Cape Talk: Joker’s Ink and Supergirl’s Stink
On Joker’s Tattoos
Let’s be clear: the first person to play Joker after Heath Ledger was always going to get rekt by fans. Ledger has become the James Dean of our generation, and The Dark Knight is his Rebel Without A Cause. His Joker wasn’t just good, it was radical – it was like the Jack Nicholson version climbed out of some garbage with some real brain problems.
Jared Leto is a brave man. He knows, and the producers of Suicide Squad know, that they can’t go back. There’s no way to do a “traditional” Joker in a big-budget film and not have him come off as a dopey Ceasar Romero cartoon when you put him next to real people. At the same time, you can’t just ape what Ledger did in TDK. The performance is so beloved that any attempt to mimic it will suffer by comparison, and combined with the actor’s death it may even be seen as disrespectful. Warner Bros doesn’t want that reaction – we’re already being swamped in smug Jared Leto memes now.
So in effect, it is obligatory on the part of Leto and the Suicide Squad crew to create a new radical interpretation of the Joker. And some part of that interpretation was always going to rub some people the wrong way. If it wasn’t the tattoos, it’d be something else.
I mean, for now, just be glad he’s wearing shoes.
On The Supergirl Trailer
Wow. People are really bending over backwards to like this terrible Supergirl trailer.
Look, I get it. I’m a feminist. I want to see Black Widow merchandise out there, especially toys based on her own scenes from the movies. I want more comic book covers which portray women’s bodies in respectful and realistic ways, and fewer covers that portray superheroines as victims even in jarring contradiction to the book’s own tone (click any of these for examples of Not That).
But none of that changes how unimaginative this whole thing is. Melissa Benoist seems like a great fit, but it’s not going to matter much when every character is so cookie-cutter romantic comedy, every line of dialogue such an exhaustingly familiar exposition, that it’s hard to imagine this wasn’t basically put together by CBS’s marketing department.
A lot of ink has been spilled (metaphorically speaking) over how the klutzy-Devil-Wears-Prada-executive-assistant trope, despite being so tired that SNL joked only clueless Marvel would still use it, is somehow a great fit for the Girl of Steel. I think this is some pretty heavy rationalization myself. No one argues that Supergirl doesn’t need a softer tone than a Black Widow movie, but are there so few interesting dramatic possibilities for superheroines that we should just start Xeroxing Katherine Heigl vehicles with different costumes?
Look, I hope I’m wrong. If I’m right, Supergirl trailer fans, we both lose, because we don’t get a great new show to watch and talk about. If I’m wrong, then we both win. But I don’t think I’m wrong. At this point, the best I’m hoping for is that the show at least connects to very young girls who are unfamiliar enough with its tropes to be inspired by its feminist message. For the rest of us, we’ll just have to keep waiting for the nuanced and intelligent woman-led project we deserve.