Comics/Graphic Novels

Wrath of the Feminist: The Women of GOTHAM

Deepali Agarwal

Staff Writer

Deepali Agarwal has a Master’s in literary linguistics, which means that every person she’s ever known has, at some point, asked her to ‘edit a thing’ for them-- ‘just see if it reads okay?’ She doesn’t mind, because she believes that the world can be fixed one oxford comma at a time. Deepali lives in Delhi, the capital of India, where cows are sacred, but authors and poets exist and write brilliant things. She works as an editor with OUP India’s School ELT division, where she moves apostrophes, looks up pictures of cats, and talks about children’s books for eight hours. The rest of her day is spent reading, thinking about Parks and Recreation, and wondering if there exist jobs for English majors that pay more than peanuts. Twitter: @DeepaliAgarwal_

When FOX’s Gotham first premiered, I was quite enthused about the casting. With Jada Pinkett Smith at the forefront, it seemed to have women (especially women of color) in strong, badass, and visible roles. The focus was, of course, on Bruce Wayne and James Gordon, but the show looked like it was striving quite hard to be inclusive and smart about their casting choices and character development. However, since then, any strong feminist undertones have been gradually unravelling, and the female characters have either been killed off, gone missing, or pronounced crazy. This process has been quite slow and subtle, but struck me quite hard while I was watching Season 2’s Episode 19 (Wrath of the Villains: Azreal).

As of now, a couple of episodes or so away from the Season 2 finale, here is where the women of Gotham stand:

1. Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith): Mooney absolutely dominated the screen all through Season 1. I wouldn’t say that her character was unproblematic from start to end, but her presence was threatening, she had extensive power over the many men around her, and she had razor-sharp dialogues. ALSO, SHE LOOKED THE ABSOLUTE BOSS.

So here’s me when they literally shoved her off the show:

1. Fish Mooney Gotham

2. Sarah Essen (Zabrina Guevera): So let me try to be as clear as possible here without letting my rage consume me. You give me a smart, strong woman of colour as the Captain of the Homicide Unit, she does kickass police work, and is finally promoted to Commissioner of the GCPD. Next thing you know, Essen is killed off by Jerome Valeska without a single qualm, all to incite Detective Gordon’s rage.


3. Renee Montoya (Victoria Cartagena): Queer, confident woman of color. Exits the show halfway through the first season for totally unjustified reasons. I would’ve loved to see more of Cartagena’s character, and her relationship with Barbara Kean, but that was not to be. Which brings me to…

4. Barbara Kean (Erin Richards): I think Richards is amazing, given that she’s working with a very limited, stereotypical framework. Barbara Kean’s unraveling as a ‘crazy’ person leaves quite a bit to be unpacked. After we get to know of her bisexuality, and affair with Montoya, Gordon basically treats her in a madwoman-in-the-attic manner, and goes running into the arms of Leslie Thompkins. Next, she somehow ends up in a wedding dress in a dramatic scene where she’s hanging on to Gordon’s hand outside the window of a church (Just NO). The icing on the cake would be last week’s episode- when she declares that her ‘long sleep’ (read coma) was good for her ‘crazy’.

2. Barbara Kean Gotham

5. Leslie Thompkins (Morena Baccarin): This could still go either way. Lee was quite independent, and brilliant as a medicinal practitioner when she was introduced, but gets lost as Gordon’s partner, and is reduced to being disapproving of his dangerous job. Last we saw her, she was begging Gordon to not abandon her; last we heard, she’d lost her child and had moved away. Since Gordon seems to be more focused on solving the Wayne case (yet again), I’m hoping against hope for a turnaround here, where Lee is brought back and holds her own.

6. Kristin Kringle (Chelsea Spack)- Kringle moves from an abusive relationship to one with Nygma, where he wastes no time in killing her. I wasn’t particularly mad about this one until last week, where I realized that her murder is to be the reference point for how Nygma becomes a supervillain. Turns out she was just a plot for the Riddler arc.

7. Bridgit Pike aka the Firefly (Michelle Vientimilla): Pike was the saving grace that wasn’t. The fact that Firefly was a woman who overcame an abusive environment had made me so, so ecstatic for a week or so. Even though the origin story was short, and Pike was taken to Indian Hill with no guarantees of a return to the show anytime soon, there was hope. That was until I came across this piece, where show creator Bruno Heller is quoted as saying the following: “We decided to make Firefly a woman because we wanted to describe how even a warm, loving and compassionate person can turn to the dark side when life pushes him or her that way.” OH NO, DEAR SIR.

3. Lee Gotham

8. Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova): Herein lie all my chances for feminist redemption. Again, the character is not free from flaws and sexist treatment. She’s tougher than tough and extremely self-sufficient, but has basically appeared whenever and wherever Bruce Wayne has a rich-white-person existential crisis. While Gordon infantilizes her and Bruce seems to be selectively susceptible to her charm, I still think that Kyle is extremely self-aware about her character’s treatment. Case in point her reaction to Bruce’s latest brushing-off, where she’s with me in my disappointment:

4. Seline Kyle Gotham

Since it had begun on a much more hopeful note, I’m hanging on to the show despite my disappointment and rage. However, if things continue down this road, the Gotham cast will soon be all-male-all-white, with testosterone-y range and vengeance.