Almost a year after it was announced that The Avengers director Joss Whedon was attached to a Batgirl movie for Warner Bros., Whedon has now released a statement saying he is no longer attached to the project. "Batgirl is such an exciting project, and Warners/DC such collaborative and supportive partners, that it took me months to realize I really didn't have a story," Whedon admitted.
While Whedon's departure may indeed have simply been the result of writer's block, the news also doesn't come as much of a surprise, and there were almost certainly other factors involved. Since the Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator was hired to direct Batgirl last year, Whedon has been plagued by one controversy after another. His first foray into the DC Extended Universe - completing extensive reshoots on Zack Snyder's Justice League - resulted in a movie that was met with dismal reviews, and led to DC fans demanding to see the "Snyder Cut" instead.
Here's a breakdown of Whedon's ill-fated involvement with Batgirl, and why it ended before things ever really got moving.
Whedon Was an Unpopular Choice to Begin With
The original announcement of Whedon's Batgirl was met with a pretty lukewarm response from fans - in particular, because the appointment was made official in the lead-up to the release of Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman. As the first ever major studio superhero movie directed by a woman, and the first female superhero movie in a long time, Wonder Woman was viewed as something of a test to prove that female-driven superhero films could succeed. The movie ended up grossing more than $821 million worldwide, and receiving widespread love from fans and critics alike.
THR's report of Whedon's departure claims that the director's struggle to come up with a story only compounded the already shaky situation of a male director tackling a Batgirl movie in the wake of Wonder Woman:
Sources say that Whedon, after a year of trying, could not crack the code of what a Batgirl movie should be. Wonder Woman, meanwhile, became a cultural phenomenon as well as one of the biggest hits and most acclaimed movies of 2017.
Industry sources add that even as Whedon faced story issues, in today's cultural entertainment environment, a male filmmaker may have faced greater public scrutiny if he were to have tackled a movie with such feminist importance such as Batgirl or Wonder Woman, much like a white filmmaker would have seen backlash taking on the Black Panther movie.
The Tracking Board elaborated upon this story with the detail that new DC Films chief Walter Hamada, who was appointed to the position just last month, is now planning to fire a female filmmaker for Batgirl. The initial backlash against Whedon was compounded when, in June 2017, the internet collectively rediscovered his 2006 script for a Wonder Woman movie and lambasted it for its objectification of Diana, and the way it centered the story on Steve Trevor instead of its title character.
Thanking the entire universe for not allowing the sexist & terrible Joss Whedon Wonder Woman to ever get made. pic.twitter.com/xZrBsjmVY4
— yeet! (@ladylibberty) June 15, 2017
Then, in August 2017, Whedon became swept up in the discussion surrounding sexual harassment and sexism in the film industry when his ex-wife, Kai Cole, published a guest blog in The Wrap claiming that Whedon had cheated on her many times during their marriage, and calling him a "hypocrite preaching feminist ideals." Cole said that Whedon's infidelity included "a number of inappropriate emotional [affairs] that he had with his actresses, co-workers, fans and friends." While the article was not a career-ending allegation like the stories that emerged about other Hollywood power players, it nonetheless served as another piece of bad press amid a year already fraught with backlash against Whedon.
In addition to all of this controversy, it's worth noting that a lot of DC fans weren't happy about one of Marvel Studios' most successful directors being brought into the DC fold. The DCEU's most staunch defenders have argued that what they love about movies like Man of Steel and Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice was their darker and more serious tone, which served as a valuable contrast to the more light-hearted adventures of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Many feared that Whedon's arrival on the scene heralded a new era for DC movies: essentially, an era in which they would simply strive to be more like Marvel movies. These fears were compounded with the release of last year's expensive team-up movie, Justice League.