Gotham Girls (2002)

Rating: **(*)
Review Date: 2/12/10
Cast: Tara Strong, Adrienne Barbeau, Diane Pershing, Arleen Sorkin, Bob Hastings

A brilliant series that sadly suffers from the limitations of the medium. "Gotham Girls" is a series of short vignettes developed in Adobe Flash featuring the ladies of Gotham City, namely Batgirl (Tara Strong), Catwoman (Adrienne Barbeau), Poison Ivy (Diane Pershing), and Harley Quinn (Arleen Sorkin). Professionally produced and utilizing the character designs and voice talent from the fourth season of "Batman: The Animated Series," the series looks sharp and has a playfully sexy tone. Unfortunately, the quality isn't consistent across all three seasons, and while the animation for seasons 2 and 3 is technically better, the character design is noticeably off with sloppy lines, harsh angles, and extremely exaggerated proportions.

Season 1 is by far the best of the bunch, sticking closer to the style of the TV show and showing off the girls in a more playful light. The constant feuding between Ivy and Harley is delightful, and so is the rivalry between Batgirl and Catwoman. Season 1 only suffers from its brevity and somewhat stiff animation. Based on these episodes alone, I would give the series a solid three star rating.

Season 2 is the weakest season, mostly due to the unattractive character rendering and weak writing. It's unfortunate because it explores some very neat ideas, including the "Miss Criminal Mastermind Pageant," "Goldilocks And The Three Babes," and a wonderful hard-boiled detective story featuring Harley tracking down a lost cat. Had these stuck with the Season 1 conventions, they would be the strongest episodes in the entire set.

Season 3 takes a more serious turn and represents a single running story line. It also introduces several more female characters and explores some gender bending themes with transvestites and lesbians. Something has made all of the men in Gotham City disappear, and Catwoman is blamed. Batgirl knows that she's innocent, but in defending her becomes a wanted criminal as well. Batgirl, Catwoman, Ivy, and Harley have to put aside their differences and work together as a team to expose the real criminal mastermind and bring things back to normal. While the story offers some nice plot twists and cliffhangers, the writing is a little too heavy handed and the forceful feminist tone leaves a bad taste. Why can't you just write a female oriented story without trying to make some sort of sexist political statement and comment on society? Pointing these things out only deflates the strength and conviction of the characters and denies their empowerment. It seems like whenever a story is written about female protagonists, subtlety flies right out the window. A metaphor doesn't work if you have to point out that it's a metaphor. The character design is still off, but it's fortunately less extreme than the work in Season 2.