In Praise of Fish Mooney

The TV show Gotham is not without its problems, especially concerning its treatment of women.

Poison Ivy and her accelerated maturity, which seems to have been done to usher in the sexpot aspect of the comic book character at the expense of her intelligence, is just one example. It was entirely unnecessary and the result has a Lolita-esque quality that is uncomfortable viewing, especially in the year of our Lord 2017, with the pussy-grabber-in-chief and Weinstein story swirling.

Poison Ivy is meant to be sexy but also smart – and the latter has yet to manifest. Watching the Selena Kyle character unfold, who will one day become Cat Woman, however, is a nuanced and layered affair that firmly lays the groundwork for who she will become, in a neat parallel of Bruce Wayne’s journey. There are other women, and unusually for a television show, most of them get a chance to be real heel, even if it’s temporarily (and wear some amazing outfits/makeup in the process. I have to say, being bad comes with some great eye shadow and dark outfits with brilliant textures).

But the star, for me, is Jada Pinkett Smith’s Fish Mooney.

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She isn’t canon – she was created for the show, one of the many villains of the Gotham underworld, not one that comes with any comic book mythology, and the show’s resistance to exploring her back story was a bit annoying -but she instantly becomes one of the most memorable.

She is one of my favourite TV characters of all time. Fish Mooney, as played by Jada with a relish that reminds me of Jada earlier in her career, is wily, witty, strong but nurturing. It’s a reminder that although Will Smith gets most of the shine, there are two acting powerhouses in that marriage and quite frankly, I think Jada has more range.

So often, the strong woman in a TV show can be a bit one-note, but Fish is like a jewel turning in the sun that captivates as it catches the light. It’s great writing, of course, but Jada plays the part with ferocity and tenderness that makes her an utter scene stealer whenever she is on screen.

Fish is a survivor in a world where the supernatural rubs shoulder with reality all the time – in fact the one time she does get superpowers briefly, it almost seemed lazy.

It’s no surprise that the character’s constant resurrections are the result of popular demand. My favourite one is at the hands of Dr Strange in a process that robs previous characters of their memory, allowing the Dr to craft a persona for them. Fish, however, comes back to life and instantly knows who she is. She will not be told, owned or controlled.

Her unapologetic realness is a #Blackgirlmagic all day long.

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