When you hear the name Poison Ivy, a few words spring to mind: seductive, intoxicating, femme fatale, the list goes on.
Of course, we know the supervillain has many other traits too – she’s manipulative, cunning and independent to name just a few – but for some reason those we tend to think of first have nothing to do with her capabilities and everything to do with her sexuality.
Wanting to change our perceptions of Poison Ivy for the better, two filmmakers set out to create a short film, Pamela & Ivy, which focuses on the character’s backstory in a way that’s never been done before.
You can watch the Poison Ivy origin story here:
Enter: Leah McKendrick and Mariah Owen, who wanted to give the supervillain – who we’ve always been told is a ‘botanist who went crazy and ended up at Arkham Asylum’ – an origin story.
McKendrick, who both wrote and directed the film, told UNILAD they thought it was important to ‘go back a bit further and see the world through Ivy’s eyes’ by showing the audience the trauma she endured as a child.
The director, who also stars as Ivy in the film, explained:
Women have been called crazy throughout time for everything, ranging from having uteruses to angrily texting their exes. ‘Crazy’ isn’t just gendered and derogatory, it’s reductive.
McKendrick and Owen wanted to move past the idea that Ivy was only interesting because she was Batman’s love interest, or because she ended up in an asylum for the criminally insane. Instead, they wanted to give her a story of her own.
In fact, Owen – who produced the film and starred in it alongside McKendrick – described it as ‘incredibly imperative’ they give this ‘legendary villain the backstory she deserves, especially for the times that we’re living in’.
She told UNILAD:
This is the strongest we’ve ever seen womxn allowed to be on screen. Since the rise of Margo Robbie’s performance of Harley Quinn, we are finally seeing the multi-layered and inner workings of these iconic-yet-previously overlooked characters.
As filmmakers, we wanted to make something that we were passionate about while still remaining entertaining and as womxn, we just wanted a character we saw ourselves in too.
So why focus on a childhood trauma in particular? ‘Our childhoods shape us,’ McKendrick explained. ‘It’s easy to judge an adult who behaves violently and erratically. It’s harder to judge someone when you’ve witnessed the trauma they’ve endured.’
Those who watch their new short film will therefore see Poison Ivy as Pamela’s saviour, and as someone with hidden traumas and emotions, rather than seeing her as a ‘man-eating killing machine’.
It’s these over-sexualised perceptions of superheroes and their villainous counterparts that need to be addressed by Hollywood, McKendrick says, alongside the suggestion that more women need to be hired. ‘With a woman in the director’s chair [there’s] probably not going to be ton of slow motion closeups of boobs bouncing up and down,’ she said.
The director continued:
Now to be clear, superheroes are sexy. Both men and women. I enjoy that they are these confident, aspirational figures. It’s not about desexualising our superheroes – it’s about making them three-dimensional characters rather than centrefolds come to life.
The two filmmakers say they have been ‘overwhelmed’ with the positive response to their film so far, with McKendrick describing it as ‘lovely and humbling’ and Owen saying they are ‘ecstatic’ that long-time fans are enjoying their spin on Poison Ivy, ‘while establishing some new fans of the character too’.
McKendrick now hopes to develop Pamela & Ivy further with DC – although she says we’ll ‘have to wait and see’ – with Owen agreeing and saying that would be ‘the dream’.
I guess we’ll just have to keep our eyes peeled then…
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