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Grant Morrison says Batman is gay, internet basically shrugs

Illustration for article titled Grant Morrison says Batman is gay, internet basically shrugs

Ever since the days of Fredric Wertham, people have been pointing out the homoerotic elements in Batman. There are hundreds of GIFs of Batman in his pink costume, or that famous scene where all the other DC heroes worry about their girlfriends, and Batman worries about Robin. There's even a Wikipedia entry on "Homosexuality in the Batman Franchise," complete with an image from a 1954 comic showing Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson apparently sleeping in the same bed.


Top image: Frank Quitely/Playboy.

So when Batman, Inc. writer Grant Morrison said in a Playboy Magazine interview that he thought the concept of Batman (not Batman himself) was gay, the fan reaction was muted. Here's what Morrison says:

He's very plutonian in the sense that he's wealthy and also in the sense that he's sexually deviant. 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. I think that's why people like it. All these women fancy him and they all wear fetish clothes and jump around rooftops to get to him. He doesn't care-he's more interested in hanging out with the old guy and the kid.


He also points out that Wonder Woman was only really popular when she was having lots of bondage and strange lesbian stag-hunts.

In any case, I've seen articles claiming that Morrison's comments caused a huge internet hub-bub... but I haven't quite been able to locate the hub-bub yet. There have been a few grouchy comments here and there, and a number of people pointing out that Batman is currently boinking Catwoman thus proving that indeed, "as a fictional character he's intended to be heterosexual." And a few other people have wondered what, exactly, the "pejorative sense" of gay is. The main critical comment I've come across thus far? Over at the Bleeding Cool forums, Phantom309 asks, "Why is Captain Picard about to crush all those characters?"

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I find this whole discussion really, really amusing. His sexuality being an issue is completely sideways to the whole point of his story, and yet also central to a lot of the fascination people have with him as a character. In a lot of older writing, sex was a completely taboo topic on all levels. Some social norms were so prevalent that they simply weren't mentioned at all. The hero's journey tradition Batman exemplifies comes from that timeframe, so sex isn't relevant to his character development, except as a sign that he's so devoted to his cause that even the promise of it can't sway him from his ideals (hence the decades-long flirtation with Catwoman, etc). His lack of sexual activity is supposed to indicate his purity of purpose.

Asexuality and homosexuality could both fit with his behavior, but most of the writers back in the day were trying to ensure that he was portrayed as uber-masculine, with all the normal masculine drives cranked up to suitably impressive proportions; the greater challenge he faced in his greater masculinity was part of displaying his tremendous willpower, which utterly conquered all those pesky human attributes. By contrast, all of his enemies were a sort of failure of willpower - madness, lust, greed, chaos - broken minds who could not manage the self-control Batman displayed. In a sense, much of the comic a paen to personal discipline's triumph over sensualism and indulgence.

In any event, it's taken to an extreme, making it an unrealistic or possibly psychotic example (but still entertaining). And the lack of overt sexuality - the ability to dismiss even the most hyper-sexual women at will, the bad girls who rob and steal and display lust without remorse - definitely plays into both the morals of the time and the hetero boy's concept of sex as a yucky thing (until you're about 13 or 14 and it stops being so yucky. Then you have a whole new appreciation for Catwoman's sartorial choices.)

If he were gay, it would devalue his ability to deny himself and undermine his self-control in the eyes of his hetero fans. Part of his appeal to one segment of his male fanbase is the fact that he *can* say no to women, no matter how attractive. There's a subset of fantasy in which men don't just want the attraction of beautiful women, they want to be able to dismiss attractive women as unimportant - while knowing that if they so much as beckoned those women would be back. It's a power fantasy, practically a fetish. But it's only half about having enough power over women to make them want you - it's also about having power over themselves. The power to say no to a basic drive.