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Pro VS Con: The Cons of Batman Beyond
by THE OLD MAID


(Note : as of this writing, the episode "Unmasked" has not been aired.)


DANA TAN'S PURPOSE IN BATMAN BEYOND

The Girlfriend is a new character in Bat mythology. There is no mold, no manual to consult to get it right. Thus Dana Tan has been twisted and turned by every little wind that blows. How loyal must she be? How smart? Can Batman have it all -- work, a family, inner peace and love -- or must he choose? How does one make that choice? Who changes and who loses?

These questions were never answered, so fans concluded that Dana need not have been created. Just kill her ; she's spiteful. Kill her ; she's clingy and desperate. Kill her because Max would make a better girlfriend anyway. There's only one problem. The original Dana isn't anything like that.

Most fans don't remember Original Dana. Some never even met her. But she used to serve a useful purpose before someone dropped her character in a blender.

Dana started out as the most important person in Terry's life. He defied his father to see her ("Rebirth"), brushed off Wayne to see her ("DMH"). What did she do with that power? She held his temper in check ("Rebirth"). She encouraged him when he felt low, spent time with him after his father died. She defended him to her own father ("Rats"). Dana saw potential in Terry. In truth she's a bit of a rescuer. "The love of a good woman saves a bad man," that sort of thing. That's why she has invested so much work in him. His success in life is hers as well.

Dana was meant to be Terry's only positive, permanent link to people his own age. All their "couple" friends were really her friends. Terry, the street-smart ex-con, didn't care about their pedestrian little lives, their gossip, their airheaded plans. He spent three miserable months of his life showering in front of criminals and armed guards and eating food bricks. What does he care about who's dating whom? For that matter, Original Dana had little in common with her friends too. She was on the swim team ("Rebirth") ; her friends were cheerleaders. She wasn't into cliques or the latest trends. Dana set her own trends. (Even though she thought splicing was "cool," she was too cool to do it herself. Nice touch.)

Original Dana was ambitious. She studied more than anyone else in the series ("Earth mover," mentioned in "Zeta," mentioned in "Once burned," mentioned in "Rats"). She had an appreciation for libraries ("Speak no evil") and classic cinema ("Where's Terry"), suggesting an intellectual side that was never developed.

No discussion of Dana would be complete without examining her only episode. Original Dana deserved a better story than "Rats." With a more realistic villain this episode should have been a gem in the series.

The characters do the best they can with what they've got. The relationship is dissected. Terry does a splendid "every father's nightmare" impression for Mr. Tan. Dana resists her stalker using skills she's already shown. She helps Batman fight the rats ; then the fire she starts "kills" her stalker. (Patrick miraculously survives in the comics.) Why did she never speak of this again? It's got to bother her. In fact Terry the ex-con is just the person to talk to about things one is ashamed of. It would encourage Terry to examine his own progress. And why must only freaks, misfits and jerks be attracted to Dana? J-Man, Nelson Nash, Patrick/Ratboy and Howard Groote have all made passes at her. Where are the princes? Terry should have competed with nice guys for her attention at least once.

Why does Dana stay? Habit. This is the one quality in Dana that endures in all her incarnations. In good Dana, Original Dana, part of it is being comfortable, safe. Their bickering is so predictable they might as well be married. Dana knows that Terry will always grovel in the end, whereas a new guy would have to be trained to do it. Sometimes it takes a long time to learn to read somebody. At least with Terry she knows what to expect. It's when she didn't know what she was getting that her personality changed.

When Original Terry dated Original Dana, there was no doubt who was in charge of this relationship. Dana likes dancing, so that's what they do ("Rebirth," "Golem," "Once burned," etc.). Dana chose the restaurant in "Rats" so she probably chose the one in "Lost soul." She likes to watch sports, so much so that she persuades Terry to attend when he doesn't feel up to it ("Black out," "The winning edge"). Dana accepts party invitations for both of them ("TFDAR"). She also decides when they will leave the party ("Golem"). Part of this behavior is pity for nerds, a quality they both share. Still, Dana is fairly brazen to sacrifice Terry's nights off. He has so few of them. Wouldn't Dana and Terry rather go on a real date? Perhaps she assumes she can wait until next time. Terry is her property. There will always be a next time.

Dana trains Terry. She puts him in the doghouse, but she always tells him why first. She even tells him where to find the doghouse keys. He just doesn't use them. In "Rats" she tells him she likes flowers -- yet it never occurs to Terry that he, personally, should bring any. She tells him "I'll be wearing that dress you like." Terry's reaction is "whoa." Yet he never says, "Wow, maybe I should change out of this raggedy old T-shirt and dress up for her too." I doubt a tuxedo is required for a chili bar, but a long-sleeved shirt would have been nice. Bonus points for a tie. Anything that looks good on Terry when he's down on his knees.

