For those who remember the Joel Schumacher directed Batman films, Batman & Robin is probably the one that sticks out in your mind the most. It's got bat nipples and nearly endless ice puns but one of the big things audiences took after seeing Batman & Robin was that that the dynamic duo were probably gay. There’s certainly a level of homoerotic tension to be glimpsed in the film, from the general campiness of the movie to some peculiar costume design choices. Until recently though this was all just conjecture, but now Robin actor Chris O’Donnell has finally come out about his character.
Appearing on Bravo TV’s Watch What Happens Live, Chris O’Donnell answered a caller question about how he played the character's sexuality. In an interview with Barbara Walters, George Clooney - who played Batman in that film – revealed that he played his character as gay. When asked if he did the same, O’Donnell gave a pretty definitive answer.
Then I screwed up, because I played him straight. So clearly, that was the mistake with ‘Batman & Robin.’ I mean, the nipples, the codpiece, what was gay about it? I don’t understand.
There you have it. In a movie with Batman and Robin, Batman was the gay one. While I don’t really buy that George Clooney was being serious (he was probably getting tired of being asked about it so he figured, what the hell?) it’s nice to see O’Donnell being a good sport about it. It has to be hard being remembered for that role but the fact that he can joke about it, means it must not bother him much anymore. The shadow of Robin is a tall one and the character hasn’t been represented in live action ever since.
It might be hard for some to remember but Batman wasn’t always the serious, brooding vigilante we see on screen today. Before Chris Nolan came along and basically saved the Dark Knight’s reputation with Batman Begins, the character was still trying to survive the nineties torture that was Joel Schumacher. Schumacher's two films, Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, had a level of camp that would make even Adam West cringe.
Clooney describing the feature is a laugh riot:
This is hardly the first time people have assumed the nature of Batman and Robin’s relationship to be more then mentor and ward. In the 1950s, psychiatrist Fredric Wertham published a novel called Seduction of Innocent, which claimed that comic books were corrupting youths with subliminal messages. Wertham saw Batman and Robin as a gay couple, assumedly with Alfred as their older experienced friend. The publication of this book gave birth to the Comics Code Authority, set up by publishers to self-censor comics. DC Comics was terrified kids actually saw Robin as gay (they mostly didn’t; Wertham allegedly falsified his research) and it’s been a reputation that’s stuck with Robin throughout the years.
What do you feel about one day seeing a gay Robin? Would you want it to be an entirely new character or a re-interpretation of Dick Grayson? Sound off in the comments section.