Zoe Kravitz in The Batman Made Me Realise How Awesome Catwoman Is!
A look at some memorable renditions of Catwoman on screen over the years
In Matt Reeves's The Batman, Selina Kyle aka Catwoman is living in a tiny apartment with lots of cats. Her suit is something any woman can buy at a clothing store – a pair of leather pants and a leather jacket, along with a mask that looks like it was cut from a woolen beanie. Her mode of transportation is a regular motorbike. Her powers are her sensuality and her fighting skills. Her weapons are regular tools, which one can buy at a hardware store, and not to forget, her claw-shaped, super-sharp nails which I believe she dedicates a good amount of time to shape, sharpen, and maintain strong. Everything she has is something any woman can have. She's not a rich person, she has no superpowers. She's a self-made fighter. She made me realise how awesome Catwoman actually is.
The last time and only time I saw Catwoman was in the 2004 Halle Berry movie. And the way the director and the writers for that movie portrayed her was nothing short of amateurish, disrespectful, and ridiculous. They put Halle Berry in uncomfortably tight leather pants that was ripped in several places and a very revealing bralette that was supposed to be "sexy" and made her crawl all over the place in the name of "superpowers".
Matt Reeves' rendition of Catwoman wasn't something revolutionary, but it was a little respectful. His writing had too many flaws, but let's come back to how his iteration made me realise how awesome Catwoman actually is.
Memorable Renditions of Catwoman on Screen
Catwoman is considered a villain/anti-hero and over the years, has been seen as sort of heroic too--the Robin Hood type noble-hearted thief. In 2022 movie The Batman, she reminded me of the old Spider-Man, except she did not have any superpowers. Her skills are something she must've practiced hard to get. She has no bulletproof suits or high-tech weaponry. She ain't rich for it. She is an average middle-class cat lady, helping a woman of an underground club in the time of need from the hands of greedy men. She's the hero we need. This made me want to know more about other iterations of Catwoman.
Apparently, the reason Catwoman was first created was because the co-creator of Batman, Rob Kane thought the comic "needed a female nemesis to give the strip sex appeal... a sort of friendly foe who committed crimes but was also a romantic interest in Batman's rather sterile life."
There's nothing we already didn't know about men creating female characters just for the sex appeal or for plot device. But thanks to film and television, Catwoman became more than just that throughout the years.
The first time Catwoman appeared in a live action was in the 1960s Batman series. Julie Newmar played a fun, non-sexualised villain who had playful encounters with Batman for all the looting she did with her team.
In the second season of the show, Newmar left the show and was replaced by Eartha Kitt, a black actress, singer and dancer. During that time, The Supreme Court had reversed a law that banned interracial marriages. So the writers felt the need to avoid any backlash that would occur if Kitt’s Catwoman was romantic with Batman.
Due to this unfortunate restriction, television fortunately got a black, female actress who played a role that wasn’t focused on a man or romance. She was a thief who acted in her own interest and had her own motives, ambition, and desires.
The orientation of Catwoman has always changed from white to black to Latina, which again reminds me of Spider-Man and what Stanley said about how there could be anybody under that mask. He said, “What I like about the costume is that anybody reading Spider-Man in any part of the world can imagine that they themselves are under the costume. And that’s a good thing.” This sentence has been true for a character of another universe whose orientation has changed over time.
Catwoman's next appearance was in a movie: Tim Burton's Batman Returns. She was played by Michelle Pfeiffer, a white actress. Her character had a complexity to her. She was an average woman who’s looked down on while working as an assistant at a firm. When she learns something she shouldn’t have and is pushed down a building by her boss, she is revived by stray cats and her character transforms from a helpless assistant to a powerful woman who oscillates in a morally grey area.
Next came the cringe-worthy 2004 Catwoman film, after which Catwoman appeared in the 2012 Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises film and was played by Anna Hathaway. Hers too was a beloved portrayal. Her character had her own motives and she was a good-hearted thief who helped people in danger.
And again now, in 2022, Catwoman has appeared in The Batman and although not exceptionally-written, it made me realise how awesome Catwoman actually was.
I hope that one day we get an honourable rendition of Catwoman in her own movie. One that she deserves. One that we all deserve.
In the hands of a good writer, she can be portrayed as a hero of the common women who uses her skills to defend them from predators, and her loot to make the lives of those in need a little better.
Who was your favourite Catwoman among these women?