I was talking to some of my friends about this yarn I’m trying to spin, writing about all the girls we have had crushes on as we grew up over the years. I wanted us to bring up old memories, hoping to remember someone I might be forgetting at the moment. It was a good thing that I talked to them, because one of them reminded me of Clarice Starling.
This is the trouble. You think of Clarice, you just bring to your mind her name – and that sleek, icy voice whispers it in your ear, every time. Clarice Starling, the woman who had looked at – and survived staring into – the abyss that was Hannibal Lecter.
The Silence of the Lambs is not a film someone like me would revisit easily. I take my rendezvous with movies quite seriously. I take my time with them, allow myself to be absorbed, let myself identify with the characters. With films like The Silence of the Lambs, or Natural Born Killers, or – to name something I watched more recently – Requiem for a Dream, the experience is too dark and deep to be casually reloaded very often. Clarice Starling is widely recognized as one of the best movie characters ever, the American Film Institute ranks her 6th on their list of all-time-greatest heroes. She is not, strictly speaking, someone you’d have a ‘crush’ on. But like with Sarah Connor, her character is so strong that you can’t help falling a little under its spell.
I have found Jodie Foster attractive ever since I knew her, though while watching her play Clarice you don’t really have the mental laxity to enjoy how she looks. This crush – if a crush it was – was rather odd in this way, – I found the actor attractive, and I found the character attractive, but I found the two things attractive in entirely different ways.
Jodie Foster isn’t the only person I think of when I think of Clarice Starling. I also think about Julianne Moore.
Back when I was at college, I remember, we were chatting about movies and actors, and as someone brought up Hannibal, a friend of mine wailed – “Ouf, Julia-a-nne Mo-o-ore!” I felt him, totally; it was a mental-high-five moment. Julianne Moore, a great actress by all standards, was undoubtedly one of the hottest people to grace the silver screen. I had seen her in Hannibal, and in Fugitive, The Lost World, and The Big Lebowski. I had hated the fact that she had been cast in a negative role in The Hunger Games films because I would have enjoyed liking her rather than despising her. Julianne Moore was awesome. – By the way, have you noticed? These redheads are so dangerous.
And that brings me to the redhead named Barbara Gordon, also known as Oracle, also known as Batgirl.
I fell for Barbara Gordon while reading Nightwing. Nightwing himself was one of my favourite characters. He was someone I could put my life in sync with, someone who combined the frivolity of Spider-man with the intensity of Batman. I should probably mention in passing that Dick Grayson is generally considered to be the sexiest male superhero in comic-book lore across all universes. There is probably a lesson in that for aspiring writers, because Dick Grayson is also one of the best-developed characters in comic; it goes to show that being attractive is not merely a function of how one looks, but a mix of all the facets of their character. Dick was attractive that way. And his relationship with Barbara goes to make one of the most perfect couples I have come across, in fiction or in real life.
Barbara has had many personas in her career. I had a crush on what she was as Oracle. Is there anyone else in the Bat-family whom Batman treats kinda like an equal? Barb inherited her father’s character of iron, and on top of that, she was a genius. She was so dangerously good at what she did – it was scary. To the bad guys. And maaybe a bit scary to the good guys, too.
And let’s not forget that she was Batgirl. She had trained under Batman, and she used to work in tandem with Dick Grayson, the finest acrobat Gotham City has ever seen. So if you thought you could physically overpower her just because she was now in a wheelchair, – you’d be in for a bad, bad surprise. We’d seen this situation unfold more than once as we’d read the stories, – it was a treat every time. … Some of the most memorable moments of Barbara taking the stage can be found in the Cataclysm storyline, where Gotham City was hit by a devastating earthquake and reduced to rubble. Cataclysm is so good, it can be taught in classrooms as a study in social science. All of the Bat-family had played significant roles in the story, and Barbara had been on the frontline from the very start.
While Barbara was the girl for me in Gotham City, – Selina Kyle was definitely the woman. Selina. Once again, the name itself has a way to it. When Adam Hughes drew his version of Selina, he modelled her on Audrey Hepburn. But my quintessential Selina is perhaps something I saw in the pages of Hush, in a medium-sized panel with a close-up shot of her face. The art had been done by the great Jim Lee. That picture sublimated her in my mind as the classic noir heroine of graphic novels, someone who reminded me of renegade adventures of romance and intrigue, spy stories and murders in dark alleyways at night. The cherry-red lips, the gleaming black leather, the arched eyebrows and the feline intensity of the gaze in her eyes – if any lady was to haunt the night alongside the Dark Knight of Gotham, it was Catwoman.
While we are on the subject of the Gotham girls, I’ll put in a word about Harley Quinn. Harley is undoubtedly one of the funnest characters out there. I was lucky to have grown up watching Batman: The Animated Series, the television masterpiece that gave us the voices of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill in the roles of Batman and the Joker, and introduced the character of Harley Quinn for the first time. In the show she was voiced by Arleen Sorkin (similar names, huh). These days everyone identifies her with Margot Robbie, but not me. I grew up through the 2000s. If you ask me,
I’d say the Harley our generation has loved is the one from the cartoon, and the version we got in the Arkham games (voiced by Sorkin again).
My relationship with Harley was kinda simple. I didn’t have a crush on her like I did on Barbara or Selina, but she was someone whom I found very much sexy. Especially so when drawn by Jim Lee, and as I would find out later, Frank Cho. In their hands, Harley came across as an irresistible hot-bod gymnast, kicking ass while quipping bad jokes and getting on everybody’s nerves, and taking you down hard the moment you thought you got her. It was a mistake – as many found out the difficult way – to think of her as just another carried-away kookie nuthead. Comicvine’s description of her powers say:
Poison Ivy gave Harley a strange brew that increases her strength and speed. She doesn’t have powers far beyond those of mortal man but she really has more physical strength than any Olympic athlete. She is able to put any man to the floor in only two punches or one kick. Her legs seem really powerful, she manages to jump very high without effort — this, coupled with her prodigious gymnastic skills, makes her an incredibly acrobatic and “bouncy” threat in combat, adding to her momentum with pendulous weapons such as her hammer.
In the stories, the only person to completely pop her balloon used to be a grim, stoical-looking Batman, who usually dispatched her with the air of an exasperated headmaster.
Finally, I’ll end this one with Katniss Everdeen, – the girl I should have had a crush on, but instead ended up befriending.
Katniss is a kind of character that I like everything about. She’s unselfish, brave, kind. She is a badass fighter, great team-player, and an able leader. She is an archer – which puts her in the same category as my oldest role model from fiction, Robin Hood. I did not meet her in the books – I haven’t gotten around to reading the books to this day. I watched the movies. I identified with her so much when I watched the movies that I bypassed falling in love with her. I should explain that it was not Jennifer Lawrence that drew me – it was Katniss, the character.
I liked the whole Hunger Games package, actually. I still listen to Horn of Plenty sometimes, thinking of the districts of the nation of Panem and how they had risen in rebellion, wondering when we’re going to do the same in this nonfiction, un-idealistic world.