No wonder Mr. Tan looks at Terry's clothes and his attitude and says, "This is not good enough for her. My daughter deserves better." Mr. Tan may be overprotective, but he's not wrong. What he is, is overly optimistic. Aside from Jared Tate, there are no nice guys, not one in the entire series, and Jared is not interested in her. Terry has no competition. He needs Mr. Tan to challenge his treatment of Dana because no other man will.

Dana has been grading Terry herself. Clearly she expects to marry him ("The eggbaby"). What should be a simple Family Studies assignment means a great deal to her. Dana makes Terry answer ("How many of you expect to be parents someday?") the way she answers. Terry brings his doll back in one piece and Dana glows with pride. Love is blind. Terry can miss dates, miss hints, but let him do the least little thing right and she is so thrilled. That's right, kid! Keep those expectations low!

In the beginning Terry trained Dana too. He drops hints that his family is struggling financially ("DMH," "Rats," "ROTJ"). Soon Dana offers to pay instead ("Once burned"). Three times Terry tells Dana he does want to be with her but he simply must work ("Black out," "DMH," "Rats"). Dana doesn't believe him, but he doesn't change his story. Not knowing what else to do, she backs down and speaks to him again.

In time she even finds him amusing. Twice Terry literally runs out in the middle of a date ("Meltdown," "Lost soul"). Dana just smiles and shrugs. "Yessir, that's my Terry. The bell rings and he responds. I'm dating Pavlov's dog." Now consider the situation in "Lost soul." Terry and Dana almost died. There are muggers everywhere and the police are having firefights in the street. Is it really safe for a rich girl in painted-on clothes to find her way home alone? Nope. But Terry doesn't offer to escort her, and Dana doesn't ask. She simply assumes he'd run to help Old Man Wayne. The look on her face is not tolerance. She's enjoying this. Maybe it's fun for her to see Terry scrabbling on a leash, her mighty street brawler forced to Heel and Fetch.

Fans point to "Inqueling" as Dana's Eureka moment, mostly because Dana says so. This is inconsistent with earlier evidence, though. An alternate interpretation is that Dana always knew that Terry looked up to Bruce but she conveniently forgot it when Original Dana was replaced.

Original Dana's presence encouraged the series to explore the nature of trust. Dana has never lied to Terry. Max and Melanie lie frequently. Additionally, they tend to tell the kind of lies that make trouble for Terry or for themselves. Dana's honesty stands in stark contrast to her competitors and her boyfriend. Terry didn't think he was lying to Dana (it's true that he works for Wayne), but he didn't tell the whole truth either. He is torn between protecting Wayne's trust and keeping Dana's trust. It's possible that Terry may confess to her someday simply out of shame.

On the other hand, Terry gets dumped and ten seconds later he's cheating on her with the Royal Flush Princess. Dana never looks at another guy in the entire series. She doesn't even want to. What a pair.

Still, even if the series had not been frozen in time, these characters would only be twenty in the end. Why are they so set in their ways? The answer is in the episode "Big time."

Charlie "Big Time" Bigelow is loose after spending three years in prison. Apparently he can't wait to go back. He lays his plans then looks up his pet fool, Terry, in a cafe. Bigelow sits at Max and Dana's table and begins pawing Dana. He knows Terry will come charging to the rescue. But wait! Terry isn't with them at the time. How did Big Time know which woman to maul? The reason, as Dana makes plain, is that they already know each other. Now it makes sense that Dana would know his name. But Dana and Bigelow knew each other by sight.

"Charlie was 18 and I was 14," says Terry. Okay. Then let's start with that. Most school systems use a cutoff date on the calendar to schedule like with like. That is, schools are set up so that most twelfth-graders will turn 18 in that school year. Thus most eleventh- graders will turn 17, tenth-graders 16, ninth-graders 15, eighth- graders 14. There is no possibility that Terry and Bigelow went to the same school. Therefore Dana didn't meet Bigelow at school either. The only way she could have known him by sight was through Terry. So Dana and Terry were already together at age 14.

Either Dana met Bigelow when he recruited Terry, or she saw him when she sat through Terry's trial. Either way they know each other because they were both there to watch Terry fall.

Dana was there before Terry was arrested, before he went to Juvenile Hall, before his parents divorced. She was there for him when his father died. They've spent their whole dating career together. No wonder they act like an old married couple. They've had three to seven years to practice.

Original Dana was never perfect. What she was, is realistic. She resents him for renegotiating the terms. Dana used to be first in his life. When Wayne arrived, she dropped to second place. With the family's money problems, she's now down to third place. This scenario is all too common. You'd be surprised how often people get dumped after losing a loved one. The significant other sees changes in a person that they can't handle, so they leave. Dana stayed. Original Dana will always come back, eventually -- unless she can't trust Terry. That's where Terminator Dana comes in.

