Can Catwoman Challenge Patriarchy?

Curator's Note

It was in 1940 when the character Catwoman appeared in DC Comics’ comic book, Batman #1. Since that appearance, Batman and Catwoman have been written in several mediums (film, television, novel, and comic book) as having a flirtatious and/or sexual relationship. The relationship between them is typically highly problematic because it perpetuates patriarchal beliefs about male-female relationships. However, during the 1990’s Catwoman discusses and therefore brings into the dialogue major issues with patriarchy. Examples of this include but are not limited to the 1992 film Batman Returns (the pink collared Selina Kyle (Catwoman’s alter ego) dies at the hands of her patriarchal corporate boss, Max Shreck), several episodes of Batman: The Animated Series (1992-95) (such as this clip from the episode “Catwalk”), and Catwoman’s second comic book series Catwoman (in issue #60, where we learn Catwoman’s greatest fear is relying too heavily on Batman because she wants to be an independent woman). It should be noted that in each of these appearances Catwoman is allowed her own voice. The audience is allowed access to her inner thoughts. After viewing the clip, I thought about the following questions: What are some of the ways that patriarchy is challenged? Is it a sufficient enough of a challenge? Does the fact that this program was meant for children change the effectiveness of the message? What narrative elements cause us to side with Selina, in the Batman driven narrative? What ideologies is Selina questioning with such quotes as “Tell me I’m not in a cage now?” and “Had to promise I’d be a good little pet and walk on a leash.” Finally, this is just one piece of popular culture, is this clip part of a larger movement in the 1990’s? What else speaks in the same tone as this piece?

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