The Problem with Kite Man

Before we dive in to this a little back ground on Kite Man as a character for anyone who, like me, couldn’t really place him before seeing him in this series. Kite Man aka Charles “Chuck” Brown first appeared in Batman #133 published in August of 1960 and doesn’t see another issue until 1975. Kite Man is a B-list character at best, depending on the run he is either depicted as a divorced drunk, or a dad out for vengeance (Rebirth Run). He’s feature in a handful of story lines at the best and sometimes only make back ground cameos as a part of setting the screen or the illustrator having some fun. Along with many other character when DC Rebirth happened he was handed a darker origin story and some more panel time (he’s never been my favorite character so I haven’t read much of it) but over all isn’t in anyone’s villain hall of fame.

I personally didn’t have any real exposure to Kite man, at least not anything memorable, until his presence in the Harley Quinn series. Outside of the “Kite Man, Hell Yeah!” catch phrase he has never been a part of my Batman reading or viewing until is unpleasant appearance here. I’ve read a couple issues since, but not done any kind of deep dive so I’m not going to make an bored generalizations to how he’s been written over all or how it may play into the over all trans-media arch.

The other thing I want to note before diving in is that I in no way am painting Ivy innocent in this series of encounters so the incel haters in the back can shhhhhhh. I would suggest that her character flaws in the piece are a result of bad writing and the feminist efforts of the team going largely into Harley’s Character. But regardless of cause, they are flaws. I find Ivy’s flaws to be some what relatable, where as Kite Man’s, though potentiality relatable, result in the normalization of a personality type that is frequently toxic and can become abusive.

With that as framing back the Harley Quinn series and the point of this piece.

In Harley Quinn Kite Man is depicted largely as a clueless fuck boy with a thing for Poison Ivy that boarders on obsessive. He is still a B list character but has a significant amount of screen time and is featured in almost every episode. Chuck is writing as a seemingly sympathetic Character, too dumb to know better, but that’s a huge part of what makes him so problematic. Kite Man’s constant presence in the HQ series has been a thorn in my side and eating away at my enjoyment of the series since his appearance in the second episode and in season two has hit a whole new level of problematic for me.

Kite man enters the scene of the HQ series while Harley and Ivy are crashing the bar mitzvah of Joshua Cobblepot in “A High Bar.”

S1 Ep2 5:42 Kite Man’s opening line

Kite man approach’s Ivy and hits on her. Ivy is her “typical” dismissive, introverted ewww people self and writes him off. Kite man continues to attempt to flirt and be shot down on repeat. He then steals Ivy’s potions and uses it on the teenage friends of Joshua as a kind of partial prank, partial “see no one can resist you,” flirtation and an attempt to make him into some sort of hero fending off the enamored teens. This back fires in the best way possible.

S1 Ep2 5:47

Ivy, annoyed, explains that the teens will die as a result if they don’t get an antidote and Kite Man flies her to her apartment to get it. Kite Man then pulls a “naked man” which, if the story ended here would have been a delightful wink to How I meet your Mother and the Barney Stintson character Chuck so closely resembles in this iteration. Ivy, grossed out and repulsed throws his clothes at him, asks him to get dressed and explains that this wasn’t a move, that she needed to get the antidote back to the teens.

S1 EP2 11:27

As if none of that was problematic enough Kite Man blames Ivy for leading him on and asks “Why would you even have me come? I mean, a cab would have been faster.” blaming Ivy for the situation she finds herself in. Something any woman I know is all too familiar with experiencing. One can’t simple be a victim and female, the victim must also some how be blames for the actions of the person trying to abuse, manipulate or take advantage of them.

S1 EP 2 14:29

At this moment there’s a yuck factor. But you let is go. Assume the wink at other content that millennial audience enjoyed growing up, and let Kite Man disappear back into obscurity. A lesson in what it’s like to be a woman in the world today. The creeps we all have to deal with. But they didn’t let it lie.

Kite man continues his advances on Ivy as they fly back to the party with the antidote (why they didn’t get into a cab at this point is beyond me we cut to them mid air and don’t get to see that discussion or how, one assumed, he guilted her into it). To Kite man had apologizing for being a creep and half continuing to hit on her with a “I’ve just never been alone with a woman of your caliber before… Your eyes, your smile, your silky shimmering … strong woman… osity?” (S1, Ep2 16:19-16:29).

S1 Ep2 16:21

Unrelentingly, unyielding Kite man does not give up the flirtation. Not matter what Ivy does or how she reacts Kite man is refusing to stay a memory or a laugh and pushing his way into the story and spot light.

