Batgirl is set to return to the big screen in a standalone film sometime in the near future. When Joss Whedon helms the upcoming solo Batgirl adventure, it would be great if he could set the story in the 1990s, making her unfettered by the gloomy baggage of the existing DC movies. Here’s why.
The continuity of the new Batgirl movie is totally unclear, but there’s a good chance the powers that be at DC will want the film to fit into the existing DCU. This means even if it’s a “standalone,” the Batgirl movie will have to jive with what’s happened in Man of Steel, Suicide Squad, Batman v Superman, and the upcoming movies Wonder Woman and Justice League. Overwhelmingly, the aesthetic of these movies is dark, and that’s not just a tonal or philosophical critique. The films are literally shaded darker than most, so much so that many fan-made videos jokingly demonstrate what Man of Steel would like if it were “in color.”
The dark colors of Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, and Suicide Squad feel wrong for a Batgirl movie, particularly one directed by Joss “The Avengers” Whedon. So, setting the movie in the 1990s wouldn’t automatically mean brighter colors (darkness existed in the ‘90s, we hear) but a brighter color palette could a be a subtle way of distinguishing the film’s timeline. It looks like the Wonder Woman film is already brighter-looking than other DCU films. Also, like a hypothetically retro-‘90s Batgirl film, Wonder Woman is a period piece too. It’s set in 1916.
Whedon was also at the height of his powers when he was writing stories for women in the 1990s. Without a doubt, his lasting contribution to the zeitgeist remains Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Yes, Firefly is beloved among geeks who love to love things that got canceled too early, but Buffy is the true masterpiece. And you’ve never seen a fantasy show that was more ‘90s than Buffy. If a Whedon-written Batgirl was set in the ‘90s, it could feel like a Buffy renaissance. Joss could commune with his 1990s self and tap into all his creative juices that existed in a time before smartphones and social media. Essentially, the world that broke Joss Whedon and made him leave Twitter didn’t exist in the ‘90s. If the world of the new Batgirl was fictionally located in the same decade, maybe Joss could find that magic again.
A ‘90s Batgirl movie could actually help to subtly flesh out and explain the mess of the other DCU movies. We know the Joker in this universe killed some version of Robin, but which one? And when? The Whedon Batgirl movie could answer those lingering questions, which also could drop the need to have Affleck play Bruce Wayne. If Batgirl takes place 20 years prior to the DCEU films already out, someone else could play Batman, or even better, Batman could hardly be in it.
And if Batgirl’s alter ego in this new film is indeed Barbara Gordon, then that could set up something even cooler. Though there’s problematic and downright bad stuff in The Killing Joke — the story in which Batgirl/Barbra Gordon becomes paralyzed by the Joker — it did give rise to Batgirl’s more interesting and progressive persona: the hacker hero known as Oracle. Essentially, the disabled version of Batgirl became the bigger hero. Maybe the a retro Whedon Batgirl movie could set this up: be a Batgirl movie, but also be backdoor origin-story for Oracle.
If the Batgirl movie is a ‘90s period piece, then a version of Barbara Gordon as Oracle would be ready for future appearance in the contemporary DCU movies. Let the new Batgirl be fun and colorful in the 1990s, and as she becomes Oracle, the character can enter into the rest of the darker, and more serious DCU canon seamlessly.