit, representing good as a whole but not with the same agenda as Batman. In this version, Selina Kyle is Bruce Wayne’s love interest while their alter egos fight each other on the rooftops of Gotham. But even when they discover each other’s secret identity through the infamous line “Mistletoe can be deadly if you eat it, but a kiss can be even deadlier if you mean it”, they sort of realize they’re on the same side but are conflicted about it. In Christopher Nolan’s adaptation The Dark Knight Rises, Selina Kyle, played by Anne Hathaway, is given much more power as a female lead. She is first shown as a tough unbreakable character without much sympathy or concern for anyone else; she is looking out for #1. However, when given a choice to help Batman to save Gotham or run, she ultimately decides to be a hero, which further blurs the lines between being good and evil.

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8 Responses to Crazy Cat Lady

  1. aksran says:

    A woman superhero is definitely a necessity. Being in modern society women should be deemed worthy to take on this role. Just because Cat Woman is inspired by Batman and his actions does not mean that she is merely his sidekick. She should be given her own platform and comparison to Batman should be disregarded because on her own she can perform just as much if not more good for the people. Though her past is a little muddy it does not make her intentions bad and she should be given a fair chance to be viewed on her own as a woman heroine for Gotham City as well. As it is stated in Coogan’s definition of a superhero, all of the criteria are met.

  2. James Lai says:

    Whenever I read Batman I always thought of Cat woman similarly to how I think of Batman. She is someone who needs to hide her identity in order to accomplish her goals. Batman is trying purge Gotham of the corrupt, where as Cat woman wants to gain wealth (as in The Dark Knight Rises 2013). I think that the aspects of Cat woman that make inherently good makes the character more realistic. That although she may do morally questionable things to accomplish her goals, she is not out to destroy the world. In the story it shows that it is ambiguous whether or not she is a hero or a villain, this is very much different from the stereotypical villain presented in Batman Year One where it is very easy to tell if they are good or evil.

  3. imani says:

    I agree with James,

    Its hard to identify Catwoman as an actual superhero–though she does come around and help Batman in certain situations. She is identified as a thief who is pretty much about wealth (the bad guys she is fighting is typically for her own benefit). Though she isn’t a villain either.. I would label her more as a sidekick than a superhero. I think its primarily based on her initial goals (attaining wealth) and she isn’t selfless which is what a superhero is defined to be.

    -Iman

  4. lancedoucet says:

    I too find Catwoman to be an interesting character, I think it is interesting to consider whether she is viewed as a hero or villain. As you’ve mentioned, different writers and directors have depicted her with different ideals. I like the idea of the Catwoman who comes from a rough background and begins as a thief and villain. I think though the sexual tension you see between Catwoman and Batman in both the comics and movies change her motives.
    As you mention in your post, she comes across as someone who looks out for #1, so I wonder if it would be possible for Catwoman to play the solo hero role in her own comic book. Would definitely be interesting to see since there is a lack of female superheroes!

  5. Linda Le says:

    Though Cat Woman’s recent appearance in Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises is probably one of her more stronger and independent incarnations of her (though the Pfieffer’s is probably the strongest in my opinion in the movie world), however, her depiction in the DC’s “new 52” is incredibly sexualized in such a manner that it negates any independence and strength from her character. For example, her first introduction in the new 52 is a shot of her putting on her costume. Focal image of the page? Her breasts. Here’s a link discussing the treatment of Starfire and Cat Woman in the new 52 → http://www.comicsalliance.com/2011/09/22/starfire-catwoman-sex-superheroine/ This is not to say a character who is comfortable with their sexuality cannot be a hero, if you take a look a characters like Bayonetta from Bayonetta (Platinum Games), it certainly shows sexualized characters can be heroes. However, in the example I mention, Cat Woman’s independence or mission is the visual focus but rather her body is the focus. This kind of focus diminishes her status as a hero.

    P.S. I love Bayonetta!

  6. AshShan says:

    I agree with you when you say that there is a need for more female role models in comics. Catwoman is a good representation of the potential for strong female characters to not depend on a male superhero equal. Although often depicted alongside Batman, Catwoman is shown to have her own unique abilities that do not correlate with those of her male counterpart. I find this dichotomy throughout the series to be an interesting representation of a male-female relationship – at least in the Batman comics and movies that I am familiar with. Hopefully more female superheros are given similarly strong roles in future works.

  7. nicoletiffany says:

    While I don’t view Catwoman as a superhero, I do think of her as a strong female character, despite the demeaning over sexualization of her character. Anyway, with the arguments above, my reasons against her super-heroine-ness is based on the simple fact that she is a cat burglar. And not even the Robin Hood style of thief, when she steals, she generally keeps or sells it. This isn’t exactly role model behaviour. Nor is it a “selfless pro-social mission”. However, there are story arcs where she is heroic, and thus acting for a purpose beyond herself; but, she always reverts back to her criminal state when it is over.

    In fact, I’d go so far as to say she’s a foil character to Batman. Especially as we see her in Year One. Selina Kyle comes from a completely different background than Bruce Wayne, but they both adorn masks and make some manner of impact on society. Selina steals from the villains (in this case), which is another form of justice, but one that’s out for her own interests. First she has to rescue herself from her profession before she can think of rescuing others, but even then, stealing becomes a form of addiction for her and she can’t stop.

    Selina Kyle can be heroic, but most times she is represented as a criminal. But a criminal we can respect (despite blatant sexualization) and admire, especially when she turns around and acts under her own sense of morality. Catwoman may not be a “villian” (most of the time) but she’s still a criminal.

    – Nicole Tiffany

  8. nicolericher says:

    I think, because of her tragic roots, Selina Kyle could almost be viewed as a sort of dynamic foil to Bruce Wayne – however, with somewhat different outcomes. Doesn’t Batman and his moral concerning crime-fighting “straddl[e] the line that separates hero and villain?” I would refute that she is simply “a female version of Batman,” but instead propose her parallel life and what Batman *could* have been if he had not been left the Wayne fortune, a caretaker (Alfred,) etc… Perhaps she embodies Bruce without love?

    At any rate, which Cat Woman adaptation do you prefer? (By the way, you left out Halle Barre… just kidding) I have a strong preference for Christopher Nolan’s interpretation for precisely the blurred good/evil line you layed out in your post. I think one of the most intriguing aspects of Gotham is that it isn’t just a victimized city waiting to be saved; it’s troubles are deeper, complex and twisted and its criminals (and heroes) a lot more convoluted – because of these blurred good/evil lines. As the WAY overused quote goes: “Because he’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now.” I think that’s applicable to Gotham’s heroes, villains, and everyone in between.

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