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  • Writer's pictureShannon Heibler

Batman Returns (1992)

So this was a late addition to The List and it is the movie I have broken the rules most often for. Chiefly, I have watched it so many times before the Random Number Generator decided it was time. Truly. The fine folks at HBOMax are probably set to do a welfare check if I don't watch it once a fortnight.

I don't remember watching it as a kid, save full body cringing/covering my eyes when The Penguin bites the guy's nose. But I didn't like it nearly as much as I liked Batman (89). The Penguin was scary and Catwoman was so angry, which I did NOT understand because Batman liked her so what's to be angry about? HOOO BOY WHAT INDEED!

And that's the crux of why I watch this movie so often now. Mostly, it's really refreshing to see a movie give such space to a woman for being angry. The movie gets it. I'm constantly floored by the way the score supports Selina ransacking her own apartment. It's soaring, it drips with tragedy and pathos. It's not short string bursts like a Bernard Herman, highlighting the disconnect from sanity. No. Danny Elfman is so gentle but present with his scoring of both Selina and Oswalt's downfalls. There's shockingly little judgment. Just regret.

And, frankly, Selina's destruction, as grand as it is, is one of the truest depictions I've ever seen of someone's grief for the loss of themselves. The life they thought they'd lead. The opportunity to make things better for themselves. When she destroys her former life, it's almost as though she can't even conceive of it anymore. This soft, pink world has betrayed her. She was probably taught, like so many of us, that if she was soft and pliable and compliant, she would be safe. She would be loved. If she was a good girl, she could order her life as she saw fit. But of course, her softness was trod upon. It's easy to understand that she sees it as the reason she was so abused. So now, where there was pink, there's black. Where there was a welcoming greeting, there is a warning. Where there was forgiving plush fabric and textures, there's vinyl that's tearing itself apart. It's a brutal scene. I'm so grateful that Burton had the sense to treat it with gentleness. It's a shame that Selina doesn't get more opportunities to heal. Instead, she's only met with more violence. Over and over again.

Actual footage of me sewing.

There's something extra heartbreaking about the form Selina takes in her new life. Yes, she likes cats, she has a cat, feeds other stray cats(?), and is seemingly resurrected by cats, BUT it's Max who says she's not "housebroken." Max who asks her what curiosity did to the cat as he prepares to kill her. Max who has a grinning cat as the logo for his department store - a cat whose head is, in its simplest shapes, very very similar to the mask Selina makes herself. It's so cruel that the man who destroyed her has such influence on her rebirth.

I deeply appreciate that when Bruce says to Selina, "you've got some darkness, don't you?" She doesn't shy away from the accusation. She embraces it. And I'm here to tell you, shadow work is Queen shit.

A quick aside that I covet her hair for lots of reasons but right now I'm obsessed with the fact that it's a style I was always told to avoid but it's beautiful and free and even when it looks "bad" she embraces it fully and is really sexy for it.

As Selina gets more relatable over time, the world of Gotham gets more familiar. Men corrupted by power and money. The novelty of The Other used for control and ultimately violence. Legacies of greed and cruelty. That used to seem so overblown and now, the antics of Gotham would barely last a day on cable news.

Danny DeVito is a treasure. He gives his all to absolutely everything he does and I wish I enjoyed It's Always Sunny... more because of him. His death scene in this movie haunts me and I tear up every single time.

Michael Keaton is my favorite Bruce Wayne and he's delightfully off kilter in this, again. Love it. His exchanges with Alfred are so odd and I adore each one. (Realized tonight that this was written by Daniel Waters, who wrote Heathers!! It makes all the sense.)

I think this is my favorite Burton film. It's the kind of camp I live for (see Grease 2) and it's a grand superhero movie that is unhesitatingly WEIRD. Incredible.


Jean jacket, paint, EL wire


-Golly I'm pleased with this one. I never dreamed that I could paint something like this. I'm so proud of myself.

-I've come a loooong way with EL wire since Tron, but I'm still frustrated with how bulky it is. I mean, relatively speaking. It's very wee but it doesn't hold curves or take sharp angles terribly well so I always feel like I'm settling for its shape. If I find out what the secret is, I will redo the lighting on this jacket.

-My denim triptych on Feminine Rage is complete.

Next week: a different type of feminine rage and study of grief and the unending audacity of men! My Fair Lady. A musical I love very much and have Very Icky feelings about in adulthood.

I hope this week you allow yourself to feel all your feelings so damn deeply. Howl and hiss with abandon. Treat yourself to some dairy even though you are painfully aware that you are lactose intolerant (because there is no god). But mostly, don't let anyone silence you, even yourself.

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