Batman’s rogue gallery has long been revered for featuring some of the most complex, nuanced villains in the history of pop culture. Characters like Two-Face and The Riddler have displayed mental health conditions that skew their perspectives of the world and another character who belongs in that category is Poison Ivy.
Poison Ivy is traditionally portrayed as a seductress who uses her powers to make others do her bidding. But to only see this side of her does a disservice to the character. Ivy is motivated to protect nature against humanity, a crusade that’s exacerbated by her suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
What is SAD?
SAD is a condition that’s linked with the seasons, causing various emotional states. During the winter, sufferers may experience extreme depression and then feel brighter during summer. Or it could be the other way around and is unique to each person.
Generally, the dominant symptoms of SAD are as followed:
- A consistent low mood
- A loss of pleasure in regular activities
- Short periods of extreme euphoria
- Sleeping for long hours and feeling lethargic
- Suffering from thoughts of low self-esteem
Changing with the seasons
The diagnosis of Poison Ivy’s SAD is a relatively new addition to the character, having been introduced in the New 52 by Gail Simone. In Batgirl Annual #2, Simone shows Poison Ivy working with Batgirl in the Birds of Prey and how her moods change throughout the seasons.
In the spring, Batgirl and Ivy work together to take down an ecoterrorist called Mr Rain. Barbara notices that Ivy is feeling overly enthusiastic. The same thing happens in the summer, with Ivy showing up in an even more euphoric state.
In the winter months, Batgirl gets closer to stopping Mr Rain and discovers that he’s been putting implants into sick people so they can be incubators. After a period of six months, the organs are cut out and sold to rich people and the donors die. When Batgirl reveals this information to Ivy, she’s apathetic, not because she doesn’t care, but because she’s suffering from SAD.
This revelation completely shifts our perception of how Ivy deals with the people in her life. It explains her complicated relationship with friends like Harley Quinn and Catwoman, who she has tried to kill as many times as she’s helped.
Ivy’s condition truly does connect her to plants and how they go through seasonal changes. In the warm months, she absorbs the sunlight and feels happy. During autumn and winter her mood is severely affected by the cold and darkness, making her depressed, angry and paranoid.
Dealing with SAD can be a difficult experience, but it’s characters like Poison Ivy that shine a light on the condition and make it more relatable.