Alfred, No!

December 18th, 2009 by | Tags: ,


Yes, he did. 

No, not like that.

Of course.

This panel is from a story in the Batman 80-Page Giant issue that came out on Wednesday.  In  it, Alfred picks up a hooker who looks to be in her late teens or early twenties.  He takes her out to a fancy party, while she’s still in her street wear.  People talk, Alfred makes a scene defending her, and they get kicked out.  He suggests they go up to a room.

There’s a panel in which the girl is in the bathroom, freshly showered and in a towel.  She’s looking at herself in the mirror saying, “You can do this,” while Alfred, visible through the open door but turned away from her, sits on the bed in the main bedroom.

Then she comes out in full snow gear (boots, pants, sweater, gloves, had, scarf), and he tells her she looks wonderful.  They go to the bus station, he tells her that he has had her criminal record erased and puts her on a bus headed for home.

The story should work, but it doesn’t.  Not quite.  And the reason it doesn’t is in that first panel.  There are plenty of comics that make it look like something morally questionable is happening, only to reveal the character’s noble intentions, but by leaning too hard on the double meanings, this story buries its own point.

The point is that Alfred is trying to do right by this girl.  He’s insisting that people treat her with respect and give her a chance to shed her past.  But that’s not really happening in the story. 

A respectful person doesn’t take a woman to a party when he knows that she’ll be ridiculed there.  Alfred can afford a dress for this girl, and has clearly shopped for her.  Still, instead of letting her wear something appropriate, he exposes her to ridicule.  Fighting for the girl’s honor doesn’t ring true after her deliberately brought her somewhere she’d feel self-conscious in inappropriate dress.

Then there’s the matter of Alfred sitting on a bed with the door open while a girl showers in the next room.  I can count on one hand the number of times Alfred has sat down in a chair on panel.  And I can’t imagine he wouldn’t close the door when a girl was changing in the next room.  But they need to make it look like something might happen, so they make him do something out of character.

Then there’s the last scene, in which Alfred announces that he spent the night with a prostitute.  This is a page after he told the girl that she didn’t have to worry about her old life catching up with her and she could have a ‘fresh start.’ 

The story follows the letter and not the spirit of this character’s code of conduct.  In going out of its way to portray Alfred as gentlemanly, it keeps him from being a gentleman.

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11 comments to “Alfred, No!”

  1. *applause*

  2. I think that ‘takes her to a party in streetwear’ bit could work, in a “if you weren’t a prostitute this would have gone so much better, don’t you want to NOT be a prostitute any more?” sort of way. As in, you never know what opportunities will come your way, and if you’re waiting for them in prostitute clothes you’ll still be able to take them but it will go badly whereas if you’re waiting for them in nice-girl clothes (as well as whatever made you leave home-clothes) then people will be more likely to accept you, won’t that be nice.

    Hmm. Still pretty crude, I guess.

    It’s also just weird to hear Alfred say “prostitute”. Maybe that’s just me?

  3. Meanwhile in the Marvel Universe, Jarvis probably was spending an evening with a prostitute.

  4. @Gavok: “Meanwhile in the Marvel Universe, Jarvis probably was spending an evening with a prostitute.”

    I’m just going to sit back and pretend it was Snuffy. That’s a cross-over I can get behind.

    @claire: I guess it’s true that he could have been trying to make her decide to get the hell out of Gotham.

  5. Is it me, or do the spires on top of the building look like bat-ears?

    Aaaaaaand I got nothin’ else.

  6. Huh.

    See, I was reading that story too, and I just couldn’t put my finger on why it was so bizarre and weirdly out of character. I could see he was being a nice guy, but for some reason, I was just really bothered by Alfred’s logic. I figured maybe I had always thought of him to be too prudish for this sort of thing, but I think you’ve hit the target.

  7. So basically, Alfred fails to take the moral ho ground.

  8. That bugged me so much–I’ve already ranted it about it elsewhere, but it sort of shows the problem of a character who’s a gentleman clearly being written by a writer who isn’t. Bringing the girl to a ball in that outfit? After Alfred has canonically bought how many appropriate outfits for characters in the same situation?

    Referring to his alleged friend as “a prostitute” to his family like a dirty joke after she’s not even a prostitute anymore and made it clear she hated being known as one?

    It’s like the author couldn’t figure out how to really write Alfred as classy and therefore in character without undermining the whole story by giving him OTT ways to be a hero. Alfred basically sets her up so he can put on a show.

  9. so alfred is an enabler for bruce wayne, but will shame a woman out of her hooking by making her go to a party in hooker clothes?

    but yeah, it seems like the writer might have been trying to show some ‘tough love’.

  10. Ugh, this story made my skin crawl. What was Alfred getting out of taking the girl out dancing? I shudder to think that he was actually _enjoying_ himself, pulling a stunt like that, but that’s certainly what it looks like. The whole thing is creepy, creepy, creepy. Poor Alfred, being abused this way.

    I, for one, am going to pretend the whole 80-page giant never happened.

  11. So very skin-crawly. Hated this. It seemed like the writer was getting off on the ickiness of the situation and had no idea how to write Alfred as an actual gentleman. Who wouldn’t shame the woman by taking her to the party like that but who did so in this story just so the writer could write him acting out later–that’s lazy plotting. Alfred also wouldn’t snicker about a young lady to Damian and Dick. How did this got by an editor, anyway?