For reasons that are never really addressed or shown on screen, Ivy gives into Kite Man’s constant and never ending advances and they start dating, even though Ivy is embarrassed to admit it for a while. In episode Three, “So you need a crew?” Kite Man makes a brief appearance to sweep in and take all the Hench men with him on a half thought out scheme, Something Harley wasn’t able to do with a fully baked plan. When Harley later vents to Ivy about this Ivy’s main concern is if Kite man mentioned her, showing interest somewhat seriously for the first time. Not only is Kite man getting the henchmen Harley is after without trying or earning them. He’s Getting the girl Harley is interested in via a childish antics and unwanted advances. It’s straight white male privileged personified.

This would be problematic in any show. But in the context of a survivor story and along side queer baiting its potentially harmful. Ivy is set up as Harley’s support. Ivy sees Harley’s abuse and fawning over Joker and snaps Harley out of it. Only to get caught fawning over a guy dishing out socially acceptable harassment. Ivy knows Kite Man is bad news, a loser, but yet she’s finding herself falling for it despite arguably knowing better.

Kite Man Takes on the roll of voyeur in the next episode”Finding Mr. Right” where he, along side everyone else in Gotham watch Harley and Ivy fight batman on the Tawny show in an attempt to get a nemesis. There are two things to note about this sequence in as it relates to the Kite Man Ivy relationship. First off when they cut to Kite Man watching in the bar, He’s doing a bit of a “that’s my girl” happy dance as Ivy is introduced on the show. Even though, at this point. Ivy is not his girl and they haven’t had any dates, at least not on screen.

The second thing is that this scene clearly sets up the chemistry between Harley and Ivy. Tawny tries to dissect the relationship between the two women and frames it as a romantic one through captions like “TROUBLE IN PARADISE! IVY CALLS OUT HARLEY!” and “KISS YA? IVE HARLEY EVEN KNOWN YA” both of which are presumably shown to use from Kite Man’s point of view as the bar music comes in over the television framing in these moments (S1 Ep4 16:30-17:30). Making Kite Man very aware of the public perceptions of Harley and Ivy’s relationship. And yet, Kite Man continues to pursue the relationship. Which again shows a level of male entitlement which is enraging but the writers never seem to directly address.

When exactly Kite Man and Ivy become a couple is a little hazy as Ivy never really owns the relationship. In episode 7 they meet at Kite Man’s apartment for a date and it’s implied it’s not the first one since the party. Ivy shows up in full incognito mode looking, something between frightened and worried.

S1 Ep7 6:02 Ivy’s pre-date walk of shame

Not knowing exactly where Ivy is going at this point you get a sinking feeling as you see the number on the door which should be apartment 66 but the seconds 6 is broken off. When Kite man opens the door the viewers suspicions are confirmation. Kite man hands her a bunch of roses with the line “baby heads, with baby bodies! Guess who’s one step ahead of you?”(S1 Ep 7 6:06-6:14)

Kite Man then makes a distasteful joke about his apartment number claiming he fixed it to be like that, Ivy, dripping with shame says they should have met at the motel again because that’s more there thing. Implying there’s been more than one motel based booty call since we last heard from Kite Man. Kite Man then brings up their plans for the evening and asks Ivy if she’s sure dinner isn’t on the table. Ivy insists on just a movie and Kite Man leaves it with a “Gotcha! Restaurant next time!” (S1 Ep7 6:53) which is not at all what Ivy said. She has neither committed to a next time nor agreed to a high view public outing in the future at this point.

S 1 EP 7 6:32

After some in between action we Next see Kite Man and Ivy on the follow up date whcih Ivy looks thoroughly bullied into. Ivy has add a hat to her incognito mode and is covering her face with her hand. When Kite man starts to make a scene and say he booked this for him and his lady to be seen together (the restaurant is running behind on their table flips) Ivy cuts him off and, again on assumes, asks to just go see a movie instead.

It’s more than clear that Ivy is at a minimum uncomfortable with where the relationship is headed. At the worst seems to have been gaslight and coerced into where it’s at so far. She doesn’t want to be seen with this guy in public and yet, for reasons never explained, she’s with him. Every piece of these dates and interactions drips with date rape vibes. I question the mental well being of anyone not able to pick up these vibes. Which is why when Kite Man, after a 47 minute wait at the restaurant and plenty of clear verbal indication, acting shocked at the realization that Ivy is embarrassed to be seen with him doesn’t sit well with me.

