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The Eschatology of Barbara Gordon, Part 3
by The Old Maid

(This essay was originally posted to World's Finest May 2004; revised July 2006.)

And so we come to the middle of time. Somewhere in the Interregnum between TNBA and BB it is implied that Bruce and Barbara had an affair. This writer never liked that idea (as readers of earlier material will have noted).

Both the proposal of a Bruce/Barbara affair, and the arguments that promoted it, seemed weak or inappropriate.

1. The argument that Bruce and Barbara have "so much in common."

No more so than several other women in Bruce's life like Renee Montoya or Kairi Tanaga. It's a shame Old Kairi and Old Bruce didn't get a chance to take one last moonlit stroll along the boardwalk before the insane lizard people offed her. (P.S. they never found her body, right? Hint hint).

2. The argument that Batman needs Barbara to restore his sanity.

Batman dresses like a flying rodent because his parents were butchered and the crime was never solved. What's her excuse?

3. The argument that Barbara is superior to other women and therefore has the best chance of "saving" him, if anyone can.

That's just Mary Sue talk, wish fulfillment. ("He's just never met a real woman before.") Surely there are plenty of good-enough "real women" right under his nose. Besides, if Bruce seriously considered finding a woman no doubt Lucius Fox could set him up with one— and Alfred probably has a prepared list. Would these "good enough" women accept Bruce's chosen lifestyle? Maybe. Maybe not—but then neither did Barbara.

Just because Barb was the only young woman in Gotham with the brilliance and drive to become Batgirl, it does not necessarily follow that she would be a good girlfriend. Those jobs have different requirements. They deserved separate auditions.

4. The argument that they couldn't help themselves.

The only way such a line would convince this writer is if they were drunk at the time. And even that wouldn't get them through the second day. Gender problems really don't translate well into Batman's world. This writer would like to think we have gotten beyond the tired stereotypes that "women are ruled by their hormones and emotions" and "men are pigs"—with Batman being a pig among pigs, notorious for hopping aboard any passing train, whether it be a northbound train or a southbound train, so to speak.

Therefore it seems more in character that if Batman would make a mistake with Batgirl, he would make that mistake the same way he would execute any other perilous undertaking : methodically and thoroughly.

First, the couple would weigh the potential benefits against the potential losses. That is, they would think about how other people would react and whether they could handle it. Secondly, Batman would make plain to Batgirl exactly what is involved in "The Plan." When they were clear about the risks and the terms, they began a relationship based upon “Mutual Consent”. (Remember that term because it's going to haunt us later.)

First let's look at the sacrifices they might have to make. We already know Bruce/Batman was skating on thin ice with Dick/Nightwing. We can predict that any romantic contact between Batman and Batgirl would end Dick's relationship with either one forever. However that's not the only relationship that would be jeopardized. Alfred got a lot of screentime in “Batwoman” and if he approved of this potential pairing then Alfred did a marvelous job of concealing that approval. Alfred's behavior suggests he doesn't think she was being mistreated. (He certainly doesn't spring to her defense.) We don't know his reasons : whether he is thinking of his "second son" Dick, or whether Alfred declines to speak up for Barbara for other reasons. All we know is that Alfred calmly watched Bruce shut out Barbara in the cold.

Then there's Tim. Bruce and Barbara face bigger problems than deciding what they would say to Tim if he walked in on them. The truth is an affair could mess up this kid in a big way. What would it do to him to witness an affair between his surrogate father and the young woman Tim thinks of as a big sister? That puts him in a position that he'd be forced to change how he thinks about them : either "sis" becomes "mom" or "dad" becomes "brother-in-law." And again, what does that make Dick, who is the closest thing Tim has to a big brother? (In the comics Dick calls him "brother.") One solution would be for Tim to renounce his emotional ties to Bruce. If Bruce is just his boss or his landlord, then he's a stranger and it's okay for him to date Sis. Erm, no. This is not fair to the kid. He might say it was okay, but kids say lots when they have no place else to go.

(We could inquire if the timing could make matters worse ... if this purported romance happened just before ROTJ, would it explain why Tim was patrolling alone that night? Were the others too, ahem, "busy" to patrol with him? Or what if the affair happened after ROTJ, would Tim feel that Barbara had betrayed him by "getting friendly" with the man who threw Tim out of the house? And in that situation, how did Tim and Barbara reconcile, seeing as Barbara was Tim's confidante as an adult? Never mind. It's weird enough as it is.)

