To date I have seen The Dark Knight Rises twice and I'm scanning my calendar trying to figure out when I can see it again.
Honestly, I'm surprised I love this movie so much. I didn't think it could possibly live up to the hype and was sure it was pale in comparison to The Dark Knight. And though I am a fan of Tom Hardy, I thought Bane would be a terribly uninteresting villain. Boy, was I wrong.
There was one decision of Christopher Nolan, however, that I never questioned -- Anne Hathaway as Catwoman. I had very high expectations of Hathaway's performance and she surpassed them. Not only was she cool and cunning just as Selina Kyle should be, but Hathaway also displayed Catwoman's internal conflict with every move she made and often with just a simple stare.
After reading an article by Shoshana Kessock titled Anne Hathaway: The Best Catwoman Yet I realized that Nolan and Hathaway had not only created a Catwoman that would make comic nerds happy (my husband says it was as if Hathaway just walked off the pages of the comic books), but one that should be celebrated by feminists too. Here's why:
1. Hathaway's Catwoman is confident. From the moment we're introduced to Selina Kyle it is clear that she is a woman who knows who she is and is, as Kessock states, "unapologetically herself."
2. Hathaway's Catwoman is complex. She is not some stock sex-kitten character. She's a complicated woman with principles, particularly principles regarding the haves and the have-nots. She's a woman struggling to balance her need to survive and protect herself with her gut reaction to do good and help those for which she cares. And yes, she happens to be sexy as hell too, but in a way that seems natural, not forced or over the top. As Kessock writes, "When she dons the cat suit it’s for practical reasons. She is not out to display her body, she needs clothes that will protect and not get in the way during physical altercations."
3. Hathaway's Catwoman is competent. Sure, Selina Kyle is a helluva thief, but she's also witty and smart as a whip, which allows her to stand toe-to-toe with Batman/Bruce Wayne in battle and banter. As Kessock argues, Hathaway's Catwoman explodes that tired whore with a heart of gold trope. Catwoman becomes Batman's equal making their connection more believable, which I never found it to be in past movies or even in the old school Batman TV show. Selina Kyle doesn't need some White Knight, (er, Dark Knight?) to ride in on his horse (er, Batcycle?) to save her. Yet, Batman causes her to consider living a life that is about more than just survival. And as Kessock writes, "In her attraction to Batman, Hathaway’s Selina is every woman who has ever been intrigued by a complicated guy who throws their world upside down."
Thanks to her complexity, her intelligence, and her conflicting principles, Hathaway's Catwoman also becomes relatable. No, most of us aren't spending our nights picking pockets, beating up bad guys, or flirting with masked superheroes. But most women do know what it's like to fall for the guy you never thought was your type and most of us are every day fighting to live the best lives that we can.