S1 Ep 7 1617

Kite Man then, again, put’s Ivy into the position of comforting him enough though she’s the victim of being guilted into this public date. Kite Man freaks out, cries, ask if she has lingerie under her trench coat, blames her for the situations and forces Ivy into a position where she has to apologize for her feelings. Classic emotional manipulation that can be a part of so many toxic and emotional abusive, if not physically abusive, relationships. Kite Man eventually storms out, leaving Ivy asking him not to leave as Kite Man continues the claims that the situations is all her fault.

Ivy goes hat in hand to Kite Man’s apartment after this out burst. No longer trying to hide who she is. She says she’s there to apologize and Kite Man accepts without any addons (a little two easily given the size of his freak out at the restaurant). Ivy eventually gets her full apology out. Takes all the blame for the issues. Claims it’s because she’s not confident but likes Kite Man against all reason. The little back and forth ends with them arm and arm on the couch and Ivy introducing herself as Kite Man girlfriend to the room mate, with a quite “Hell Yeah!” uttered by Kite Man at this label.

The ways in which this makes my skin crawl are too many to list. But lets just leave it at this. Guys, if a girl doesn’t want to be seen in public with you then it should never have gotten to a point where you are in public together. And your public outburst over realizing this should never end in a label. If it does, you’re an ass and your relationship isn’t’ healthy *I’m looking at you Kite Man.

When Harley tunes in to Ivy’s story line enough to see it she along side the audience, has a “wait, what, really?” type of reaction as Kite Man is not the type of person anyone would imagine Poison Ivy to be with.

Ivy is self assured and helping Harley navigate out of and recover form a toxic relationship. Mean while Ivy’s entering into one that has the potential to be just as toxic and is ignoring all the warning signs. The love baiting and lost puppy dog following and begging get Kite Man into a relationship with Ivy that she never seems to fully invest in and doesn’t ever really want. Yet, she finds her self in it and progressing forward.

This duality of helping save Harley from her past while falling into a toxic relationship, seemingly unware is made all the more potent when Cat Women is introduced in the series and it’s clearly winked at the idea that Cat Women and Ivy used to be an item of some sort. It’s also suggested that the dynamic of that relationship wasn’t the healthiest adding a layer to Ivy once again falling for a toxic partner. But that’s a sidebar I wont get into more here.

Now this story in many ways is familiar to a lot of the female audience. Society, the guy chasing you, media, low self esteem etc will all tell you to give the “nice” guy a chance. But all doing so leads to is at best mutually toxic and at worst abusive relationship.

There is a good way to tell this story, if you’re doing to use it to comment on this society norm. You can have Ivy fall for Kite Man and realize the relationship is wrong and use her agency to end it. That’s not what happens though, Ivy despite not really wanting to move forward with Kite Man puts her whole self into the relationship. Ivy after avoiding the question multiple times says yes to dating Chuck. After multiple proposals she again gives in and gets engaged. Once engaged she becomes over invested in the relationship and in planning the perfect wedding.

While Kite Man and Ivy plan their wedding we are introduced to Kite Man’s parents in a attempt to “explain” why he is the way he is and get audience sympathy for his character. Now to be fair, Kite Man’s parents are the worst! They are described by Ivy as looking like “a country club fucked a yacht club” his parents can’t stand the table they are seated which they had to “read the manager the riot act” to get and the look on the waitresses face when Darryl (Kite Man’s dad) orders drinks and apps says it all (S2E8 7:06-8:06).

Kite Man introducing Ivy to his parents S2E8 7:28

Ivy then finds out when Kite man leaves the table for a moment that his parents have super powers, like Ivy, and have basically neglected Kite Man and looked down on him due to his lack of super powers. They are excited about the engagement because Ivy has super powers which means their grandkids might have them. It has nothing to do with their son’s happiness or who Ivy is as a person. Kite Man’s Folks are all about the power and status their union could bring. (S2 E810:20-10:35).

S2 E8 10:20

As much as I would love to be understanding at this point of Kite Man and all his flaws and behaviors this is a dangerous trap and re-enforces a stereotype about men who exhibit toxic and abusive behaviors that, when believed and enforce by society, puts thousands of women at risk every year. The idea that it’s not his fault he’s this way. He had a bad childhood. His parents were hurtful. His ex was controlling etc etc etc. Sure, these things can impact a person’s base line for what they expect in a relationship. But just like we all control ourselves enough not to swear at work or school, we can all learn and adjust our behaviours to not hurt people who we love or put our baggage on them in this way.

Kite Man’s need to come off as knowing more, like when they enter the restaurant in S2 Ep 8 and he mansplains what a 4 top is to Ivy (7:06) is likely something he’s learnt from his father. And Ivy, like most women, doesn’t directly call him out on it as it continues. Any woman I know has been here in a relationship. But the health relationships have that conversation and both parties move forward to do better. The unhealthy ones avoid it, or ignore it adding to the toxicity being created.