Hmm. Who else could there be? Anybody?

I gotta wonder how James Gordon would feel about this. Not great, I'm betting.

Jim doesn't live in a culture where he can select his daughter's mate. He lives in a culture where he can praise, sabotage, respond with deafening silence, or complain to anyone who will listen. Jim has never been shy about telling Barbara or her suitors exactly what he thinks of those suitors. Indeed, based on his behavior in "Shadow of the Bat" and "Sub-Zero," the real problem is that he won't shut up.

Jim means no harm. It's just that he knows he won't be around forever. He wants to scope out the son-in-law (to weed out the bad ones) and to get to know his grandchildren. It would make it easier for him to go to his grave knowing his daughter was cherished and provided for. So it is interesting that Jim is so partial to Dick Grayson when Bruce Wayne (who is standing next to Dick in "Sub-Zero") is not even a blip on Jim's radar.

In the comics it is strongly hinted that James Gordon knows Batman's identity. We don't know what Jim knows in animated continuity. However the animated Jim Gordon has been long acquainted with the civilian Wayne—they travel in the same fundraising circles—and Jim has never presented Bruce to Barbara as an eligible candidate. Neither has Jim asked the Batman if the latter is single and if so, would he like to do something about it. Certainly Jim has the power to make or break such a relationship. For example he could help each person adjust to the other one's "quirks," for lack of a better word. Instead Jim doesn't seem to regard either Bruce or Batman as candidates. Explanations?

1. Jim absolutely would not approve.

2. It simply never occurred to him to consider either Bruce or Batman as candidates. The thought would have to occur to him before he could say No. However his previous behavior suggests that if his answer could be Yes, then it would already have occurred to him and he already would be trying to "sell" the couple on this project. Given Jim's personality, in this case silence does not equal consent.

James Gordon knows that the life of a policeman is hard, incredibly hard, and he knows what it can do to a marriage. (In the comics he has married, divorced, remarried, and been widowed.) How much harder it would be to be Batman's wife. Batman usually works alone, and he won't use lethal force to save himself. That's a surefire formula for making a wife a widow. Even his death might not protect his family from retaliation. No one close to Batman is safe. Possibly Jim Gordon couldn't even see Barbara—because every time he left the house to go visit them, some supervillain might try to pick up his trail to follow him there. To be cut off from his daughter and grandchildren would break his heart (not to mention what it would do to the grandchildren to live in a cage cut off from their grandfather). This hardly matches Jim's criteria that Barbara's mate should make her safe and happy. Finally there's the fact that (as Freelancer Babs put it) Batman is a few bats short of a belfry, and Jim probably wouldn't be too pleased to have grandchildren who sleep hanging upside down.

Perhaps Jim Gordon's answer to Barbara, whether spoken or unspoken, would be the one given by a Betsy Randle character :

"I can't support this relationship idea because I know you won't be happy. And I can only support your happiness."

For the Batman it's a little more raw. Jim and the Batman have a longstanding relationship of mutual trust. The rules are largely unspoken. Their trust grew because they were already like-minded. They never needed to hammer out specific rules and agreements. They simply knew. Must Jim really say the words—"Please don't boink my daughter"—or is that one of those things that just ought to go without saying.

The truth is, Batman doesn't have a lot of friends. He really can't afford to lose this one, not even for an adoring woman. James Gordon isn't just a friend or ally—he is a restraining influence, a link to Batman's sanity, and it is arguable that Batman would be a lot nuttier if not for the steady anchor of Gordon's faith in him.

So for Bruce to hook up with Barbara, Batman might have to sacrifice every other relationship in his life. What would happen to Batman's sanity if Barbara proves an inadequate substitute for those lost relationships? While this does not seem to be either character's motive, it is a common tactic in abusive relationships for a dominant partner to urge the weaker partner to sever relationships with friends, relatives and allies as "proof that you love me." This isolates the victim from the people who genuinely cared about him, and who might have tried to help him.

Although neither Bruce nor Barbara meant for abusive overtones to creep into the situation, it could be argued that such overtones are unavoidable. How else to explain the notion that Batman should be compelled to sacrifice everyone he cares about to keep a woman who says, "It's still not enough." How else to explain the notion that Barbara might sacrifice a chance to marry in public, have children in public, send them to school in public, go to the grocery store in public, and visit her dad in public? She's sane, but she's not completely sane.

