“Batman: The Animated Series” – Baby-Doll (EPISODE REVIEW)
Written by Jambareeqi
Mary Dahl was a 20 year old actress with systemic hypoplasia – a rare condition that has stopped her from aging and makes her look like she’s 3. Mary was best known for playing the title character in an old sitcom called “Love That Baby”, which made her very famous, but falling ratings led to the producers introducing a character, and Mary left after feeling upstaged.
She struggled to pass auditions or find success due to her condition, and her family rejected her for the way she looked. Years later, Mary kidnaps the cast members of “Love That Baby”, and forces them to play into her fantasy of having the perfect family. Batman and Robin hear of the kidnappings, but aren’t sure who is behind the crime, until they research Mary Dahl herself.
As a villain, Baby-Doll is quite the creepy antagonist, from how she frequently switches personalities to how she turns her innocent sitcom character into her evil persona. The fact that goofy comedic music plays in the background adds to this tension, because it’s such a jarring juxtaposition that it comes off as disturbing.
There’s something deeply unsettling about seeing these poor actors being used as vessels for Mary’s delusions. They try to keep brave faces in the situation, but there’s no denying how horrified they all are, and they will maybe develop PTSD after the whole experience.
Mary is also one of the most tragic villains to ever appear on “Batman: The Animated Series”. A woman who suffers from body dysphoria due to being self-conscious of her condition, and has developed an extreme sense of loneliness after being abandoned by her own family.
Yes, she’s a criminal who uses her appearance to her devious advantage, but we can still sympathise with the tragedy of what she’s gone through. This is a woman who feels stuck inside a body that doesn’t represent her maturity or inner self, and has parents who never accepted her for who she is,. There’s bound to be mental health issues attached to such trauma.
She feels betrayed by a world that has demeaned, exploited, and humiliated her. This is where Batman comes in, someone who truly wants to comfort this confused and scared woman. However, Mary’s life experiences have made her distrust everyone she meets, only putting faith in the minions she hires, and this means that she’s immediately reluctant to believe that Bruce has good intentions.
As intimidating as Mary tries to be, she’s terrified and alone deep down, and I couldn’t help feeling sorry for her. I genuinely wanted to see her get some medical attention, because it’s clear that her sensitive feelings have been misguided, and a therapist could really help her find her own happiness. I mean, watching her crying as she sees the body she wants to be in being reflected in a house of mirrors is quite sad, and she does express regret for her actions once Batman confronts her in this funhouse.
Batman and Robin themselves come up with some clever ways to outwit Baby-Doll, including tricking her that Robin is an old cast member – so kudos to them for saving these poor actors from Mary’s tyranny. It’s also super funny seeing Robin groaning at the cheesy sitcom they have to marathon for research (while in costume haha!). However, nothing tugs at my heart more than seeing Mary crying into Batman’s cape after facing her demons.
To conclude, I really loved this episode so much – adored it even. Mary Dahl makes for a menacing and fun villain, but her story is also testament to the consequences of neglecting or abusing those with body dysphoria, and how someone can hate their appearance enough to go down the wrong road.