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'The Batman' criticized for scene of attempted subway attack on Asian victim

Critics on Twitter are calling the scene “triggering” and insensitive to Asian Americans during a time of increased violence against the community.
Robert Pattinson as Batman in "The Batman."
Robert Pattinson as Batman in "The Batman."Jonathan Olley / Warner Bros.

Asian Americans are raising concerns over a scene in the new movie “The Batman,” which premiered nationwide Friday, depicting a group of men following an Asian man off the subway with the intent of physically assaulting him.

The scene occurs within the first 10 minutes of the three-hour film, when Batman interrupts the attack and beats up the assailants, telling them that he is “vengeance.” This saves the Asian man, who appears fearful of Batman as well. 

Critics on Twitter are calling the scene “triggering” and insensitive to Asian Americans during a time of increased violence against the community, regardless of whether the attack was intended as racially motivated.

Some are tweeting content warnings about the scene to Asian Americans planning to see it in theaters, and several people on social media are questioning whether the depiction was an oversight or meant to be a commentary about the prominence of hate crimes against Asian Americans during the pandemic.

The movie was primarily filmed between January 2020 and March 2021, according to IMDB, spanning much of the spike in anti-Asian hate.

Criticism of the scene comes in the wake of the high-profile death of Michelle Go, who was fatally pushed in front of a New York City subway train in January.

Warner Bros. Pictures, the film production company behind “The Batman,” did not respond to requests for comment.

Amid the backlash, some say they are grateful the movie depicts Batman putting a stop to such an attack.

David Chen, who hosts “Culturally Relevant,” a podcast featuring film and television reviews, tweeted that the scene was an ill-considered use of triggering imagery that would otherwise be acceptable if used constructively.

Underneath his thread, users criticized the attack as seemingly the only form of Asian representation in the film. Others viewed Batman’s response as heroic, or as highlighting the lack of police protection for Asian Americans when incidents like these happen.

But in critiquing the scene on Twitter, Chen argued that depicting such loaded imagery without making a larger point about the meaning behind it is still disrespectful.

“To me, this was an irresponsible and inflammatory use of this imagery that (knowingly or unthinkingly) gestured at real life horrific events,” he tweeted.

“It felt thoughtless [to] me and was triggering to many AAPI folks I’ve discussed the film with,” he wrote, referring to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.