This post is bound to offend some, so do yourself a favor if it already upsets you and don’t read further. It is also lengthy, so get off now if you’re not down for it. Keep in mind that this is my opinion and I’m not saying this should be accepted as an OFFICIAL reading.
Batman Forever is the gayest Batman ever.
And as a gay man, myself, I think I’m qualified to say so. Joel Schumacher clearly wasn’t interested in hiding it underneath a layer of secrecy. He probably felt that in the mid-1990s he shouldn’t have to, and the cast seemed to be fully in on his vision. Though, he certainly was both ahead of his time and late in a sense, because this came after the AIDS scare of the 1980s. Before the crisis it was becoming fashionable for rock stars to flaunt gayness and a sort of cross-dressing, gender fluidity, to an extent. Yet, the crisis placed the gay community in the position of outcasts in its aftermath, far from the emerging level of acceptance today, making Schumacher’s film a somewhat perilous venture in its given climate. The studio may have mandated an official straight reading of the material by having the screen writers include the prerequisite physical contact between male and female from time to time (Batman kisses Chase or the scene where Dick kisses the girl he rescued – window dressing really) but allowed flexibility for alternative interpretations.
The gay elements could be considered subtext at best to some heterosexual viewers, however it rests shockingly on the surface with barely any disguise for most gay audiences. Then again, maybe the lack of modesty was exactly what drew such ire from the straight fans who were so perpetually embarrassed by the overt gay potential in Batman’s premise. The nipple adornments on the chest of the bat suit announced the director’s full intentions as well as desires. All allusions and misdirecting excuses toward Roman centurion armor aside, one hardly imagines that the straight men of the modern world were calling for a revival of hard nipples on the pectorals of their combat attire – gay men, however?
So, what was straight-America’s response? The Hollywood critics’ establishment mainly analyzed the film from a technical standpoint, ignoring the gay elements and dismissing the piece as shallow action fluff that was all style over substance. Fair enough. Who could argue? While the average movie-goer and comic fans were probably largely oblivious to the gay features – they were confused about why a butt-shot was included when Batman suited up. The scene drew laughter in the theaters and inspired the mortification of children who took the material all too seriously.
If it went over the heads of straight people who didn’t know what to look for or couldn’t put their fingers on it, this time, Schumacher’s ambition was undeniable when subtlety went out the window in Batman & Robin. Ironically, that story had less gay subtext in the writing of the character’s relationships. It was its glaring drag show aesthetic that gave it away, versus Batman Forever’s leather and s&m bondage niche that fit more readily adjacent to Tim Burton’s approach. But in spite of Batman & Robin being the film to whip up a homophobic backlash and outrage among the earliest internet message boards (those were the days before sites instituted censorship of what came to be considered inflammatory comments, though the commenters would have argued that it was the film itself that was inflammatory, which was widely agreed upon in the fan community at the time), I would argue that it’s Batman Forever that is still the gayest Batman.
The opening scene of him gearing up in his fetish rubber, choosing his sharpest weapons, and getting ready for a night on the town was but a taste of what was to come. The ominous score and trek to the platform of the Batmobile reached a fever pitch when the camera zoomed in on his dramatic figure and Alfred interrupted with an inquiry as to whether or not he could persuade his master to take a sandwich with him. “I’ll get drive-thru,” came the response. Right away the film announced, tongue-in-cheek that it wasn’t going to take itself too seriously, restoring the camp that had fallen out of fashion in straight circles, but not in gay ones. Already achieved was a departure from the disturbing tone of Danny DeVito foaming sewage at the mouth.
Look no further than the scene on the roof top of police headquarters. Dr. Chase Meridian stands next to the bat signal, pulling out all the stops in her open trench coat and revealing, low-cut top, just waiting to psycho-analyze the Dark Knight. Her every alluring come-on and attempt to seduce him is rejected. He practically runs from her as she aggressively pursues him across the building’s surface, before eventually, literally jumping off the roof to escape. He’s so rattled by her forwardness that he forgets to do his disappearing trick while Commissioner Gordon distracts her with his entrance. When Chase turns around and Batman is still standing there, he’s like, oh ■■■■, then hurriedly jumps from the roof as she gawks after him with infatuated amazement. Clearly her gaydar is broken. When he lands in the Batmobile, the vigilante sits there for a moment, shaken, before muttering, “Women.” Each subsequent meeting between the Doctor and Bruce Wayne could be read as him trying to come out to her with the “psychiatrist” completely missing it, much like the audience.
The movie then becomes a battle between a gay supervillain couple and an in denial, confused one. Two-Face has his two side housewives (as was expected of gay men for cover back then), but he has no qualms about openly sharing his “deviant” lifestyle with his soulmate, the Riddler, in the comfort of their polyamorous home. Meanwhile, Bruce low-key seduces Dick in his own way by showing him his bikes and the two bond over bro stuff. It’s up to the gay old Butler to keep the new ward from discovering the s&m dungeon in the basement to avoid all sorts of awkwardness, but Dick is determined to uncover the secret he knows Bruce is hiding. Once he does, Bruce rejects him, afraid to blow his cover with Chase. Dick’s task becomes coaxing Batman out of his cave.
Early on at Wayne Enterprises, Eddie tries to throw signals at the stoic billionaire, who coolly sidesteps his needy advances. Bruce finally shuts the maniac down like a true alpha male, being the model closeted '90s man that he is, while Eddie is a grandiose queen with hidden, Jeffery Dahmer-like tendencies. At the climax of the film, the Riddler challenges Batman’s masculinity by forcing him to choose between saving Dr. Meridian or Robin, in his hot gladiator suit, updated as a ripped Burt Ward for the Calvin Klein underwear model age. Bruce succeeds at rescuing them both like a boss in a stunning upset for the drama obsessed villains. He then tells Eddie that he’s “both Bruce Wayne AND Batman, not because [he has] to be. But because [he] chooses to be.” This signals that he is bisexual, that his sex life is none of Edward’s business, and that he needs to keep his spycam Riddler-tech out of his bedroom. Needless to say, it was all too much for Eddie and he went apeshit in the Asylum. In the end, Chase learned that, like the audience, she could share her Batman with Robin because he was too hot to tie down in a relationship.
One final note that is sure to offend and horrify. You have been warned…
So, the bat suit has a conveniently placed zipper – a zipper that rests between two firm yet soft cheeks that fill out the costume quite nicely. I wonder what that’s for?.. Anyway, I think I’ve proven my point. Finally, something for us after so many salacious Power Girl covers. Lee Bermejo is a hero to me, by the way.
Grant Morrison’s Supergods discusses some of the same topics in his analysis of Schumacher’s Batman films and Glen Weldon’s The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture covers Batman and homosexuality, among many other aspects of the character. It’s not solely about possible gay interpretations, but his entire history as a character and how it has shaped fan culture. Both books were an inspiration in how I came to view Batman Forever.
I welcome all hate mail and negative comments, however I don’t hate-**** trolls, so don’t bother trying. I’m used to being in a minority-me-against-the-world opinion. Hopefully my reading doesn’t ruin the film forever for any straight people, because it shouldn’t. If it seems like “alternate” lifestyles are being shoved down your throat, think of how gay people have felt for centuries having to look at all of you suck face and all the other stuff. No harm in not sharing other’s attractions but remember that it’s a two-way street and we have been more than tolerant of viewing heterosexual love lives without treating straight people like nauseating beasts. We think you’re gross too, but we love you all the same. We’re all adults. Peace and love. And with that, I’m out. Literally