Should Art Depict Trauma?
I personally feel there is no definitive answer to this question because by nature, a person should be able to express themselves through art; even if it exposes a very real trauma that has afflicted the character. To deny them that, is to deny them of their right to express themselves. The controversy surrounding the batgirl cover is purely subjective as it ties back to the Killing Joke. A comic that one could argue reveals the Joker at a time where he was more diabolical than he had ever been. To pull that cover based off that alone is wrong. The point of being a hero is to overcome trauma and hardship. That’s what makes a hero. Let’s also not forget, that Batman has endured many years of trauma, involving death and to some extent ‘sexual indecency’ and yet there was no outrage or requests to pull the covers. Why are we as people, so focused on the gender stereotypes that we forget that when it all comes down to it, we are all equally human, and equally vulnerable.
The cover in question, exemplifies and conveys very well the fear that comes with the Joker, it offer’s agency to overcome that challenge. Is the Batgirl weakened in this image? Yes. Is that really a bad thing? No. It should be added that an endgame cover depicts this same image but with the action of wiping away the red smear, suggesting she did overcome that particular trauma. As a writer of many forms of fiction, it would hurt me deeply if my work was pulled because a few people spoke out against it. From what I gathered, the majority of those associated with the tag #CHANGETHECOVER and #SAVETHECOVER are all for the cover to be used.
As of right now, that cover will not distributed, as of right now, the hard work that Rafaal Albuquerque spent to make this cover is wasted, all because a bunch of sensitive folk can’t handle sensitive imagery. Let me take the Alex Cross series as an example and as such expect spoilers ahead, in a two part story, Thierry Mulch goes to extreme lengths to shatter the mind of Cross, in many ways paralleling what we see in the Killing Joke. In this he rapes a woman, and fakes the death of Cross’s family, he then feeds Acadia to crocodiles. Now that is disturbing imagery, that was prose, I can only imagine the comic equivalent. Mulch and Joker, are prime examples of the ‘Perfect Killer’, they do it because they can, and because they understand, they know what it takes to break down the mind. All because they had one bad day. The Killing Joke was in my mind about the depiction of good and evil, and how we tread on a fine line between the two. As such, this cover fits with the tone of the story, and serves as a harsh reminder of what Barbara went through. It humanises her, you see her like this, and you emphasise with her. You put the Endgame cover next to this one, and you feel assured, because she has conquered her demons.
In the end, I am more afraid of where this type of thing will lead. How are we as creators supposed to express ourselves if it takes a single mob to banish us to oblivion. Art can interpreted and critiqued but please don’t destroy it. It’s a medium that explores the human; it can define a time and a state of mind. It conveys our fear and our joy. It is equally beautiful as it is terrifying. And that is why no one should see their work censored. It’s time to make our stand, not just as writers, readers, and artists but as people who appreciate what art means to humanity. It shows our past, our present and possible future. It is a place of hope and fear.
Unless you would rather the alternative.
And if you want that. Then.
And you will see that the path we are on.
Is more foreboding and scarier than the image in question.