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He Said, She Said: The Women of 'The Dark Knight Rises'

What do you think of the women of latest Batman flick?

Do not read this if you want to avoid spoilers!

As a passionate fan of Christopher Nolan’s Batman franchise, I was heartbroken and disturbed by the at a midnight premier of the final installment, The Dark Knight Rises. It was with trepidation that I bought my ticket to see the film on Saturday night, but the Denver tragedy seemingly did nothing to limit the eagerness of other fans, who sold out the 8:15 pm showing I was planning on attending. The 8:45 pm showing was similarly packed, and as soon as the breathtaking action-heavy first sequence began, the audience was immersed.

Rather than write a comprehensive (and gushing) review of the entirety of The Dark Knight Rises, I’d like to focus on what I found most interesting and surprising: the women of the Batman franchise. The city of Gotham is largely male, a gritty and dark playground of moral ambiguity for Bruce Wayne to sprawl across, battling the mob, broken institutions of government and the police force, and unhinged terrorists like Heath Ledger’s exceptional Joker. Of the 3,000-plus police force featured in this film, not one female cop is shown.

Femininity is left represented by only three female characters, all slender, Caucasian brunettes. But that being said, these women are fierce.

In the previous two films, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, the lone female lead had been Rachel Dawes, Wayne’s gutsy childhood sweetheart and Gotham’s assistant district attorney. Played in turn by Katie Holmes and Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dawes is hardly a damsel in distress, making a career out of standing up to the mob and the Joker alike. Although she doubles as Bruce Wayne’s love interest and symbolizes his future after his time as Batman, she is never a weak-willed girlfriend figure, in the end choosing Harvey Dent over Wayne shortly before being kidnapped and killed in The Dark Knight.

The Dark Knight Rises takes place eight years after the events of The Dark Knight and brings in a whole new cast of characters, including Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman, and Marion Cotillard as Miranda Tate, the new CEO of Wayne Enterprises, and far more than meets the eye.

To dismiss these women as Wayne’s new love interests would be a mistake. Selina Kyle is a stunning anti-hero shimmering through the streets of Gotham in her all black ensembles and leaving the audience wondering just whose side she is on. She wields her black high heel stiletto boots as a weapon and arguably steals the show. Meanwhile, Marion Cotillard serenely smiles her way into being the movie’s true villain in a brilliant about-face from a noble and pretty philanthropist to a steely mastermind intent on continuing her family’s legacy.

Comic book movies are largely a male domain with a woman yet to carry her own franchise. Rumors of a Wonder Woman reboot helmed by Joss Whedon floated around on the Internet for several years before the project went defunct. For now I’ll just have to buy another round of The Dark Knight Rises tickets and have Anne Hathaway’s performance tide me over until a female superhero finds her way into theaters. 

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