Few film characters have managed to combine the perfect level of chicness and bitchiness all in one persona. Although the character first appeared in 1940 in DC Comics’ Batman #1, it wasn’t until 1992 that Michelle Pfeiffer imbued that Catwoman persona with some truly iconic clout.
In the dual role of Selina Kyle and her eventual alter ego, Pfeiffer showcases the two most common archetypes of every woman: A mousy, passive, sexless type or a saucy cunt who you’re oddly attracted to. With subtlety and precision, Pfeiffer plays the part of Selina in a manner that just borders on total patheticness–but not to the point where you’re annoyed by her sad cat lady aura.
As the secretary for a millionaire mogul of real estate and industry named Max Shreck (Christopher Walken, in a typically zany incarnation)–of course, this was during the pre-Shrek era–Selina is decidedly demure and obsequious. Her loneliness leads her to get a little too excited about an upcoming meeting she has with Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton, the worst Batman ever) about a power plant helmed by Shreck (who is, by this time already in cahoots with The Penguin). Because of her overzealousness and thoroughness, she is ultimately thrown out of a window by Shreck.
While searching for key documents to show Wayne, Shreck discovers her digging through incriminating files and realizes she needs to be “dealt with” if he’s going to successfully carry out his diabolical plan with The Penguin. After he sends her on her way out the window, Selina gets insult added to injury when a flurry of cats start to maul her. But, in the end, it’s really for the best–Catwoman is the only thing that could have saved Selina’s image.
Where once Selina would say self-deprecating things like, “Well that was very brief. Just like all the men in my life.”, Catwoman kills it with scathing one-liners like, “Life’s a bitch, now so am I.” The transformation into Catwoman may have been in part a chemical mutation, but it was also Selina’s latent desire to break free from her self-imposed mold. In fact, Catwoman exists in some form within all of us once we’re finally pushed to our brink.