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On Rachel Jeantel, Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, and Who is Presumed "Innocent"



I started watching Dark Knight Rises, last night. That’s the latest Batman movie if you don’t know.

It’s about 164 minutes long, and I only got through half of it.

But  so far, I have to admit that thus far, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I did the first several. I think what really distracted me was Anne Hathaway’s Cat Woman character. The movie is supposed to be a social commentary about class warfare and the oppression of the poor by the greedy elite of Gotham. I get that and appreciate it. I really do.

But yea, I kept on thinking about race and gender; the narrative of what it means to look like Anne Hathaway. All these men who encountered her were ‘tricked’ more easily because they just assumed that she is non-threatening. Let’s face it, that is the narrative fed to mainstream America for decades: white, slim, young, able-bodied, conventionally beautiful females are so desirable, that they can easily convince the white men in that movie (assumed all to be heteronormative) that they are innocent and non-threatening. There is the scene in the movie when the SWAT team comes in to rescue the congressman that she ‘abducted’, but she gets away because she collapses to the bar floor, screaming in hysteria, as soon as the police enter. She is pretending to be that ‘frail white woman’ who would never be implicated in the violence happening in that room; she literally walks out the door. At that moment, I turned to my husband and made the comment, “Yea, that wouldn’t work if she were Black man. She’d be presumed ‘criminal.'” Well, that probably wouldn’t work if she were a Black woman either who resembled the look and talk of Rachel Jeantel. Jeantel has been dragged through the mud, constructed as a ‘stupid black’ woman with invalid testimony; who deserves no sympathy for the emotional anguish of being grilled and having lost a close friend. Jeantel is simply the EXACT opposite of Anne Hathaway’s Cat Woman; the exact OPPOSITE of the mainstream meanings applied to that representation of Catwoman. It may seem random, but I kept on thinking about Rachel Jeantel as I watched Catwoman’s interactions with everyone.

The movie is supposed to be about class, but I just kept on thinking about how Catwoman’s focus on being “done wrong,” due to her class and not being able to escape her record. I just wonder to what degree her anger came from the fact that her whiteness didn’t garner her the social mobility she expected it would. Her white ‘pretty’ female privilege go completely unnamed to the audience. She could even ‘pass’ as the upper-echelon of society because of her whiteness; for example, when she was at the [all white] benefit ball put on by Ms. Tate. She is so ‘distracting’ that even Batman didn’t know that her ‘kiss to him’ (though he didn’t ask for it, of course he wants to be kissed by her! What ‘normal’ man wouldn’t want that!?) was a distraction to steal the valet ticket that gave him access to this expensive car.

Anne, you do play the part very well. I’m not focusing on your acting ability at all.

Anyway, of course I think about these things because I do critical race feminist analysis. You may not think about these things 🙂

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