Batgirl and Mental Illness
I usually try to stay positive here, but this is an issue that I feel deserves more attention.
At several points in the current Batgirl series, Barbara describes the criminals she’s fighting with derogatory words for mental illness, such as psycho and lunatic. This kind of language creates a link between mental illness and violent criminal behavior.
Giselle Stolper, President of the Mental Health Association of New York City, wrote this in in a letter to the New York Times:
Referring to villains as “lunatics” or “psychos” unjustifiably attributes violent impulses to every person with mental illness. As a result, a reader with depression may not feel comfortable seeking help for fear of the stigma of becoming the next Joker.
This is not an isolated issue, of course. Stereotyping of mental illness is very prevalent in comics, and other media. The Batman franchise is riddled with it. Trying to accurately and sensitively portray mental illness in a setting with Arkham Asylum is swimming upstream.
But it would be nice to know someone is trying. Not referring to villains as lunatics is a start.
These are some more articles on the subject of mental illness in comics that are worth reading:
I am Batgirl’s brother!
Commissioner Gordon had a son before he had a daughter.
In 1951, World’s Finest 53 showed us “The Private Life of Commissioner Gordon.” In the story we learn that Gordon has a son named Tony.
More than a decade later, readers were introduced to Commissioner Gordon’s daughter, Barbara. Tony had not appeared since World’s Finest 53, and he would not reappear until 1977.