DCAU #191: Mean Seasons

IN THIS ONE... A discarded model takes her revenge in season-themed crimes.

CREDITS: Written by Hilary J. Bader and Rich Fogel; directed by Hiroyuki Aoyama.

REVIEW: I am all for creating new villains, and despite the unofficially named (Bullock coins it) Calendar Girl's surface similarities to Calendar Man, she truly IS new. This is a villainess whose Bat-mandated pathology is an acute case of body dismorphic disorder that pushes her into revenge schemes on the people who dismissed her when she hit 30, her age and ugliness all in her mind, which is why she wears an unmoving Japanese-inspired mask. You can see the twist coming - that she isn't scarred under there - but it's nevertheless a strong image, and it's interesting this WB show would make this political comment when the WB was and is still rife with "youth culture programming".

Unfortunately, neither Calendar Girl as a villain, nor the episode as a whole are all that focused. The name change leading to a new motivation is quite clever, but not all the pieces fit together very well. So she themes her crimes on seasons, then uses tricks that have to do with a holiday in that season, then circles a date on a calendar that's important to her but has nothing to do with the chosen holiday.  Her henchmen dress like Chippendales (and indeed we're subjected to slightly adult/sexist fare in other places, like the car show and the agent's sexual harassment). And then there's the bit with the convincing animatronic dinosaur... is that supposed to be a reference to both time and aging? Bruce Wayne's in there somewhere vainly looking for gray hairs, and undoes his company's mandatory retirement age at the end...

Are the writers perhaps feeling their age creep up on them? Truth be told, I find ageism is usually stronger the other way, and I don't feel bad for the employee's 65 years. Working at Wayne Enterprises and the boss knows who you are? Yeah, you're gonna be fine. Calendar Girl is a more worthy of our sympathy, and I'm not sure we care if Batman and Batgirl rescue her scuzzy captives. Are we perhaps meant to see this as a feminist episode highlighting how women are wrongfully considered old and used up much earlier than men? Because that's in there, but again, it doesn't come into focus very clearly.

IN THE COMICS: Calendar Girl is a clever reworking of the Calendar Man concept, though once the name was feminized, it gave the character very different motivations. The calendar-themed modus operandi are recognizable however. The car show includes models named after Paul Dini (writer on this series) and Ben Oda (a once ubiquitous comics letterer).

SOUNDS LIKE: Calendar Girl is played by Sela Ward (The Fugitive, Sisters, Once and Again) who at this point was campaigning against Hollywood's youth bias, which no doubt played into her casting. Fashion designer Donna Day is voiced by Tippi Hedren from Hitchcock's The Birds and Marnie. Barkley James, the car peddler, is Dennis Haysbert (24, The Unit). The sleazy agent, Irv Kleinman is Barry Bostwick (Mayor Randall on Spin City). And that's Charlie Rocket (Dumb and Dumber) again as network programmer Frederick Fournier.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Calendar Girl is an interesting new villain, but the script could have used some sharpening.


Andrew Gilbertson said...

"Truth be told, I find ageism is usually stronger the other way, and I don't feel bad for the employee's 65 years."
Wait 'till you get up there. I know I'm anxious as heck about how well I'll be able to maintain a job when I get up there...

This one was... uh...

Well, I get the point it's making. But I think it gets lost in the distracting trappings. (Unfocused, as you say). For instance, I'm busy wondering- if her career dried up because she was too old, where did she get ALL of the money for her pretty-expensive and extensive tech?

And then the unrealistic animatronic dinosaur showed up, and I realized- CLEARLY, for reasons known only to him (Probing defenses for a potential move in on Gotham? Smitten with a boyhood crush on her and angered by her treatment in recent years?), Lex Luthor is sponsoring Calendar Girl! He's funneling either funds or, more likely, cast-off tech that's proved ineffective against Superman to support her life of crime! Which explains the dinosaur- his spare was of no use to him after the first one failed to kill Superman in the museum. It actually fits pretty well; I mean, otherwise, you'd have to chalk two unbelievably-functional animatronic dinosaurs up to coincidence, and that's stretching things. ;-)

It also really highlighted the annoying (to me) trend of 'random shmoe of the week is an actual combat threat to Batman' (as we saw in You Scratch My Back, and will see again in Critters). No matter how rage-fueled, I just have trouble believing that the man who traveled the world learning fighting techniques and studied under the great masters and fought Kyodai Ken and Killer Croc to a standstill is challenged whenever a random thug, former model, or farmer/geneticist picks up a pointy stick. I just kinda feel like he should demolish them, simply because they're not on a level with Bane or Ivy or any of the other Rogue's gallery, and he can handle them with only *some* difficulty. I mean, I get the whole 'adrenaline/berserker rage' explanation (a la Quantum of Solace), but it just feels like Batman should have so many techniques, and such strength and experience, that he steps in a cold-cocks them after the first swing.

...So, yeah; things like that just got in the way. But the overall messages regarding age- and especially age and women in the entertainment industry- were appreciated.

Siskoid said...

Well, I'm no spring chicken, but I've consistently worked with young people, which gives me both perspectives. My generation is going to have a hard time at retirement age, and certainly, it's clear many people who should be retirees are working for minimum wage in the service industry or retail right now which points to a massive problem with our varying but all too similar systems in the West. But yeah, kids are getting a raw deal as well, and employers and co-workers of a certain age can have important biases. I see it all the time, and have been subjected to it due to my youthful appearance and demeanor.

In this case, it's about context. Guy wears a suit, works for Bruce Wayne, story takes place in the 90s... I wouldn't feel sorry for this guy's retirement prospects.

Andrew Gilbertson said...

True. But then, that's my worry. For this guy, I don't think it was about his retirement prospects as much as his desire to still be working, to still be contributing; to still be doing something with his life in his chosen vocation, when he still had more to give and no compelling reason to leave. In short, it was about being told he was no longer useful or needed for no reason but an arbitrary number- and I think that's a general human fear, rather than anything to do with economic status. It isn't about the money; just about the basic craving to feel useful; like you have something of value to contribute with your life.

That's how I read it, anyhow.

Siskoid said...

And it's a testament to Wayne's business that people would want to keep working there having prepared for retirement already.

But it's also part of the episode's lack of focus. It creates an equivalence that's just this side of false - a 30-year-old dismissed by Hollywood, and a 65-year-old male executive facing a well-prepared retirement.

Andrew Gilbertson said...

Well, I think the point was that it was a forced retirement; well-prepared and unwanted... and in both cases, it was an industry creating an arbitrary 'you can't really work beyond this age.' And yeah- one is definitely more detrimental in terms of financial impact (since it occurs much earlier in life). I think the episode is probably just pointing to the equivalency of 'It's a wrong mindset to have in any industry/age,' looking at the attitude as it manifests in different places, rather than trying to create the equivalency of 'This is the exact same situation in both cases and both people are equally impacted in their prospects for the future.'

Siskoid said...

More than that, the Calendar Girl story is a woman's issue story. Getting the old guy in there is AllGendersMatter and unhelpful.

Andrew Gilbertson said...

I... guess we disagree on that, then. I see it as an age-discrimination issue, as it manifests in the entertainment industry and the corporate industry; trying to overview that issue as it affects everyone and intersecting with a gender-related story in the process, rather than trying to focus on a women's issue and throwing in a non-sequitur alongside it.

In other words- absolutely appropriate to the issue they were focusing on; the focus was just in a different place (as I see it) than the one you're looking at- which is why it doesn't work as well in that context. Because that's not the story they were trying to tell. (Again, that could just be me; I have no evidence as to their intentions either way.)


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