Homosexuality in the Batman franchise

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Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson. Panel from Batman #84 (June, 1954), page 24.

Homosexual and pederastic interpretations have been part of the academic study of the Batman franchise at least since psychiatrist Fredric Wertham asserted in his 1954 book Seduction of the Innocent that "Batman stories are psychologically homosexual". Wertham, as well as parodies, fans and other independent parties, have described Batman and his sidekick Robin (Dick Grayson) as homosexual, possibly in a relationship with each other. DC Comics has never indicated Batman to be gay, but several female characters in the Modern Age Batman comic books are expressly lesbian.[citation needed]

Golden and Silver Age Batman[edit]

The early Golden Age Batman stories were dark and violent, but during the interregnum period of the late 1940s and the early 1950s they changed to a softer, friendlier and more exotic style, that was considered "campy". This style awoke contemporary and later associations with homosexual culture.[1]

In Seduction of the Innocent, Fredric Wertham claimed, "The Batman type of story may stimulate children to homosexual fantasies, of the nature of which they may be unconscious" and "Only someone ignorant of the fundamentals of psychiatry and of the psychopathology of sex can fail to realize a subtle atmosphere of homoeroticism which pervades the adventures of the mature 'Batman' and his young friend Robin."[2] This book was issued in the context of the "lavender scare" where authorities regarded homosexuality as a security risk.

Andy Medhurst wrote in his 1991 essay Batman, Deviance, and Camp that Batman is interesting to gay audiences because "he was one of the first fictional characters to be attacked on the grounds of his presumed homosexuality," "the 1960s TV series remains a touchstone of camp," and "[he] merits analysis as a notably successful construction of masculinity."[3]

Views within the industry[edit]

The Comics Bulletin website posed the question "Is Batman Gay?" to their staff and various comic book professionals.[4] Writer Alan Grant has stated, "The Batman I wrote for 13 years isn't gay. Denny O'Neil's Batman, Marv Wolfman's Batman, everybody's Batman all the way back to Bob Kane… none of them wrote him as a gay character. Only Joel Schumacher might have had an opposing view." Writer Devin Grayson has commented, "It depends who you ask, doesn't it? Since you're asking me, I'll say no, I don't think he is… I certainly understand the gay readings, though."[5] While Frank Miller has described the relationship between Batman and the Joker as a "homophobic nightmare,"[6] he views the character as sublimating his sexual urges into crime fighting, concluding, "He'd be much healthier if he were gay."[7] Grant Morrison, writer of both Batman and Batman Incorporated said in an interview with Playboy that "Gayness is built into Batman. I’m not using gay in the pejorative sense, but Batman is very, very gay...Obviously as a fictional character he's intended to be heterosexual, but the basis of the whole concept is utterly gay."[8] Morrison later said that Playboy misquoted him and explained his quote in the New Statesman. [9]

Actors' opinions[edit]

Burt Ward, who portrayed Robin in the 1960s television show, has also remarked upon this interpretation in his autobiography Boy Wonder: My Life in Tights; he writes that the relationship could be interpreted as a sexual one, with the show's double entendres and lavish camp also possibly offering ambiguous interpretation.[10]

Joel Schumacher's films[edit]

The 1995 feature film Batman Forever, and especially its 1997 sequel Batman & Robin, both helmed by the openly gay director Joel Schumacher, attracted attention for their many homo-erotic innuendos.[11] Many observers accused Schumacher of adding homosexual innuendo in the storyline.[11]

James Berardinelli questioned the "random amount of rubber nipples and camera angle close-ups of the Dynamic Duo's butts and Bat-crotches."[12] Similar to Batman Forever, this primarily included the decision to add nipples and enlarged codpieces to Batman and Robin suits. Schumacher stated, "I had no idea that putting nipples on the Batsuit and Robin suit were going to spark international headlines. The bodies of the suits come from ancient Greek statues, which display perfect bodies. They are anatomically correct."[11]

Chris O'Donnell, who portrayed Robin, felt "it wasn't so much the nipples that bothered me. It was the codpiece. The press obviously played it up and made it a big deal, especially with Joel directing. I didn't think twice about the controversy, but going back and looking and seeing some of the pictures, it was very unusual."[11]

George Clooney joked, "Joel Schumacher told me we never made another Batman film because Batman was gay."[13] Clooney himself has spoken dismissively of the film, saying "I think we might have killed the franchise,"[14] and called it "a waste of money."[15]

In 2006, George Clooney said in an interview with Barbara Walters that in Batman & Robin he played Batman as gay. "I was in a rubber suit and I had rubber nipples. I could have played Batman straight, but I made him gay." Walters then asked, "George, is Batman gay?" To which he responded, "No, but I made him gay."[16]

Interpretations in later years; parody and fandom[edit]

Homosexual interpretations of Batman and Robin have attracted even more attention during the Modern Age of Comic Books, as sexual and LGBT themes became more common and accepted in mainstream comics.