Those are the social risks they must face. What about The Plan?

Back before someone thought up the Bruce/Barbara idea, Batman always reaffirmed his decision that a wife and family cannot be part of The Plan. He has tried and tried. ("Plant Susan" in TNBA's "Chemistry," ; Talia in BB's "Out of the Past" ; Imaginary Selina in BTAS's "Perchance to Dream" ; Andrea Beaumont in “Mask of the Phantasm”). It turns out that his personal best is about two days. After that he tends to get a little stir-crazy. Also, Bruce/Batman has been burned, and burned badly, far beyond Barbara's comprehension. Without question, if Bruce/Batman ever began a relationship with Barbara (or anyone), the woman would have to convince him of two things :

1. She accepts him for who he is ;

2. She will be there for the long haul.

However, thanks to "The Plan," the man who asks to be accepted for who he is ... is married. He's married to the job. This means that the highest position to which a woman can aspire is to become his mistress.

This is what sets Andrea Beaumont apart from her competitors. Andrea met Bruce when he was still "engaged" but unmarried. (What Barbara might have done in the same situation is a pointless discussion, as she was twelve at the time.) When Andrea left, Bruce "married" the woman who would always be there (i.e. the job, The Plan, Gotham City, whatever you want to call it). He even changed his name when he got married.

What the Bruce/Barbara faction fail to see is that Barbara could never have the leverage Andrea had over Bruce, because they did not date the same man. Barbara faced a man who already had been married for ten to fifteen years. His mindset is profoundly different. The "marriage" has been a stabilizing influence on him. It has kept him out of Arkham Asylum. He is making a difference in the world. He saves lives. He has friends. (Not many, to be sure, but more friends than he had as a child.) He even has a clutch of ungrateful spoiled children—the people of Gotham City, that is, in addition to the Robins. (They're more "spoiled" as in "wrecked.")

Batman is used to being married. He's comfortable. He feels needed. He knows what to expect. He is accepted for who he is. On good days he's even happy, after his fashion. And then one day he's supposed to trade in his ugly but formidable old wife for a glossy new trophy bride? Some guys would. Some guys do. This guy didn't. And for this the fanboys think he's the one with the problem? Granted, he's got problems—but why should he risk everything he knows he can count on, for a woman he may or may not be able to count on? A woman who changes her mind from one day to the next?

Why, for nookie! say the fans. Bruce is a flesh-and-blood man (well, ink and paint, anyway), and a man Needs ... Some ... Comfort! Well, some men do. Again, not every man is ruled by his glands. One can't generalize. However if Bruce/Batman wanted this kind of action, the Catwoman has already offered. (She also drops hints that she can be "creative".) Additionally, Catwoman needs Bruce/Batman as inspiration if she's ever going to go straight, whereas Barb clearly doesn't need him.

If Bruce/Batman wanted a woman who was demure, brilliant and smooth as silk—but who harbored an iron agenda to mold him into a new man more to her tastes and needs—Talia also has offered.

What Barbara has going for her is her innocence. Unfortunately by definition her exposure to Batman would tarnish that innocence, thus diminishing her attractiveness to him. So from the start only her naivety could lure such an intelligent woman into a relationship with a "married man." Simultaneously, the quality he would most prize in her is one she cannot hold on to.

The "other woman" usually gets involved with a married man for one of two reasons :

1. She believes he will leave his wife for her.

2. Alternately, she has an affair for the same reason as the man : all the "fun" with none of the responsibility.

We have too little information to know Barbara's reason for jumping into this "affair." A tentative guess is reason 2, for fun. After all, when Barbara first became Sidekick Babs she certainly didn't want him to quit crimefighting (i.e. "leave his wife"). The "glamour" of crimefighting and the perceived freedom from all rules was what had fascinated her in the first place.

And then Barbara changed her mind. We don't have enough information to know if Babs issued an ultimatum to choose her or choose the cape. (We do know he didn't chase after her.) If she did, we have a problem. If it's okay for Barbara to issue an ultimatum to Bruce—"choose the cape or choose me"—then it should be just as okay for Dick Grayson to issue an identical ultimatum to Barbara back in the day. But if it's not okay for Dick to issue an ultimatum about "the cape or me" then it should not be okay for Barbara to issue an ultimatum to Bruce. (It's debatable whether Dick actually did ; this point is, if he did, there should not be a double standard.)

