Explaining the “Mansplaining” in this month’s Batman and Robin #18

So I feel like, after it being all over Twitter and Tumblr, I should give an explanation for the “Mansplain” panel from Batman and Robin #18.

For those of you who don’t know, yes, the villain told Dick Grayson’s Batman that he doesn’t get to Mansplain to her. It was some funny shit, but at the same time, with context…slightly demeaning.

If you actually read, and haven’t yet, and don’t want spoilers, move along, but I feel like there needs to be an explanation.

Paul Cornell is only writing three issues of the book as fill-in until the new regular writer comes on after Grant Morrison finished one of his more comprehensible and entertaining stories since his All-Star Superman, and Paul has introduced a new villain.

Her real name is Una Nemo, a shrewd businesswoman, richer than Bruce Wayne, and scorned by most men for acting like a man in the business world. She used to date Bruce Wayne, until things got too serious for him and he realized the relationship was turning into something more than just keeping up the appearance of a billionaire playboy.

So he ends things, and she goes on a cruise with a friend, telling her the story and feeling a little disappointed. The friend tells her she shouldn’t have let Bruce get away so easily, because rumor is he’s on the hunt for a wife and that was a test…or something. It was very gold-diggery. But the friend says Bruce probably loves her…which…yeah.

It’s revealed that Bruce did care for her, but it didn’t go that far.

Una buys it just as the cruise gets overun by robbers, who shoot her in the head because she tried to take them on.

She falls into the ocean but…doesn’t die. She winds up with this ENORMOUS HOLE in the middle of her head that makes her super smart, but everybody thinks she’s dead. She goes to her own funeral, intending to reveal herself and be dramatic, when she realizes that no one there is actually mourning for her. They all hated her, and thought she was a “bitch.”

When she realizes that Bruce (who actually was dead at the time, except that Tommy Eliot (The villain Hush) has been running around as Not!Bruce due to some handy plastic surgery) didn’t show up to the funeral. He sent flowers.

Flowers.

It drives her nuts, probably due to the GIANT HOLE IN THE MIDDLE OF HER FOREHEAD! And she starts going on a murder spree.

When confronted with Dick and Damian’s Batman and Robin, Dick tries to reason with her, telling her she doesn’t have all the facts, which prompts the knife to the Grayson Family Jewels, and the “YOU don’t get MANSPLAIN to ME!”

Ten-year-old Damian tells her she’s insane, and Dick tells him to STOP HELPING while she has a knife so close to his junk.

After there’s a fight and everyone gets away (genitals all intact), Una decides to go after Bruce’s ex-girlfriends.

It’s like Scott Pilgrim in demented reverse.

First victim? Vikki Vale. Poor girl can’t catch a break. First Ra’s, now this.

The big problem is…well…the character isn’t quite…I mean, look, I love Paul Cornell, but the fact that Una is doing all this because of a man’s lack of attention? Iffy. VERY iffy.

On top of that, Bruce comes off with his shit smelling like roses, when he clearly needs to stop pretending to play the field, for the sake of a secret identity. His actions have consequences that Dick and Damian (and Vikki and whatever other exes are roaming around) now have to deal with, because he’s far too busy roaming around Asia with Catwoman.

This walks the fine line of “oh this is cool! She’s nuts but she’s a strong woman” and “ooh. No. No. Don’t…don’t do that. No really don’t do that.”

I’ll be interested in next month’s issue though, whether it be steaming hot mess, or something a little more enlightened. Here’s hoping for the latter, but expecting the former.

Comments

  1. DM says

    *Googles* Why does she have that giant hole in her head?!

    Anyway, yeah, it seems like “mansplain” in this context was used to illustrate what an irrational ball-busting feminist nut of a character she is…especially considering she actually had a knife to some dude’s balls at the time…

    …I’m really distracted by that giant hole in her head.

    • says

      I did mention the hole, didn’t I? The GIANT hole? Yeah.

      As for the “mansplaining” yeah…out of context, it’s a funny panel…in context, not so much. :(

  2. Casey says

    I Googled her too…GODDAMN THAT HOLE IS TOO BIG. And for some reason, considering how you described her character, I expected her to look older. She looks like a raver-pixie-imp with a semi-stripperiffic outfit. I thought she’d be intimidating.
    So yeah, ah-boooooooooo….[/dissatisfaction]

  3. says

    Sigh…it’s not the first time I’ve read a character like that. Certain …traits… are used for female characters as “shortcuts” to their personalities. Like she was a career woman, so she’s a “bitch”. She expects to be treated with respect by the hero, she’s “demanding and possessive”.
    Nevermind that male characters are allowed to have many nuanced character traits, not all of them good, without those traits being black-and-white shortcuts for the reader to more easily stereotype and discount whatever they happen to do/say.

    It a painful reminder how “HARD OMG!!” it is for these male comic authors to actually get into the heads of their female characters like they were human beings or something.

    • says

      It makes me a bit sad, really, because I enjoy Cornell’s work, generally. I can make excuses that he was put on the book last minute for only 3 issues, and probably didn’t have much time to come up with a story, but…I don’t think I want to defend it…he could have done far better.

  4. Chai Latte says

    Only one thing comes to mind: the inimitable Inigo Montoya from ‘The Princess Bride’.

    “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

  5. chickwithmonkey says

    Thanks for posting about this, Leigh. I don’t usually read DC but after reading this post I found these two issues at the bookstore because I like Paul Cornell a lot and I was interested to see the use of the word “mansplain.” I commented on PC’s blog and he wrote back surprisingly quickly. I don’t know if you permit links in comments but the site is PaulCornell dot com and the comments are on the post titled “The Twelve Blogs of Christmas: Three.” (Direct link to my comment: http://www.paulcornell.com/2010/12/twelve-blogs-of-christmas-three.html#c7265330628952234700 )

    I was disappointed to see another commenter praise the character as “specifically female” for “overthink[ing] … when the object of [her] affection loses interest.” Ignoring the fact that the character doesn’t so much overthink as turn into an obsessive psychopath, it’s unfortunate that there are still women who think that only women are affected by romantic relationships and men (all men, everywhere, apparently) shrug off prospective partners after six dates without a second thought. They’re too busy having other things to think about, obvs, while even a wildly successful and rich business-owning woman must find a man to validate her.

    • says

      Thanks for the link to the post! I read the comment and…yeah. See, I can’t hate him. Totally reasonable answer, coming from any writer.

      He seems genuinely interested in what you think, which is nice to see, considering quite a few in the comics industry could give a crap.

      And he’s right. “Mansplain” is a word that started out as one thing, and will inevitably transform into something else. Whether that’s go or bad is another matter entirely, but that’s true.

      Having been a fan of his other work, I’m willing to give him til the last issue to make a call on what I think of Una. I left my opinion of her slightly on the ambiguous side because the story isn’t over, though I do expect to be a bit disappointed if I’m honest. Maybe it’s just easier that way.

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