At the Worldcon costume ball in 1962, a number of fans appeared as the Justice Society of America, including Fred Patten and Rick Norwood as The Flash. Dick Lupoff as Batman, and Harlan Ellison as Robin. Lupoff and Ellison struck a homoerotic pose for the cameras.

Writer Warren Ellis addressed the issue of Batman's sexuality obliquely in his comic book The Authority from Image Comics where he portrayed the character of the Midnighter, a clear Batman pastiche, as openly gay and engaged in a long term relationship with the Superman analogue Apollo.

The Ambiguously Gay Duo is a 1996 animated parody previously featured on Saturday Night Live, with many similarities to Batman, not least the animated title sequence of the 1960s TV series.

Another notable example occurred in 2000, when DC Comics refused to allow permission for the reprinting of four panels (from Batman #79, 92, 105 and 139) to illustrate Christopher York's paper All in the Family: Homophobia and Batman Comics in the 1950s.[17]

The idea of the "gay" Batman has also been revitalized around 2005, as a montage of panels from "The Joker's Comedy of Errors" in Batman #66, issued in 1951, began to circulate as a joke. The episode used the word "boner" several times; in the original comic, it meant "blunder," but in present-day vernacular the word is primarily the slang term for an erection.[18] A similar case of an unintended gay interpretation was the Rainbow Batman from 1957.

Another incident happened in the summer of 2005, when painter Mark Chamberlain displayed a number of watercolors depicting both Batman and Robin in suggestive and sexually explicit poses.[19] DC threatened both artist and the Kathleen Cullen Fine Arts gallery with legal action if they did not cease selling the works and demanded all remaining art, as well as any profits derived from them.[20]

Will Brooker argues in Batman Unmasked: Analyzing a Cultural Icon,[21] that a queer reading of Batman is a valid interpretation, and that homosexual readers would naturally find themselves drawn to the lifestyle depicted within, whether the character of Bruce Wayne himself is explicitly homosexual or not. He also identifies a homophobic element to the vigour with which mainstream fandom rejects the possibility of a homosexual reading of the character. Writing for The Guardian, Brooker expanded on this theme, stating that Batman:

Women in the Batman franchise[edit]

Batman's romantic interests[edit]

Bruce Wayne was originally engaged to Julie Madison; the two characters eventually split up. He showed recurrent romantic feelings for his enemy Catwoman, as she was depicted as a femme fatale. Talia al Ghul serves a similar role in the later comics.

The Batwoman was introduced in 1956 as a love interest for Batman, to evade accusations of homosexuality.[citation needed] In a similar manner, the Bat-Girl was a love interest for Robin. In later years, both Batwoman and Bat-Girl were removed from the stories and replaced with a more contemporary Batgirl. Unlike her predecessors, this Batgirl retained a primarily platonic relationship with Batman and Robin, for many years until later being established as a love-interest for Dick Grayson.[citation needed]

Dick Grayson's aunt, Harriet Cooper was added to the franchise in the 1960s for three reasons: to give the Bat-Duo a reason for secrecy about their dual identities, to add diversity to the all-male Wayne Manor, and to supplement Alfred Pennyworth.[22]
In the animated movie Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, Bruce Wayne falls in love with a woman called Andrea Beaumont.
In the Justice League animated series, Batman and Wonder Woman are implied to have somewhat of a complicated romance.

