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Roxane Gay Wants to Write the Batgirl Movie

The New York Times writer’s campaign to take over from Joss Whedon is gathering steam.
By  · Published on February 26th, 2018

The New York Times writer’s campaign to take over from Joss Whedon is gathering steam.

The news of Joss Whedon‘s departure from Batgirl was met with a surprising amount of approval on Friday. If it had happened in 2012, fresh off of the groundbreaking success of The Avengers, the response would have been rapturous. Instead, this update on the project came after several difficult years for the writer/director. In 2015, his Avengers sequel received mixed reception, and controversy arose over Whedon’s handling of the team’s only prominent female character. Whedon’s feminist bona fides were damaged, and they never truly recovered.

Last summer, Whedon’s ex-wife wrote a column for The Wrap describing his serial infidelity and manipulative behavior. Those who might previously have been excited by the prospect of a Whedon Batgirl were only further dissuaded. Then the release of last year’s Justice League, hastily reshot by Whedon, didn’t help. Whedon fans were disappointed in his recent progressive track record; DC fans in search of a mythical Snyder cut were mad that Whedon cut a black Superman suit out of the movie or something.

So when Whedon finally departed his next DC project after months of speculation, there was little surprise and much relief. Whedon’s explanation for his departure (“it took me months to realize I really didn’t have a story”) only provoked more outrage. If Whedon could turn up and claim any multimillion-dollar comic book adaptation without any pitch beyond “a movie about Batgirl,” what was stopping Warner Bros. from offering the same courtesy to a female filmmaker?

After this weekend, the old Colin Trevorrow explanation of “But they don’t want to” won’t stand for Batgirl. On Friday, New York Times essayist and prolific author Roxane Gay tweeted at the DC Comics Twitter account informing them of her interest in the project.

Normally, this kind of open campaign for involvement in a big studio project wouldn’t merit any kind of actual coverage. Tyrese Gibson’s persistent requests that he be seriously considered for the Green Lantern role haven’t led to any job offers that we know of, mainly because at this juncture a Green Lantern movie is about as likely as that Pepé Le Pew adaptation Max Landis thinks he’s writing.

But this time it’s slightly different, partially because of the uncertain future of the DC Extended Universe. Things are in flux right now over at Warner Bros., with directors abandoning projects left and right and producers shuffling job titles like a troupe of first graders playing musical chairs. If Gay, whose work on Marvel’s “World of Wakanda” was critically hailed before its cancellation in 2017, expresses public interest in writing a Batgirl movie, who’s to say no? Michelle Wells, a Warner Bros. executive who works on the DC Comics films, certainly didn’t.

Gay responded with a confirmation of her sincerity and promised to get in touch with Wells, so we can assume that the idea of her getting the job is well within the realm of possibility. In another world, the idea of a person getting a job writing a movie like Batgirl simply on the strength of a casual tweet would be absurd and slightly frustrating. But once again, if Whedon could walk into WB and snatch up a comic book movie without even writing up an elevator pitch, why shouldn’t an acclaimed writer like Gay be able to do the same? She has experience with the genre, a distinct and engaging political voice, and she’d probably write a superb movie if Warners gave her the space she needed.

The studio reportedly wants to follow the successful model of Black Panther and their own Wonder Woman on Batgirl, with Variety reporting that they plan on hiring a female director for the film. They might as well put their money where their mouth is and give the screenplay to someone who clearly wants the job. If the current disorganized DCEU debacle means Gay can ask for and receive a job writing a superhero movie, maybe it was all worth it to begin with.

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Writer and student based in New York. Ask me about my Blu-Ray copy of The Book of Henry.