The Murderous Feminine in Mythology: Why Poison Ivy Shouldn’t Wear ClothesPosted: January 14, 2012
I came to a realization when I was playing Arkham City: Poison Ivy looks weird wearing clothes. She’s been through many looks of course, all the way from Bettie Page in a green leotard to photosynthetic skin and ivy covering her naughty bits. It’s just her particular look in Arkham City, where she’s wearing a belly shirt and nothing else, looks so odd. Why (I mean, other than ratings reasons) would she even wear clothes at all?
Poison Ivy is beyond human society. The world of men is corrupt and hypocritical, and Ivy is liberated from that. She wouldn’t hide her natural body under man-made clothes. Plus clothes are generally made out of exploited plants. Ivy wearing a cotton shirt would be like a vegan wearing leather. If she does wear clothes at all, they would be made out of living plants that willingly give themselves to protect their Earth-mother from the poisoned atmosphere of the urban world.
There’s another reason why Poison Ivy wouldn’t wear clothes. She is the very archetype of lethal female sexuality. She has a lethal kiss, powers that give her command over the minds of men, and an assortment of killer flowers. And you can’t get a much more obvious vagina-metaphor than flowers. Her oversized venus flytraps may as well be giant vaginas dentata. She is the villainous form of Mother Nature, a killer feminist who opposes the masculine rule of machines and imposed dominion over the natural order. Poisoned plants and evil women go back a long way in mythology, from Snow White’s wicked queen, to Eris and the golden apple, all the way back to Eve and the forbidden fruit.
This brings up an interesting interpretation of Batman. Bruce Wayne the innocent was expelled from his Edenic lifestyle when his parents were killed and he discovered knowledge of good and evil. It seems that any heterosexual couple in the Batman mythos is doomed to be broken up by death and replaced with membership in the largely homosocial Batman clan. When women do come into this world, is is largely as an imposition, whether it’s the unwanted help of Batgirl and Batwoman, or the numerous evil girlfriends that Batman’s had over the years.
Poison Ivy is thus the ultimate representation of that unwanted feminine. She can take heterosexuality and turn it into a weapon. The romantic partners she chooses for herself tend to be women. Thus she is everything that men are supposed to fear in female sexuality, gaining power by taking advantage of men’s lusts yet only truly satisfied by her own sex. By that interpretation, she would never wear clothes, proudly bearing her own sexuality. She is the phobic inversion of the male gaze – though she seems to promise sexual satisfaction, her bloom is lethal.