Have You Heard?? Batman Is…

…Gay!

This is what Batman writer Grant Morrison admitted in an interview with playboy magazine some time ago.

But let’s travel back in history a little: In 1954, Frederic Wertham argued in Seduction of the Innocent that “The Batman type of story may stimulate children to homosexual fantasies, of the nature of which they may be unconscious.” This initiated a big controversy in the academia and the media. Can a superhero actually be gay? It is true that he spends a lot of time with Robin, but he’s so very masculine, isn’t he? And how harmful is that to the young viewers and readers?

The Batman movies again fueled this controversy and when George Clooney was asked whether Batman had homosexual tendencies, he answered: “I was in a rubber suit and I had rubber nipples. I could have played Batman straight, but I made him gay.” 

I am thinking that this might be part of the attraction of many superheros: a hypermasculinity that is clearly confined to a homosocial (or even homoerotic) environment. Maybe viewers (and especially those some decades ago) can accept homoerotic tendencies if these are accompanied by an excess of masculinity: muscles, six-packs, and enormous chins. It is also interesting to note that this seems to be the exact strategy referred to in Christopher Marlowe’s play Edward II (1592), when king Edward II spends too much time with his favourite Gaveston. One of his adversaries excuses the king’s alleged homoerotic tendencies by referring to past examples of male bonding which are also significantly characterized in terms of masculinity:

 “The mightiest kings have had their minions:

Great Alexander loved Hephaestion,

The conquering Hercules for Hylas wept,

And for Patroclus stern Achilles dropped.”

In the Playboy interview Grant Morrison said: “Gayness is built into Batman. I’m not using gay in the pejorative sense, but Batman is very, very gay. There’s just no denying it. Obviously as a fictional character he’s intended to be heterosexual, but the basis of the whole concept is utterly gay.”

Morrison distinguishes between Batman as character and Batman as a phenomenon. To me, this is the alluring quality of Batman: You just cannot define him. You cannot pigeonhole him. He is what you want him to be, which gives power to the viewer/reader and allows us to enjoy our Batman, whether it’s the comic-hero, the hilarious 1960s-representation (the way fellow blogger Cookie likes him), the gay-esk Clooney-Batman, or the dark and steamy Bale-Batman.

So, who’s your Batman?

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