I want to thank all of you who watched & commented on my video A Defense of Joel Schumacher. I'm quite proud of it, and I was pleasantly surprised by the overall positive reaction I received. It seems people are ready to move on and stop anchoring Mr. Schumacher's entire career to one blunder. Many people also came out as fans of the film, admitting to enjoying it for it goofiness, and that thrills me.
A lot was left out of the script, mostly for being tangential musings of different aspects of the film. I originally had a whole paragraph on Poison Ivy and a lot more to say about Batgirl. However, there was one point I left out because it was honestly such a touchy subject it would've dominated the video, and potentially made it twice as long. It's a rather uncomfortable undercurrent to the entire outrage over the film, an elephant in the room no one really wants to address. I touched on it briefly, alluding to the "slightly homophobic" hate Schumacher had received over the years, but I downplayed it because I had no time to go into detail, and offhandedly accusing Batman & Robin haters of being bigots would have been absolutely the wrong approach.
Nonetheless, it's something I feel MUST be discussed at some point, if for no other reason than to just get it out in the open. I'm not here to accuse anyone of anything, only to address the more troubling subtext to how many people seem to respond to Joel Schumacher & his work.
So let's talk about Bat-Nipples.
First off let me be absolutely clear about this: I am not a psychologist, nor am I a mind-reader. I claim no expertise in psychoanalysis, and I make no boast to have any real insight into the collective consciousness of our society or any others. Nothing I say here is to be taken as fact by anyone. These are simply observations and suggestions as to what some things might mean, nothing more.
Excellent, qualifiers made. Back to the subject at hand.
In order to really examine why putting nipples on the batsuit turned out to be such a controversial move, we have to discuss the made who made that move in the first place. Joel Schumacher, as most of you may know, is gay. Actually that's understating it a bit. He's not just gay, he's GAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYY.
Now unfortunately, I was raised in a very isolated environment in the 90's (I didn't even know gay people EXISTED until my parents finally sat me down for "the talk"), but it's my understanding that the period is remembered as a bit of an awkward time for our country's relationship with the LGBT community. Homosexuality was no longer much of a taboo in the culture at large, but we weren't quite "used" to the idea yet. Gay men & women in films & television were usually extraordinarily stereotyped, often seen as the sidekicks in romantic comedies & such. They still are to some degree, but we've learned over time to write better characters for them.
However, when it comes to the area of sexuality, there's a big of extra baggage that comes with Batman. And there's one man we can thank for it: Fredric Wertham.
|Comic's greatest super villain.|
However, this book made one particular accusation that tends to be remembered more than others: That Batman & Robin were in fact a gay couple promoting the homosexual lifestyle to youngsters.
|And now you know where "The Ambiguously Gay Duo" comes from.|
Now obviously Batman was never intentionally written to be gay. Taking in a 12-year-old orphan only to use him to fight crime is morally questionable enough without adding and undercurrent of pedophilia. Though a number of writers over the year do admit to there being some homosexual undertones to the Batman mythos, intentionally or not. Even Frank Miller, of all people, has gone of record saying Batman's drive and anger issues comes from repressed sexuality. And let's be honest, even ignoring Robin's shorts, it pretty hard to overlook the fact that Batman has an unhealthy love/hate obsession with his flaming, lipstick-wearing likewise-obsessed archenemy.
|...who'd rather think about Batman than plow his frisky so-called "girlfriend".|
Unfortunately, if Batman & Robin demonstrated anything it's that a depressing number of people still pretty firmly in the "not" category. We've come quite far in the country with regards to our tolerance of LGBTs, but we're not nearly "there" yet.
I've spoken at length about how many modern Batman fans resent older phases of the franchise, particularly the silver age, for failing to take the character as seriously as they did. To them, Batman should always be dark, brooding, gritty...and masculine. This may be a leap, but maybe, for some, that's the real reason for the image of Batman as darker and more realistic. Batman is cool, manly, a vessel for their own teenage power fantasies. And gays aren't cool, not in the way that they define cool. Gays are weak. Gays are colorful. Gays are campy. In order for Batman to remain cool, in order for them to forget those parts of their history that don't fit with their image of the character, he must be stripped of the colorful, the fantastical, the goofy, everything remotely "gay". Remove Robin from the picture as much as possible. Batman's a loner, because loner's are cooler. Tone the villains down, take away their gimmick weapons. Stop giving everything "bat-" prefixes. Realism.
Let me pause and remind you how fully aware I am that this is massive generalization & conjecture on my part. To say that Batman's fans are a bunch of insecure teenage homophobes would be incredibly condescending & presumptive, to say nothing of untrue (mostly). What I'm trying to do is offer a hypothesis as to why of all the things that are wrong with Batman & Robin, we keep coming back to the damn Bat-nipples, because when you really think about it, that's the most harmless thing about the movie.
|REALLY look at this.|
|Yeesh, overreact much?|
But I can't help but think that there's more to it, that the nipples & codpieces aren't just scapegoats for the bigger problems with the film. I can't help but see this as the newest generation of Batman fans colliding with a side of Batman they didn't want to admit existed. Fans who grew up in the Dark Age of Comics, whose image of the character was eternally rooted in The Dark Knight Returns. Fans for whom the combination of the campy aesthetic, an openly gay director, and one ass-shot too many were proof enough of a plot to turn their manly hero into a massive gaywad. And fans for whom that was the worst of all possible things that could happen to Batman.
I'm not hear to chastise or to wag the finger. I bring this up only because I feel it warrants discussion. Batman & homosexuality have a long, awkward & complicated history of misunderstandings and overreactions, and I think it's fair to see Batman & Robin as where it all came to a head. If we could just admit that to ourselves, maybe we can finally put the Bat-Nipples to rest once and for all.