Friday, October 27, 2006

Stephanie Brown Memorial Case - I Don't Agree.

I don't know that much about Stephanie/Spoiler/Robin IV. I don't even have general Wikipedia knowledge. I have a hazy idea that her father was the first Spoiler and he was a criminal and it shamed her and she wanted to fight crime. And as far as I know she dated Tim. But the biggest bit of hazy general knowledge is that she was Robin and she died and that there's no memorial for her in the Batcave.

Now I've spoken to a couple of people about this and I thought that was it as far as 'my say' on the issue. Since I'm really not following the issue. But everywhere I look on my feeds or my journal's flist - there it is. "Oh for shame DC. Oh how chauvinistic. Oh how unthinking. Oh how...."

And I find myself in the predicament of not quite agreeing with them. It's possible that because I never followed Stephenie's run that I don't have the emotional investment necessary to see this as so wrong. But when I first heard there'd been another Robin who died I did think it odd that the plaque under Jason's Robin costume didn't have another line or an accompaniment about 'Two Good Soldiers' or something.

But then I found out how she died. And then the more people spoke about it and that little interlude I mentioned previously, where someone spelt out what happened to me, the more I think that not having a memorial case makes sense. If you can hold on to how you may personally feel about this and follow my line of logic, I'd appreciate this. I don't often write to speak to anyone, but this seems too emotionally charged for me to write as if no one's reading.

My Thoughts

When Jason died, it was a failure for both Bruce and Batman, both aspects of the man who guards Gotham. He'd lost a son and a crime fighting companion. He'd gotten parenting and guiding all wrong and Jason had run off headlong into danger. He'd lost Jason with Jason thinking he didn't care and that Jason wasn't important, not as himself and not as Robin. And then on top of all that, he'd lost Jason to the Joker as part of something his enemy knew would demoralize him and hurt him.

How could he not have tried to make up for that kind of failure and unintentional neglect with an apology and the apology is the memorial case. It's for a good soldier. It's for the praise that Jason never felt he got in life. It's acknowledgment of Jason's contributions as Robin even if it comes too late for Jason to ever see it. (The 'revival' due to HUSH and Crisis not withstanding)

Jason's memorial is distinctly personal and is a warning and reminder for how both Bruce as himself and as Batman should treat the people in his life who are part of his world. It's a hard lesson learned. It's yet another loss of family when he'd sworn that nothing like that should or would ever happen again. Therefore it takes away from Jason's death and the lessons Batman learned from it, to have an identical case there with another uniform and another plaque. Those cases aren't reverse trophies. It's not like in the Toon!verse where the display cases with the costumes is a monument to Bruce's past. And it seems unfair to me to cheapen one memorial by making it less than unique.

This isn't to say that I don't think that those who die while fighting crime in Gotham (while in costume) shouldn't be remembered somehow. If members of the GCPD fall they have a space in a police memorial. But does anyone really want to have Batman admitting that losses like this are inevitable and then there'll be space cleared in the sanctum of the cave in the expectation of many fallen? Because I don't think the Batcave should have a wall like that. I think it'd take away from what the cave is supposed to be; from its mission and purpose.

I'm told that Batman used Stephanie to manipulate Tim, that he didn't want her fighting crime and from the scans I've seen ,she didn't die as Robin, she died as Spoiler. She died separate from Batman. She wasn't of him. It doesn't make her any less heroic for daring to face Gotham behind a mask and trying to do good. But it does make her death different. And given that she was Tim's girlfriend and she was used to get Tim to put back in the red, green and yellow, the emotional urgency of the situation would seem to go to Tim. Because from what I've gathered Bruce doesn't believe he did anything wrong. Stephanie's death was tragic but it did not come about because of his own inability to act, because of neglect or because of mistaken rejection. Stephanie's death didn't rock him the way Jason's did or the way Tim's would or Dick's.

So wouldn't he need to be prodded? And wouldn't that prodding make sense coming from Tim? If Tim had his own memorial to represent what this life means; the consequences and sacrifices; wouldn't that make more sense? Ragnell suggested a shelf in Tim's room in the cave, with her mask and hood. I think a single burning candle would also work. And who knows about some sort of combination, maybe with a picture of her; a way of Tim remembering his dead.

And from that and maybe Tim's need to remind himself of what happens when he's not there to be a Robin - a balance to Bruce's darkly pragmatic side - it makes sense to me that Bruce could then see Jason's memorial failed. And that he needs to think differently and think twice before he begins to manipulate someone else. Respect for Batman doesn't guarantee anything, because he doesn't have control over what other people do.

My suggestion was that there should be some sort of algorithm in the cave's computer systems that notes when he's paying particular attention to a certain person, researching them in a certain way. That program could tag or alert him in the middle of researching to make sure he's really thought through the emotional resonance of whatever it is he's about to do. And that could be a [ Spoiler Alert ]. Bruce didn't pay attention to how much his approval and working with him meant to her for her own sake. He missed the subtleties. According to what I've been told he saw her as a way to get to Tim and then he fired her and left her out in the cold. He did to her what Jason only thought was going to be done to him. From a different angle, Batman failed to remember that emotions drive motivations drive actions and that Stephanie's actions within Gotham (and perhaps the fact that she'd been working solo before and wouldn't stop just because he fired her) were the dangerous sort that could lead to death.

Some of the posts I've seen recently also talk about the fact that Stephanie isn't even mentioned. And I do believe that to be wrong. But I can understand how it can be tricky to bring up. Because in what context do you bring her up if you're trying to make her death separate from Jason's? Especially when from a certain angle it's also intricately related. Does it fall under the dangers of the job? Does it fall under not knowing when you're not suited for the work? Does it fall under not being careful? Does it fall under 'Beware the Mob'? Or does it fall under 'Batman's a prick and he will use you so don't even bother signing up you'll only get fired anyway? I'm fairly certain, all asshattery in Batman's semi-recent characterization aside, that Batman the Asshat is not what DC is going for. Or rather I sincerely hope that's not what they're going for.

And if Batman's not an asshat, I don't think it's fundamentally sexist that they're not cheapening a storyline (personal impact for Batman) that grew in depth as the years progressed. Jason's death started off as a cheap gimmick almost and then it became the newest goad in Batman's quest to root out and eliminate crime, wrong and evil.

If Stephanie's death is going to be played as a goad to humanize the Bat, it could be a tricky thing for the writers to figure out exactly how that will come to be. And until then a certain measure of denial and quiet in the face of everything else going on might not mean anything more than there hasn't been a storyline and or a writer who's thought up a way of handling it.

Now is this actually what's going on with DC or is it all really a case of white, male, privilege where they don't get how important Stephanie was to several fans - I have no idea. But I think that calling for a replica of Jason's memorial case is the wrong way to go about drawing attention to what her place is in Batman's ultimate story arc.

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