If Barbara did issue an ultimatum, then Bruce/Batman would see it as a betrayal. It is to say that :

1. She's not going to always be there ; and

2. She is no longer willing to accept him for who he is.

Bruce/Batman had "The Plan" for his life. When Barbara's incompatible Never-Enough Plan decreed, "I want more," then one of them would have to give up a Plan to keep the other person in his or her life. However, to do so would mean that one person literally would have to become someone else. One person would have to deny his or her own nature. But Barbara knew it wasn't going to be her, and Batman knew it wasn't going to be him.

We can only hope Barbara didn't issue an ultimatum ... that she simply knew her priorities had changed. She now wanted him to "leave his wife" and woke up to the fact that he would never do so. So she left, and he let her leave. This was the theory of Mutual Consent. Each chose to get into this mess ; each chose how to end this mess. One went, one stayed. Each were equally jerks in their own way.

Mutual Consent lines up perfectly with Commissioner Barbara's speech in "ATOC." She gets to spin it a little bit, as if she "won" by leaving. (Technically he "won" by staying. Nobody calls him a fixer-upper, nosirree!)

This writer never liked Mutual Consent. Still doesn't, since it would still mean they were involved. But at least they made this mistake together.

“Mystery of the Batwoman” changed everything.

“Mystery of the Batwoman” removed the element of mutual consent.

In response this writer offered two interpretations in the MotB talkback thread. (They're on page 9 if anyone's interested.) The two interpretations were titled “Baked Alaska” and “Upside-down cake” to keep them straight. (The review was based on a food motif.)

The Baked Alaska interpretation argued that this film showed Barbara actually had an unrequited crush on Batman. Thus her speech in "ATOC" was simply recounted to the best of her ability to remember the situation. No doubt her embarassment helped a little in the editing process.

Meanwhile, the Upside-down cake interpretation argued that “MotB” verified a real relationship between the characters -- but did so by introducing a severe imbalance of power. Basically one would have to be a predator and one would have to be prey, to explain what we see on the screen.

As it turned out, these interpretations, while still valid, proved overly simplistic. They neglected the element of timing, which is a big issue for some fans. So let's introduce some Big New Words from eschatological circles.

Preterist. This is just a fancy word for "all the big prophecies happened already, except for the Very Last Day which will be without warning."

If you're a "Bat preterist," you believe that Whatever Happened between Bruce and Barbara has already happened and we are witnessing the "death throes" of that relationship. Example :

Looks Bruce is trying to distance himself from Barbara after they ... you know ...

Therefore there's nothing new to anticipate in this storyline until the last day of Batgirl's career, which will hit her like a board. (The "ATOC" reference to a Batgirl suit riddled with bullet holes comes to mind.) There will be tribulations still, such as Return of the Joker, but they aren't "romance-based" tribulations.

Bat Preterism has a number of problems. One : it doesn't quite line up with the commish's speech that she walked out on Batman. She did leave, but only after he dumped her first. That's not what she told people.

Two : it makes Bruce/Batman look like he preyed on a woman who has trusted him since childhood, then flushed her.

Three : Alfred and Tim seem to be okay with that.

Four : the only way to revisit the actual relationship would be to film a prequel to MotB. Since “MotB” is itself a prequel to “ROTJ” the writers would get complaints about going in the wrong direction. Alternately, they could try to fit it into Barbara's dialogue on Batgirl's Very Last Day Ever, but that could prove clunky.

Let's try another interpretation.

Futurist. This means "all the big stuff has yet to arrive." Futurists ride an emotional rollercoaster (sort of like market timers or extreme fanboys) because everything they see on the six o'clock news is a "sign" supporting their position. Then, just when their blood pressure subsides it's time for tomorrow's six o'clock news.

A "Bat futurist" believes that Whatever Happened between Bruce and Barbara has yet to happen. Example :

I like the nod to the future where we witness the budding relationship between Bruce and Barbara.

Therefore we are witnessing the "birth pangs" of the relationship. That's an appropriate metaphor because things will get a lot more painful before the "oh, baby."

What are the Bat futurist's problems? One is Bruce's reluctance to get involved—and the fact that he is getting everyone's unwavering support for his attempts to avoid her. (Even the Gotham TV reporters get in a dig at her expense by asking if she's old enough to do this.)

