Gerry Conway, the veteran comic book writer best known for killing Gwen Stacy and creating The Punisher, thinks it could be fun to see Matt Reeves’s The Batman explore what a female mentor — like gender-swapping Alfred, basically — would do to change the tone and feeling of the Batman movies after decades of basically the same dynamic between Bruce Wayne and the person closest to him. In a thread that asked Twitter users to fan-cast their own Alfred Pennyworth for Reeves’s upcoming Batman film, Conway suggested Maggie Smith, of Harry Potter and Downton Abbey fame. While talk of gender-swapping comic book characters usually brings some pretty angry people out of the woodwork, maybe Smith has a hardcore following among comics fans because Conway scored more than 19,000 retweets and the conversation stayed mostly fairly civil. Which is as good as you can ask for on Twitter.
In terms of gender-swapped reboots, this one is pretty unlikely to happen. Alfred’s prominence not just in Gotham, which ended recently, but also in the upcoming Pennyworth, which follows his days as a hard-fighting spy, makes any radical departure from the current DC take on Alfred feel pretty unlikely. Of course, you could avoid the whole gender-swapping approach if you were to cast Smith as Aunt Harriet Cooper, the character who was used to dispel some of the homosexual implications of Frederic Wertham’s scathing attack on comics, Seduction of the Innocent. Using Harriet instead of Alfred is a plausible — albeit highly unlikely — tactic, especially since it would require the introduciton of Dick Grayson (since she was his aunt, not Bruce’s).
Hear me out.
Maggie Smith. https://t.co/8ToF8FxCVP
— Gerry Conway (@gerryconway) June 7, 2019
That said, in the world where such a thing could happen, it might allow for some really interesting storytelling. First of all, Bruce Wayne is a person whose life and path was defined by the loss of his parents at a young age. Alfred became his de facto father figure, and certainly (especially in fiction) the way young men interact and related to their fathers is different than how they do with their mothers.
[Insert uninspired “Martha” joke here.]
From a psychological-development perspective, there could also be some conversation about whether Bruce would have grown up differently with a mother figure around rather than a father, although it seems likely any movie exploring that territory would have to be pretty overt about it in order to let the audience in on the gag, which would feel pretty out of place since really it’s more a commentary on the historical “Alfred” than anything else. Maybe on an alternate Earth on Batwoman or something…!
Ironically, Maggie Smith and The Batman star Robert Pattinson both had roles in the Harry Potter franchise — so the pair already have a pretty simple “Six Degress of Kevin Bacon” to play.
The Batman is expected to go into production soon with a targeted release date of June 25, 2021.
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