Terminator Dana fights dirty. Terminator Dana won't listen. Terminator Dana gets angry when Terry must buy groceries instead of entertaining her. Terminator Dana has no compassion, no patience, and no charm. Terminator Dana hates sick kids in hospitals. And those are her good points. So who created this harpy and why? As with so many things, this development must be traced to Max.

Dana began as a sympathetic character. She was strong-minded, popular, witty and smart. She was a good listener. She has seen Terry at his worst ; she was this close to seeing him at his best. Dana was already Terry's confidante before he became Batman. But Dana had to lose those qualities that made her attractive or else Max couldn't take her place.

It started with "Hidden agenda." Max lies to Dana. Terry never asked her to do that, but it works. Terry is duly impressed. How easy it is! Whyever didn't he think of it before? From that point on Terry and Max conspire to never tell the truth when a lie will do. They think it's cute. They also think Dana is stupid. What was so terrible about telling Dana "I have to work" anyway? If she can't handle it, isn't it better to know that? Is she going to thank them for this?

Max spends a great deal of time running interference. It's almost amusing in a sad sort of way. What does Max propose to do when Terry has to work on his wedding day, take his place at the altar? That's ridiculous, yes, but neither Terry nor Max have thought about just how far they're going to ride this train. There is no exit strategy in place. They simply assume they won't get caught.

What the characters cannot see is that the manipulations and the marriage-counselor act CAUSED Dana's increasingly shrill behavior. Dana is now fourth in Terry's life, behind Max. Her behavior suggests that her subconscious is registering these lies, but she's frustrated because she can't isolate where they're coming from. No, she doesn't know her true love sneaks around with his secretary. But she can feel it. Dana used to be allowed to tell Terry when something was bothering her. Now Terry and Dana route all communications through Max, letting her control the flow of information and paraphrase at will. Terry takes Dana to a nice restaurant ("Lost soul") ; he takes Max to a nicer one ("Mind games"). Terry claims he wants to spend time with Dana, but Max gets triple the scenes she does, even when Terry is relaxing off-duty. And they always have some pretty quick answers.

By the time Irene appears ("Untouchable"), the couple is completely out of touch.  Dana automatically assumes Terry wants to cheat because he spoke to another girl. Terry for his part never does think of introducing them. Irene is starved for company ; she and Original Dana would have adored each other. (Irene is a lot like her.) Terry's refusal to invite Dana or include her in any way only confirms Dana's fear that he has more fun without her.

Dana's acting perfectly normal. Maybe no one wants her around when she acts that way, but that's how people who get a raw deal behave. Like Katharine Minola, Dana's not really a shrew. Her so-called friends are jerks.

Unfortunately for Dana, Petruchio's not in this show. And so to shut her up the writers created Dana the Doormat. Doormat Dana is simpering and desperate. Doormat Dana can't say no. She needs a chaperone to justify her presence in a script. (The chaperone's reward is to take most of the lines, reducing Dana to another face in the crowd.) When fans propose killing this Dana, it's because they cannot imagine Terry ever being attracted to this quivering creature. This too benefits Max. With Dana broken and Barbara making only sporadic appearances, Max became the only strong female lead.

First the chaperone problem. Dana tells Terry wistfully that she wishes they had more time together ("Where's Terry"). What's bizarre is that they are robbing themselves at the time. They are on a romantic date -- a date commandeered by tagalongs Max and Howard Groote. Who invited them? Why would one do so? Howard and Max chaperone the couple twice ("Where's Terry," "Speak no evil") and Howard complains nonstop both times. Now the way to cope with such people is to fetch their coat and say, "I'm so sorry you're not having a good time. I wouldn't dream of keeping you." Neither Dana nor Terry do so. (Terry is going through a doormat phase himself.) Max is no help either. She has warned Terry to take Dana on more romantic dates, even tried to schedule one for him ("Inqueling"). So when Terry takes Dana to a timeless love story in a dimly lit theater (a romantic date if ever there was one), what does Max do? She tags along. As did Howard.

Jackie chaperones in "Earth mover." Chelsea does it in "Last resort." Max chaperones Dana and Terry in five episodes ("Hidden agenda," "TFDAR," "Last resort," "Armory," "Big time," possibly one more). Max and Chelsea hover nearby in "Splicers," "Rats" and "Revenant." Chelsea and Nelson chaperone in "Plague." In fact Terry grumbles that he's "just along for the ride." Presumably if he didn't go with them he wouldn't see Dana at all that day. (They never do speak to each other.)