Two : if Barbara is the aggressor then she could easily drift into becoming the predator. If she had to drag him into the relationship and then (by her own admission in "ATOC") she dumped him, then she used him. That would make her look out of control.

Three : Given Bruce's obvious reluctance it's hard to figure out how they will get involved. In Catgirl's words, did Bruce suddenly "get the big light bulb" one day? Did he say, "Wow! You're gorgeous, intelligent, you know my name, and you're willing. Why didn't I see it before?" Or did Barbara wear him down? If she did, are we okay with that? Would we be okay with it if Barbara was a man who wore down an equally reluctant woman?

Do we see the problem? If the old assumptions of a Mutual Consent relationship soiled both characters and disturbed the fanboys —

then the possibility that one character exploited the other character is worse!

For these reasons this writer's first reaction to the “Batwoman” film was amillennial. This is just a big word meaning that "timing is less important than what you do with the time given you. Sure, there's an end someday, but what are you going to do now?" The Baked Alaska review is amillennial. That is, character trumps timing. It also allows for parallel storylines (because The Millennium is now, in heaven, whereas troubles continue on earth). Barbara has had feelings and dreams for Batman in the past ; she's having them in the present ; she may have them well into the future. But is it her nature (or her fate) to actually act upon those feelings and dreams? Is it Bruce's nature (or fate) to respond? Would his response be positive, negative, sheltering, abusive—or absent? What if his answer would be the same yesterday, today and always?

You see, the writers opened the door for the characters to back out of the situation without losing (too much) face, if they wish. Does Bruce find Barbara physically attractive? No doubt he has noticed. (He's a loner, not dead.) Nevertheless he may never act on those feelings, what with the incest taboo being pretty strong even nowadays. And for Bruce, a man haunted by his family, the lure of physical/romantic fun may not be enough to compensate for the loss of filial relationships. Meanwhile, if Barbara had unrequited feelings for him, his refusal wouldn't change the fact that they're real to her. A Baked Alaska scenario would give her the freedom to feel what she feels, believe what she believes, and impose her own spin on her side of the story without actually making it wrong.

What do you think?

Here is the Bruce/Barbara conversation in its entirety.

Alfred drives the limo. Bruce and Tim sit in the back seat, with Bruce closer to the camera. Bruce's cellphone rings. He answers.

Bruce : "Bruce Wayne here."

Barbara : "Bruce! It's Barbara."

Bruce (friendly/casual) : "Hey Barb."

Tim (teasing/singsong) : "She misses you!" (holds his comic book over his face)

Bruce : "How's college?"

Scene shifts to Barbara's dorm room.

Barbara (stretched out on her dorm bed) : "Not bad. Though the night life here can't compare with (jaunty, enthusiastic) kicking butt as Batgirl!

She rolls over on the bed onto her stomach, feet kicked back and crosses her ankles ; begins twirling a lock of hair in her fingers.

Barbara : "But spring break'll be here soon and I'll be back in Gotham for (singsong) Two Whole Weeks. (purrs) Won't that be nice?"

Scene now alternates between the sets with each change of speaker. Bruce pauses, then :

Bruce (stone-faced, speaks neutrally) : "Yes. We'll all be happy to see you."

Tim (frowning) : "Don't drag me into this."

Barbara rolls off the bed, stands and wanders out to the balcony, her back to the audience.

Barbara : "Anyway, that's not the reason I called. I just saw the news—

She leans on the balcony railing, a breeze ruffling her hair ; orchestra begins an "awkward moment" clarinet solo.

Barbara : "—and was wondering if you'd gotten a new partner, someone a little (petulant/disapproving) older?!"

Bruce (firmly) : "I have no idea who she is."

Barbara (you-better-believe-it-buster tone) : "Cause if you had, I'd be really upset.

She turns in profile to show an almost wistful expression ; looks at the ground, lowers her face to the phone

Barbara : "C-cause I thought you and I were ... (softly) you know ..."

Bruce deliberately picks up a newspaper and rustles it near the phone

Bruce : (uncomfortable expression on his face) "Uh ... Barb ... we're ... going through the East Tunnel now ... 'fraid .. signal's breaking up. Talk later."

