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The Catwoman Line In The Batman That Has Some Fans Seeing Red

After years of anticipation, Matt Reeves' "The Batman" finally arrived in theaters last week, running away with the weekend box office, and fans are already voicing their impressions of the film, both negative and positive. With Robert Pattinson in the Batsuit alongside Zoe Kravitz as Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman, the cat and the bat square off against Paul Dano as the Riddler, Colin Farrell as Penguin, and John Turturro dripping with sleaze and menace in his surprisingly large role as mob boss Carmine Falcone.

With so many characters, it's not surprising that "The Batman" is a long movie, topping out at close to three hours. That means there's plenty of material for fans to rehash, from adrenaline-pumping action scenes to the reimagined cityscape of Gotham in which they take place. As The Riddler takes one victim after another and unleashes his master plan on the city, Batman must solve the case and put a stop to him along with Catwoman and Lt. James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright). But this movie has time for more than Batmobiles and explosions, and there is plenty of personal drama to fill in the quieter moments. One such moment, which occurs during a conversation between Catwoman and Batman, has become the subject of polarizing discussion among fans, with some praising it and others taking outrage.

Selina Kyle called out the systemic white privilege of Gotham, and some fans aren't having it

One of the central themes of "The Batman" is Bruce Wayne learning to navigate the blind spots afforded to him by his immense wealth and position of power within Gotham's elite. Although he lost his parents at a young age, he was raised without ever having to worry about being taken care of materially, and that can't help but affect his outlook on the world. 

In a pivotal scene, Selina Kyle confronts him after he shows a lack of interest in tracking down her missing friend Annika. Batman wants to stop The Riddler from gruesomely killing any more of his high-profile targets and goes so far as to imply that whatever happened to Annika was the consequence of associating with criminals. An enraged Selina identifies him as being raised rich. She then goes a step further, claiming, "All anyone cares about in this place are these white privileged a**holes: the mayor, the commissioner, the DA, now Thomas and Bruce Wayne. I mean, as far as I'm concerned, that psycho is right to go after these creeps."

For a certain subset of fans, that admonition brushed them the wrong way. On Twitter, @joymdiv groused, "Catwoman mentioning 'white privilege' in #TheBatman is making me not want to pay money to go have my intelligence insulted." Others even reported seeing people leave the theater after the line, with @DannyVegito recounting, "someone says 'white privilege' at some point in The Batman and some nerd behind us scoffed and walked out while repeating the line to himself." Although both tweets are slightly misquoting the film's actual dialogue, it seems any construction of the two-word phrase was enough to make some people see red, and even write "The Batman" off entirely.

Plenty of fans think Catwoman's call-out was justified

While some fans may not have been happy to hear Catwoman's criticisms of Batman and the power structure in Gotham, others loved to see a Batman story finally address one of Bruce Wayne's biggest weaknesses. When umbrage over that particular line began to circulate, many were quick to identify the anger toward it as thinly veiled racism. @KittyStudio wrote, "If you are mad that the #Batman movie had diverse actors and/or said ONE line about white privilege, then you're really letting your racism show. Representation is really important and hello, white privilege is a thing. It all fit with the movie and made sense." 

Elsewhere, @ATGcast summed the controversy up more succinctly, drawing a line between good and bad faith criticism: "To be clear: if you didn't like #TheBatman that is totally alright. If part of your commentary is 'only two white characters are good guys and the rest of them are [people of color]' and the phrase 'white privilege' being uttered in a film about corruption is troublesome to you, that's not OK."

There's a bit of real-world commentary at play in Catwoman's line as well. Zoe Kravitz has revealed in several interviews that she lost an audition for Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight Rises" because she was deemed too "urban" for the past — she did not specify, though, whether or not she was auditioning for Catwoman. "Being a woman of color and being told at that time that I wasn't able to read because of the color of my skin, and the word urban being thrown around like that, that was what was really hard about that moment," Kravitz said. In response to that piece of news, @thecharlottekid tweeted, "this is why her line about white privilege is so relevant to her character's story + a necessary piece of the script."