The last few years have seen a relentless slew of superhero films, with eight major comic book blockbusters released last year alone. While women regularly feature in these movies (Cara Delevingne and Margot Robbie starred as villains in 2016’s much-maligned Suicide Squad, for example, while Jennifer Lawrence played Mystique in X-Men: Apocalypse), superhero films with a female lead are much harder to come by.
That will change with the release of Wonder Woman, starring Gal Gadot as the legendary Amazonian princess-warrior (out this June), and the forthcoming Captain Marvel, with Brie Larson playing the titular role.
And now, it looks as though they won’t be representing their gender alone – because a Batgirl movie is on its way.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon is nearing a deal to write, direct and produce a Batgirl flick for Warner Bros., Variety reports.
Whedon has form when it comes to creating barnstorming superhero movies and ass-kicking female characters. As well as the legendary Buffy, his CV includes writing and directing the Avengers franchise, as well as contributing to the Thor and X-Men movies.
However, despite being a self-proclaimed feminist widely lauded for writing powerful women into his scripts, Whedon has occasionally faced fierce criticism from some feminists – and not everyone is happy that he is helming the Batgirl film.
Many fans were disappointed with the way that women were depicted in 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, with particular criticism being levelled at the narrative arc given to Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson’s character was routinely slut-shamed by male characters and shown as being distraught that she couldn’t have children). A social media backlash ensued, culminating in Whedon temporarily leaving Twitter.
Consequently, the news that Whedon is to head up the new Batgirl film received mixed reviews on social media. Some superhero fans were delighted:
can't wait for Bat-Buffy. Joss Whedon making a Batgirl film sounds like a winning recipe— Jonathan (@wadrz) March 31, 2017
Such exciting news about a Batgirl film, let alone Joss Whedon directing. Damn I want this film out now already! Also, where do I audition?— Antonia Bonello (@AntoniaBonello) March 31, 2017
However, others questioned whether a woman director might have been a better fit.
Writer and academic Roxane Gay, author of Bad Feminist, wrote: “How cool would it be if Joss Whedon said hey how about you hire a woman to write and direct a show/movie about a woman?”
“Joss seems like an upstanding & talented guy but yeah, it’s a missed opportunity,” agreed another user. “At least he’ll likely make an awesome Batgirl movie.”
If Joss Whedon is such a woke male feminist ally, why didn't he let a trans PoC direct Batgirl?— Will Hicks (@William__Hicks) March 30, 2017
Batgirl first appeared in a comic strip in 1967 as Barbara Gordon, the daughter of Gotham City police commissioner James Gordon. A serious-minded, career focused librarian by day, she was initially intended to reflect the women’s liberation movement of the Sixties – something that was echoed in her defiance of Batman, who initially discouraged her from fighting crime.
She went on to tackle villains alongside the best of Gotham’s male superheroes, and became one of DC Comics’ most recognisable female characters.
While Batgirl has been depicted on screen several times before (notably by Yvonne Craig in the 1960s TV series Batman, and by Alicia Silverstone in the 1997 movie Batman & Robin), the forthcoming film will be the first time that the 50-year-old character has starred in her own movie.
It will also be only the second DC Comics film – after Wonder Woman, directed by Patricia ‘Patty’ Jenkins – to star a female lead.
While the identity of the actor playing Batgirl is yet to be confirmed, the part is rumoured to be going to Lindsey Morgan, best-known for playing Raven Reyes in sci-fi TV series The 100.
Earlier this month, the 27-year-old actor revealed on Twitter that she had been cast in an exciting new project. Since the news broke that Whedon would be directing the new Batgirl film, Morgan has been retweeting news articles suggesting that she will be taking the lead role.
Only time will tell…
Images: Rex Features