I’ve been seeing a lot around recently about how there’s ‘no need’ for Batgirl. How Babs is great as Oracle, but pointless as Batgirl. How Cass was totally unnecessary. How Steph isn’t needed by anyone. Etc.
So I thought I’d compile a list of why even if you don’t personally need them, they have plenty to offer a narrative.
First up, and most obviously: more hands. Batman works best as a team- yeah, I went there. He’s a detective. Detectives work best when they have people to share the work around to. Especially non-superpowered ones. He has shit to do, he can’t get EVERYTHING done alone. So he has the Robins, the Batgirls, and so on.
It offers a second perspective into the narrative. I mean, there’s a reason so many female readers got into Batman when young through Batgirl. Batman is a difficult character to associate with. ‘Really rich white straight cis hyper masculine man’, etc. So then there was Robin, but Robin is pretty strongly linked by the narrative TO Batman and doesn’t deviate much beyond age (or so the public and even fandom tend to think- this is why I think Robins like Jason and Steph, who DO, shouldn’t be overlooked). Batgirl tends to operate more separately (seriously, how often did Cass or Steph have to talk to Batman in their books? Compared to, say, how often they talk to Oracle? Cass more than Steph, but even so) and provides another ‘in’ to the story.
Coming of age stories. Simple, really. People like ‘em. It’s a good place to supply ‘em. And again, a different type than the one given to Robins.
For that matter, it’s an in-universe justification for there to be experienced young heroes. She trained under Batman! Of course she’s good! Even if she would never have had the resources to train herself, she can just siphon off some of his. So you can have characters like Barbara and call her one of the greatest heroes from a young age without everyone complaining about how it wouldn’t have been possible. Which frees up what you can do, story-wise, with a heroine.
She gives Batman more perspective. When written properly I think Batgirl should be a foil to Batman. She should disagree. Babs can do that. Cass could do that, albeit the narrative wouldn’t always let her. Steph does that. Steph slapped him! Defied him! Ordered him around! And that’s good. The DCU loves its Batman. It worships him. He’s one of the trinity; most of the heroes are in awe of him like Superman and Wonder Woman, but it’s a defining character trait that he’s much more screwed up than them (and Dick is much less experienced). He needs somebody to call him out, and Robins can do that- but they tend to be under Batman’s care and it’s harder to call a father figure out (which is also why I have issues with DC trying to sell me on Bruce as Cass’ father figure rather than Babs as her mother), especially when Robins are often younger.
And hey, there’s probably more- but I don’t want to hear about how Babs is SO useless as Batgirl, why we don’t need Cass or Steph. She’s not a novelty. She’s not a ‘lol girl!Batman, that’ll get us sales’. She’s a useful character and that’s why Batgirl is still around.
And yes, I get defensive about this. Because trying to play down the importance of a female narrative I adore, and feel very close to, usually with vaguely-defined complaints of ‘well why do we need her?’- well, it upsets me. So here. This is why. This is why the narrative isn’t less important than Batman’s for having -girl on the end, or for being a ‘derivative’. This is why Batman doesn’t work alone. So suck it.