Ivy and Kite Man’s relationship continues to face challenges as Ivy starts to lean into the love triangle that’s been establish in season one and is cannon for the current version of the DC universe. Ivy and Harley’s friendship hits the next level as they have an affair while on Ivy’s bachelorette weekend trip. Ivy, rejects Harley after this. But the rejection is not due to lack of attraction but because Chuck is the “safer” option. Chuck and his lost puppy dog blind admiration for the less than invested Ivy is there when she needs him. Ivy is willing to turn off an entire part of her self and her sexuality to have this “safety” which isn’t even truly safe.

If Chuck was in fact a good guy the relationship wouldn’t have happened. He would have taken the rejection and moved on. If a relationship did develop between them it would have been a result of a kite supported heist where Chuck did something that truly impressed Ivy and had her engage him. Men who lost puppy dog women into relationship are not good guys. They are not safe guys. They are not worthy of screen time.

Ivy and Chuck, Fortunately, do not make it to their I Do’s. But the way in which this is kiboshed again takes away from Ivy’s agency as a woman and a character. Just like Ivy made no effort to start the relationship she makes no effort to end it. After the wedding is stormed by GCPD and falls to chaos Ivy, Chuck and Harley find themselves hiding around back. Amid the all this Ivy insisted they can still get married and Harley offers to Officiate. It’s Chuck who takes the train wreck as a sign to finally end things. The puppy dog with a boner put’s it down, acknowledges that Ivy has never really been invested, acknowledges that he shouldn’t have to chase and leaves her to find herself.

This makes Ivy a piece in Chuck’s recovery from his toxic relationship with his parents and growth as a man. There’s hope that maybe, just maybe, Chuck will take no as no next time and not chase a girl who has no interest in him. Ivy’s reduced to a B character in a male’s awakening to the realities that relationships are a two way street. Ivy, who has always been a symbol of the good, the bad, and the ugly of the public perception of feminism has no say of agency in the story line of their relationship and does not grow as a person from it.

This is the issue and is not what I watch a show with two “strong female leads” to see. Shrugging your way into and then out of a “committed” relationship is not strong. Normalizing this shrug is hugely problematic. A close friend of mine after a divorce once told me that they only got married because they didn’t see a reason not to. Normalizing that act of, well I don’t have a better option so I’ll settle for it without offering any real commentary on it, though relatable sure, is not a story worth telling. If anything it continues the normalization of not valuing your own wants and needs and perpetuates the societal norm of settling down for nothing more then security that ends so many relationships these days. And that’s the story at it’s least offensive reading.

At it’s most offensive reading Kite Man is Joker light. He’s emotional manipulative putting Ivy in situations where saying no isn’t really an option and when she does say not she’s blamed for leading him on rather than the shrug and acceptance of the societal norms that “take” her power. When she finally says a real yes she’s rejected, again having her power taken away by the guy who love boomed and chased her up until that point. This isn’t the physical assault we see Harley go through in Mad Love, but there’s emotional abuse coding written into this relationship and into the implied former relationship Ivy had with Catwoman. Allowing this cycle to continue in a media that suggests in the series as well as in fan posts every where to star two strong female leads is just disappointing if not flat out wrong.

There are other parts of this series that are a HUGE step in the right direction. But Kite Man’s role in it is repulsive and detracting in this viewer’s opinion. It’s a symptom of embedded culture norms at best. At worst is actually done intentionally and undermines a huge chunk of the core story being told in these series. As with many works that attempt to bash the patriarchy it is filled with missteps. Kite Man being the most glaring by far.

Then again, maybe it’s too much to expect a generation raised on Beauty and the Beast and Hermionie Granger ending up with Ron Wesley to binge watch a show that doesn’t idolize toxic relationship.


Sources:
https://batman.fandom.com/wiki/Kite_Man

https://harleyquinn.fandom.com/wiki/Kite_Man#:~:text=Kite%20Man%20first%20appeared%20when,turn%20into%20trees%20and%20die.

https://harleyquinn.fandom.com/wiki/Kite_Man

And you can watch the series on Amazon Prime Video.

Published by llgrafto

I am a mom first, comic book nerd second and activist third. By day I work in the charitable sector helping bring change to both international and local organizations. By night I read and review comic books, mommy blog, creative write and support fellow "momtrepreneurs" maintain and develop their websites all while ensuring my son gets everything his heart desires.

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