When DC decided to introduce modern Batwoman based on the original one, she was designed as a lesbian.[23][24]

Lesbian characters: New Batwoman and Renee Montoya[edit]

In 2006, DC drew widespread media attention by announcing a new, lesbian incarnation of the well-known character Batwoman[25] even while openly lesbian characters such as Gotham City police officer Renee Montoya, police captain Maggie Sawyer, and Holly Robinson, the best friend and protégée of Catwoman, already existed in the Batman franchise.[26][27]

In response to the 2009 New York Comic Con, reporter Alison Flood called Batwoman DC Comics' highest profile gay superhero.[24] Batwoman appeared in a new Justice League comic book written by James Robinson and took over as the lead character in Detective Comics starting issue #854.[28]

Greg Rucka said that DC's editors had no problem with his writing Montoya or Batwoman as lesbian, but the media controversy over Batwoman's sexuality "nullified any positive effect Batwoman might have had on the industry" and forced the character into minor roles during major crossover storylines.[29] This changed in September 2011, when, as part of a company wide relaunch of their superhero titles, DC launched a Batwoman monthly title starring Kate Kane.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "When Batman Was Gay | The Bilerico Project". Bilerico.com. Retrieved 2010-06-17. 
  2. ^ Wertham, Fredric. Seduction of the Innocent. Rinehart and Company, Inc., 1954. pg. 189–90
  3. ^ Medhurst, Andy. "Batman, Deviance, and Camp." The Many Lives of the Batman: Critical Approaches to a Superhero and His Media. Routledge: London, 1991. ISBN 0-85170-276-7, pg. 150
  4. ^ http://www.comicsbulletin.com/panel/106070953757230.htm
  5. ^ "Is Batman Gay?". Retrieved December 28, 2005. 
  6. ^ Sharrett, pg. 37-38
  7. ^ Sharrett, pg. 38
  8. ^ Playboy Grant Morrison interview, accessed May 2, 2012
  9. ^ New Statesman interview with Grant Morrison
  10. ^ "Bruce Wayne: Bachelor". Ninth Art: Andrew Wheeler Comment. Archived from the original on 2008-04-22. Retrieved June 21, 2005. 
  11. ^ a b c d Joel Schumacher, Peter MacGregor-Scott, Chris O'Donnell, Val Kilmer, Uma Thurman, John Glover, Shadows of the Bat: The Cinematic Saga of the Dark Knight Part 6-Batman Unbound, 2005, Warner Home Video
  12. ^ James Berardinelli. "Batman and Robin". ReelViews.net. Retrieved 2008-11-13. 
  13. ^ Sharon Swart; Bill Higgins (2005-06-27). "'Happy' to sign off". Variety. Retrieved 2008-11-11. 
  14. ^ Daniel, Mac (2005-06-12). "Batman and Robin". Boston Globe. Retrieved May 17, 2006. 
  15. ^ Lynn Hirschberg (2002-11-03). "THE WAY WE LIVE NOW: 11-3-02: QUESTIONS FOR GEORGE CLOONEY; True Confessions". The New York Times. 
  16. ^ "Brokebat Mountain: "Batman is gay", says George Clooney". PinkNews.co.uk. 3 March 2006. Retrieved 2010-08-02. 
  17. ^ Beatty, Bart (2000). "Don't Ask, Don't Tell: How Do You Illustrate an Academic Essay about Batman and Homosexuality?". The Comics Journal (228): 17–18. 
  18. ^ "Prism Comics feature". Prismcomics.org. Retrieved 2010-06-17. 
  19. ^ "Mark Chamberlain (American, 1967)". Artnet. 
  20. ^ "Gallery told to drop 'gay' Batman". BBC. August 19, 2005. 
  21. ^ Brooker, Will (2001) Batman Unmasked: Analyzing a Cultural Icon, Continuum.
  22. ^ Tyrion Lannister (July 24, 2008). "When Batman Was Gay". 
  23. ^ ""Holy Homos, Batman" or Homosexuality in Comics". September 13, 2006. 
  24. ^ a b Flood, Alison (February 11, 2009), "DC readies lesbian Batwoman for take-off", The Guardian (London), retrieved 2009-02-11 
  25. ^ Ferber, Lawrence (July 18, 2006), "Queering the Comics", The Advocate: 51 
  26. ^ Colón, Suzan (2008-11-18), "Don't Mask, Do Tell", The Advocate: 18, Issue #1019, retrieved 2008-11-30 [dead link]
  27. ^ Mangels, Andy (May 27, 2003), "Outed in Batman's Backyard", The Advocate: 62 
  28. ^ ICv2: Batwoman takes over 'Detective', retrieved 2009-02-10 
  29. ^ Furey, Emmett. p. 4 Homosexuality in Comics - Part I, Part II, Part III and Part IV, Comic Book Resources, July 16–19, 2007