Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Homophilia

I am nothing if not sensitive to the feelings of my readers. I understand that I hurt some people's feelings with my Doctoral Fucking Thesis on Wonder Girl, so I think some apologies are in order. First of all, I apologize to all of the Grant Morrison fans reading this. I'm sorry that you idolize a terrible, terrible writer.

For all of the over-sensitive Grant Morrison fans who can't tell when someone is joking, let me assure you that this blog is full of lies deliberately intended to upset you. In actuality, nobody really has a different opinion than yours. In fact, I didn't even write the last paragraph. It was written by my evil twin. He's also the one responsible for women sometimes taking off their clothes, and for some men and women enjoying watching those women. In fact, it's his fault that women have breasts. He only does these things because he's too sane and too well-adjusted. He was hatched from an egg and is secretly Magneto in disguise. Also, his brain is a star.

Honestly, I'm not sure how to respond to serious criticism of something that I wrote as a joke. At least, though, I should respond to criticisms of statements that someone seriously made, albeit five decades ago.

Homophobia is a serious problem in our world today. Homosexuals are hated and discriminated against. Courts and legislatures are working to deny gays rights that most people take for granted. They say that homosexuality is fundamentally immoral and unnatural. They say that marriage is something that should be exclusive to straight people. Worst of all, some people even go so far as to imply that fictional characters from 70 years ago might have been gay.

In order to combat homophobia, it is important to first understand it. Homophobia is a fear, mistrust, or hatred of homosexuals or homosexuality. It is not an honest attempt to understand homosexuality, nor is it a genuine concern for homosexuals' mental health, like what was demonstrated in Dr. Wertham's work. I know that the idea that homosexuality is learned behaviour and can be symptomatic of mental illness was itself born of homophobia, even if there was a time when it was accepted as fact. It's only a logical conclusion that anyone in the 1950's who wasn't aware of our current attitude towards homosexuality was an ignorant gay-basher. I can only pray that the scourge of living in a different time period can be eradicated in our lifetime.

I didn't post an in-depth analysis of Batman and Robin's relationship, because I didn't think any explanation could be more convincing than, "Dear Lord! Just look at them!" It seemed overkill to explain how someone might detect some sexual tension between the poster boys for the butch-femme archetype. They are very close, certainly, and live a secluded life far from the touch of women. They spend most of their time together, wearing outfits that leave very little to the imagination. Their very internal monlogues so often seem to betray their true feelings.

However, I do not personally think that Batman and Robin were supposed to be gay. The idea that they are gay is very well-supported and in the minds of many of their fans they are lovers, but I don't think that was what was intended by the character. I saw Batman Forever. Nobody who dates Nicole Kidman could secretly be gay.

Where I think the confusion comes from is that Batman comics, particularly Bob Kane's work on the character, were overwhelmingly phallocentric. Phallocentric means "concerned primarily with men and the male perspective." Literally, it means "centering on the penis." Batman is both of these things. In fact, I would say it was the most phallocentric comic of all time until Sin City came along and made it futile for any other comic to compete for that title.

I could accept that Batman having a little partner named Dick was just an amusing little coincidence were it not for the Batmobile. When thinking of what sort of vehicle Batman should use, you might expect something fast and maneuverable to aid in high-speed chases. Perhaps it should be small and capable of flight - you know, like a bat. I'm not entirely sure by what logic a giant cock is appropriate. You Batman fans may know that there have been several designs for the batmobile and think that I probably chose this one - with its long, shaft-like chassis and the head at the front; this one that is piloted from a ball-like compartment near the base of the vehicle - because it is the most phallic model and I am trying to distort the facts to fit my point. That's simply not true. If that were the case, I would have chosen this model:

The fact is, there have been over 100 batmobiles. As if it weren't weird enough that Batman owns that many cars, most of them look like he's vastly over-compensating for something.





Of course, it's possible that stuff like this was unintentional, but if it was all subconscious, that just makes it doubly creepy. Don't get me wrong, I don't find this sort of thing objectionable, just funny. What I find objectionable is Batman's almost palpable gynophobia.

Dr. Wertham saw characters like Catwoman - a romantic interest for Batman who was secretly also a master thief - as a negative portrayal of women in general. The women in Batman tended to be shifty and untrustworthy. Wertham seemed to think that this showed a cynical view of heterosexual relationships. I would say he was reading too much into it if it were just an isolated incident. I would like to draw your attention to a Batman villain called Poison Ivy (right), who uses a poisonous lipstick. One kiss from her controls men's minds (and, yes, it only works on men) and another kiss kills them. For those of you who don't see why I might think this is a little misogynistic, The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines subtext as, "The implicit meaning or theme of a literary text." Maybe that will help.

Maybe I'm being unfair, though. Batman had some female allies, too - like Batwoman (left). Sweet Jesus! Do I even have to explain what's sexist about her? Without even getting into how Batman tried to convince her that crime-fighting was too dangerous for her (because a woman can't take risks and make tough decisions as well as Batman and the little boy in panties he hangs out with), she carried a fucking utility purse! The weapons in her war on crime included lipstick, foundation, and a hairnet - a God damned hairnet! I'm honestly shocked that she never resorted to throwing tampons at villains - not even exploding tampons or cyanide tampons. Granted, the cyanide tampons would only work if she forced the villains to eat them, but wouldn't that make an excellent comic?

I'm not saying that I'm offended by Batman, I'm just saying I can totally understand how someone could be. Personally, I like Batman. He has been featured in some great comics and incredible cartoons and at least one decent movie - maybe two. The thing is, these characters have changed hands so many times and each writer and artist has shaped them in different ways, so there's no single definitive interpretation of Batman. For my money, the best creative team Batman ever had was Paul Dini and Bruce Timm, and nobody could accuse them of not liking women.


(NOTE: I did not post that picture. It was my evil twin again.)

2 Comments:

Anonymous Mint said...

I don't care enough to dig it out of my longboxes but there was a brief storyline in a batman-related title in the....late 90s? With Tim Drake as Robin where Bruce Wayne was actually paid a call by a social worker or some such official because they were concerned about why he would be spending so much time alone with a high school boy.

DC admitted it was an issue of some concern...perhaps some readers weren't paying attention.

10:34 PM  
Blogger Syd Bernstein said...

I was not aware of that story, but Tim Drake was a different matter from Dick Grayson. For one thing, Tim wore pants. Also, Bruce spending so much time with Dick was never questioned because Dick was an orphan and Bruce had become his legal guardian, whereas Tim's father was still alive while he was Robin.

Really, though, it still doesn't address the issue of Batman's sexuality, at least not to the extent of whether or not he's gay. Child molestation is a completely different issue from homosexuality. Most homosexuals are not pederasts and vice versa.

People who think that Batman and Robin are gay generally would typify their relationship as idyllic, and would assume that Dick, despite his youth (in the early years, at least), was capable of making mature decisions regarding his sexuality. I personally think it's wrong for any adult to have sexual relations with adolescents, but societies' attitudes towards age differences in relationships are not as clear-cut as their laws.

9:49 AM  

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