catwoman_batman_returns_badass_1Badass Femmes is a column written by So from So’s Reel Thoughts, featuring all the Badass Females in pop culture that shaped her life.

As a woman in a male dominated world, it’s easy to feel helpless and preyed upon, having most of our opinions sidelined and our bodies served as eye candy. Needless to say, it’s an idea our media is happy to uphold, and one that Tim Burton’s iconic Batman Returns brings to light so well through Selina Kyle. Played by Michelle Pfeiffer, Kyle is the epitome of a working class woman, combating patriarchy and sexual harassment on the daily. It’s only when she hits rock bottom that she transforms into the resilient and powerful Catwoman, awakening a side of herself she never knew existed. Reborn as the lethal femme fatale, she fights against the very system that made her who she is – it’s a poignant, tragic transformation, one that’s too important to ignore.

If a man’s worst fear is rejection, a woman’s is getting killed by a man. This fear comes to life for Selina through her cruel boss, Max Schreck, a business man named looking out for himself and no one else. As his secretary, Selina’s constantly belittled and bullied, showing a glimpse of the sexist treatment that many women have faced in the working place. Bespectacled, meek, and a labeled a “spinster”, Selina is treated and seen as a second-rate citizen, a zombie to the mind-numbing cycle of the corporate system. After Shreck pushes her off a building to her death, her rebirth and accompanying mental breakdown cause her to trash her apartment, shredding dolls to smithereens, and essentially manifesting the hell she feels deep within her soul into her environment. Her screams of fury and outright rejection of everything she once was allows Selina to be a cathartic avatar for her repressed identity and all the women who have been silent for too long – she’s quick-witted, snappy, seductive and finally able to stand on her own.

Newly transformed into Catwoman, Kyle oozes with deviance, tantalizing charisma and is sharp as a whip – she’s also got a knack for killer comebacks and one-liners. Even as catchphrases however, her verbal outcries evoke a sense of anger towards the world. “As I was saying, I’m a woman and can’t be taken for granted. Life’s a bitch, now so am I.” You can feel her deadly scorn and pain with every purr, lick and scratch that she makes. She even preaches about being our own heroes rather than waiting for a “Batman” to save us. There’s no doubt that Selina’s harsh world has turned her cold, extending as far as the men she unwittingly decides to trust. This is most tragic in context with her connection to Bruce Wayne – both monsters of their own kind, a happily ever after just isn’t in the cards, and deep down inside, she realizes that a white picket fence would be settling.

Easily stealing the show, Michelle Pfeiffer’s iconic Catwoman has stood the test of time, layered and nuanced through an incredible performance full of unmistakable zeal and incendiary urgency – it’s because of her that Selina’s tragedy resonates. When Selina’s offered no redemption (sacrificing herself to get justice against the man who murdered her), Catwoman becomes the embodiment of every woman out there who’s learned to survive on their own, fighting against a system that has already placed them in second place. As a woman, sometimes we have to pull our sleeves back and fight it out with the big boys if we want to be our own hero. And you know what, I’m all about that life.

S.U.

For more of So Yun Um, visit her website  So’s Reel Thoughts, or follow her on YouTubeFacebook & Twitter.