Bruce turns off the cellphone ; his expression changes instantly. On her dorm balcony, Barbara hears him hang up, frowns at her cordless as if the phone has done something wrong. "Awkward moment" musical motif repeats louder.

In the limo Tim gives Bruce a conspiratorial grin and Alfred continues driving serenely. The "awkward moment" music is already darkening to the "don't trust her ; be careful" of the upcoming Rocky scene. By doing so it ties Batgirl to Batwoman, magnifying the impact of Bruce's last line in this scene which is doing the same thing.

Tim (attaboy) : "Squeaked through again, didn'cha?"

Alfred (attaboy) : "I never fail to marvel at your narrow escapes, sir."

Bruce (in a tone simultaneously professional and dismissive) : "One female Bat at a time."

Whatever one may think of this scene, it's worth our time to see the talent and craftsmanship and the incredible voice work that went into it. Without a doubt the creators reworked it a dozen times, polishing it to get it just right. (And yes, I caught the "gotcha!" before the character finished speaking the sentence. Heh, good one. )

Let's examine some lines in detail.

Bruce asks Barbara, "How's college?"

Continuity Alert: In the "real world" Barbara was already in college (Gotham State University, to be precise) when she was animated in what, 1992/93. In the animated world, Barbara was attending GSU at the same time as Dick Grayson. Based on the change in his appearance and his attitude between BTAS and the TNBA episode "Old Wounds," it's safe to say Dick Grayson aged one year (or more) between the time we met Barbara, and the time she attended his graduation. Supposedly we have another five years between "Old Wounds" and "Sins of the Father," when Grayson returns to Gotham. Then we have as little as three years or as many as five, between "Sins of the Father" and “Return of the Joker”.

So in the "real world" Babs has been portrayed in college for ten years (1993-2003). In animation Barbara has been in college for about ten years. And it only takes eight years to earn a doctorate. It's remotely possible she's been attending part-time all these years, and that she could be in graduate school. In that case most people would have asked, "How's grad school?" not "How's college."

Bruce says, "We'll ALL be happy to see you."

This could be translated as, "I shall be as happy as everyone else, neither less happy nor more happy." This line is a warning shot across the bow, so to speak. When analyzed more than that it gets too weird ... Barbara clearly hopes to enjoy a different style of "company" with Bruce than with everyone else, and he's pretending not to know what she would do differently with him than with anyone else.

Tim says, "Don't drag ME into this."

Tim speaks as if Bruce is looking for a place to hide, or a person to hide behind. Guilty conscience or being hunted? You make the call ...

Barbara says, "I just saw the news and was wondering if you'd gotten a new partner --"

Barbara's out of the loop. She's worried about both her job and her love life (if any). If she really is a partner, does Bruce/Batman owe it to her to tell her there's a new Bat in the cave, or is it okay for him to let her find out on the six o'clock news like a stranger?

Barbara continues, "someone a little OLDER?!"

She's peeved. It's almost as if she's worried the new person is a better match for Batman than she is, just because they're closer in age.

To digress here, Barbara really is acting younger than we've ever seen her. She twirls her hair, moons over some "moody boy" on the phone, and—(I cannot believe no one has mentioned this)—is rolling around on the bed. Yet it's not erotic the way it would be if we saw Catwoman rolling around on the bed musing whether she has a new rival in Batwoman. Barbara really does look like a regular teenager on the phone.

Where's Woobie? (Then again, the soccer moms would tie him to Barb's behavior and fly up the chimney. They just wouldn't understand.) Maybe he's in the washing machine.

You know what's funny? If the animated Barbara had been allowed to age normally (say, if she matched Oracle's age), she would be older than any of the Batwomen—but she'd still be short and would still have to listen to TV reporters asking if she's "grown up" yet.

You know what's really funny? Barbara's more upset about "the age thing" than a lot of the posters here.

Bruce says, "I have no idea who she is."

Yeah, that ain't gonna save ya, Brucey. Both Batman and James Gordon claimed in "Shadow of the Bat" that they didn't know Batgirl's identity either, even though both of them knew Barbara's voice on account of hearing it all her life. They just never told her until TNBA when she forced the issue anyway.

Barbara say, "C-cause I thought you and I were ... you know ..."

Bruce already served notice once ("We'll ALL be happy to see you") that he doesn't want to talk about this. He was quite comfortable talking to her until she started flirting with him. Now she brings it up again. In response, he lies to her, hangs up on her, and is saluted for lying to her and hanging up on her.