Let us leave out "ROTJ" for now, as different versions have different scenes. From the time Max was introduced (#14, "Splicers") to the end of episode 52, how many scenes have Dana and Terry spent alone together? Six scenes in two years. That's it. One scene in "Untouchable," and they spend it fighting. One scene in "Inqueling," and Terry walks out when Max summons him. One scene in "Revenant," one in "Splicers." Both times Terry is working, doing his sleuth routine. Dana is allowed to watch, as if that's treat enough. Dana and Batman have one scene in "Rats," which shouldn't count since it wasn't Terry. Then Dana and Terry have one scene at the end of this episode. They do go on one real date ("Lost soul"). Yet even that is abbreviated because of Work.

With Max it's not about scenes but episodes filled with scenes. Max and Terry go off alone together in no less that nineteen episodes (too many to list here). That's normal for a sidekick. However if Dana had gotten half this much screen time, Terry probably would have proposed to her by now.

No wonder Terminator Dana thinks Terry is ten kinds of dirt. No wonder Doormat Dana is so pathetically grateful to be included in any scene at all.

No wonder Original Dana and Terry can't find a quite moment alone to discuss their relationship and their future.

Then there is the problem of the third Dana becoming so weepy and whiny. Terry vanishes ("Where's Terry"), and Dana assumes he will check in with Max first, of all people. Not his family, not his girlfriend, not his school. Shouldn't this seem odd to her? Dana tells Max to have Terry call. She will sit pathetically by the phone, waiting until he does.

This Dana fails to fight for her own interests. When Charlie Bigelow returns she wimps out. Terry's decision will affect both of them. Does Dana want to visit Terry in jail yet again? No? Then she should do something about it instead of saying, "Here Max, you take this crucial scene. My two lines are done. You ask Terry." To be fair Max does give Terry excellent advice. The reason it is good advice, however, is because it's common sense. Anybody in the series could have said this. Even Terry knows it. He is merely seeking reassurance for a decision he's already made. He should be getting that reassurance, or that kick in the pants, from someone who has a stake in this. Someone he's already hurt. Original Dana used to be strong, and Terry used to love her for it. But this Dana does nothing.

Thus Original Dana's character was whittled away until there was nothing left for her to do but nag -- the one part of The Girlfriend character that Max didn't want.

To recapitulate, what was Dana's purpose? If Max wants her job, why shouldn't Max have it? So what if Terry and Max have shown no romantic interest in each other. Just force them. After all, aren't people interchangeable that way? What is unique about Dana to make her worth saving?

Everything.

I believe this character has Andrea Beaumont possibilities. This needn't mean that Dana must go insane and chase Terry, Melanie and Max with a scythe (though at this point anything is possible). Rather, Dana's character gives Terry a choice. Dana and Batman are the two best things that ever happened to him. What if he can't keep them both?

Indeed, Dana is in position to be as great a temptation to Terry as Andrea was to Bruce. Andrea was, after all, a gangster, a killer from a family of killers. Bruce Wayne loved her -- but the only way he could keep her was to become a bad man himself. In contrast, Terry can only court and keep Dana by becoming a GOOD man. But a good man is not the same as a Batman.

What makes Dana extraordinary is that she's ordinary. She has no skeletons in her closet, nothing to hide. She took a bitter criminal and tried to bring him back to polite society. In exchange she wants him to stay with her in that society. It's unlikely that her definition of "good" extends to a vigilante starting fights in the street. She might understand his feelings, even tolerate them for a while. But Dana's tolerance has limits. Dana is the woman most likely to deliver Black Canary's timeless lines :

"I love you. And I'd love to make babies with you. But I won't make orphans."

It is selfish of Terry to put others in danger. Dana has seen enough violence already. Would she like to see her husband killed? To see her children killed? If Terry is ever caught, would she like to be arrested as well? To be hunted by the press and Terry's enemies for the rest of their lives? I doubt it.

Max would probably insist, "we can handle them." But Dana is more in touch with reality.

The reason Dana deserved better treatment is so that the fans would love her as much as Terry does. It needs to hurt when Terry loses her. He has been set up from the beginning to lose her. If he gives up being Batman, he'll hate himself. If he gives up Dana, he'll hate himself. That's as it should be. This part of his life was simply too easy. How can Terry comprehend the sacrifices of becoming Batman if there aren't any?

CONCLUSION.

Target characters (scapegoats) may shoulder the blame for "Batman Beyond's" travails, but they shouldn't. It is a common mistake among amateur writers to paint a character into a corner, kill him and call that a plot. If a character doesn't work, look to the writers. But if a supporting character develops the star -- forces him to grow, to change, to make hard choices -- why, that is a character that works. The Old Maid

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