Tim says, "Squeaked through again, didn'cha?"

Alfred seconds Tim's words with, "I never fail to marvel at your narrow escapes, sir."

This is obviously an ongoing problem. Bruce and Barbara have had this conversation before. They'll have it again too, since nothing has been resolved.

Let's look at Alfred and Tim. To paraphrase the Trek writer Janet Kagan,

If you hang your cape from a tree branch, someone's gonna pull it.

And this writer has little doubt that this scene was written partly to tug some fanboy capes. (We do make the temptation almost irresistible.)

Okay, so Alfred and Tim are making fun of Bruce. Those Great Stone Face types make easy targets. The problem is, by definition they cannot make fun of Bruce without also making fun of Barbara. And this is more mean-spirited because Barbara's not in the room. She can't defend herself ; she can't laugh it off ; she can't tease them back ; she can't slug them. Don't Tim and Alfred like her? Why ARE they doing this?

This was a major contributing factor to the Baked Alaska theory (i.e. Barbara just has a harmless crush). Otherwise, if they make fun of her they're making fun of something real, and that's cruel.

To stick with Alfred and Tim :

Alfred later says, "I think he may have some affection for this one." Tim then groans, "You sure can pick 'em."

Is Alfred saying Bruce/Batman does not have affection for another one? Is Tim saying Bruce picks badly? Or that Bruce was picked, and that this is bad? Again, this exchange takes place behind Barbara's back so she can't defend herself. It really sounds like Alfred and Tim are not pro-Bruce/Barbara.

Bruce concludes dismissively, "One female Bat at a time."

Batwoman is, of course, a headache, a loose cannon, and a problem he wants long gone. What is Bruce saying when he compares Batgirl to Batwoman?

Look at the dorm room scene again. Look at the character. Set aside the desire to leap to her defense or to leap to judgment, and look at her. She has sown ; what has she reaped? Does she look more intelligent, capable and professional in her purported position as a girlfriend, or less so? Is Barbara more poised and confident, or is she less so? Does Barbara seem happier? Does she seem happy? Maybe not as happy? Maybe not as happy?

Perhaps this is a good time for this quote :

I understand that virtually no one on this planet understands love, and those of us who do have probably only scratched the surface. I beg your pardon for getting so deep, but all I'm trying to say is, it doesn't seem like they're in love.

Perhaps the real attraction isn't about Batman or Bruce as a person. The truth is Barbara looks for certain qualities in her men : they're all borderline workaholics, they're passionate about justice, and they're idealists. I think Babs is really looking for men who at some level, remind her of her father. Not in a crude Electra sense of the word—we've got enough of that weirdness already. I think she just wants to recapture those innocent days when she was the center of someone's world. To go back to the time when everything and everyone was perfect—to a time when her dad could make no mistakes and she didn't either, because she was too young to be held responsible for her actions. To go back to a time without the brutish shades-of-gray that the adult world shoves in her face. To have one man who always believed in her, and when he looked at her saw only her best.

I think Barb's relationship with her dad was the purest, strongest, and most real relationship in her life. And I think the decades of comics, novels, episodes and films will back me up on this. From BTAS "Shadow of the Bat" to TNBA "Over the Edge"—from “The Killing Joke” to “No Man's Land : Claimjumping”—where one Gordon is found, the other is probably not far away. Of course no one and nothing has ever been good enough for Barbara, for who can compete with an ideal? Who can compete with a ghost? And if you ever had a taste of unconditional love, which is a rare and precious thing in this world, wouldn't you do anything to find it again? Batman comes in for a share of those pent-up emotions (positive and negative) because Batman is all that's left of her father. Batman is an expression of Jim Gordon's ideals, hopes and dreams, and a reminder of things lost. For all the people she had surrounded herself with, she is at heart deeply lonely. And one day her dad is gone. She's no one's little girl anymore.

Kind of like Bruce and his parents, come to think of it.

I find this a much more rich and true-to-character interpretation than the the same-old same-old "Dizzy Dame Torments Twitchy Bat."

I find it a more sympathetic and character-building interpretation than the same-old same-old "no one in Bats-land can keep their hot little hands to themselves."

But that's me.

That's my two cents.

And that's {The End.}

(Or is it?)

(An analysis of fan analysis was added July 2006. Please continue to Part 4.)



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