On the 20th anniversary of Batman & Robin, much has been said about the film’s legacy. As a piece of entertainment, the movie was widely panned by critics and fans alike; today, it still holds a 10 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. But more enduring than any review score is the film’s true gift: the batnipples. Batman and his partner Robin both wore costumes that prominently displayed their headlights. It was, and it remains, an act of genius.
The costume choice now symbolizes the gaudiness of that superhero era, a time when Batman could be viewed as a wacky hero instead of a gritty one. To this day, director Joel Schumacher is asked about the costume quirk. And when he’s not directly interrogated, Schumacher takes the time to bring it up. Just last week, in an interview with Vice, the director gamely told the publication that he knows he’ll “always go down over the nipples on Batman” — which first appeared in Batman & Robin’s predecessor, Batman Forever.
Says Schumacher: “It's going to be on my tombstone, I know it.”
Over at GQ, Kristen Yoonsoo Kim interviewed Schumacher about his feelings on Batman & Robin, going deeper into the story of the batnipple. Among some interesting chatter about the film’s legacy in gay cinema and Schumacher’s recent, misunderstood apology, there is, again, this delightful bit about those batsuit nubs. “It got so much attention,” Schumacher says. “So many talented people were working with rubber that we got the gift of having the suit being very slim and very body conscious. The suits became sexier. I never thought… I didn’t even know if people would notice.”
People noticed. I noticed.
I was eight years old when I saw Schumacher’s film, and frankly, I was charmed. I loved Uma Thurman’s Poison Ivy, who looks like a knockoff Spice Girl. I wanted to be Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl. And I considered Arnold Schwarzenegger’s truly awful puns the height of wit.
The pair’s controversial nipple wear was utterly boring to me at the time, because how much does any eight-year-old think about someone’s nipples? But as time has worn on (and the batnip conversation has reemerged a bizarre number of times in my everyday conversations), I have to say it: I’m team batnip. Nipples are the stupidest body part to be cloaked in taboo; everyone’s got ‘em. But even today, you can’t show a bare one on Facebook and Instagram unless you want a strike for female nudity.
The Batman Forever / Batman & Robin era of the Dark Knight, love or hate it, rode hard on the idea that superhero movies could be fun — ridiculous, even. From the acting to the dialogue to the very costumes the characters wore, Batman & Robin has a playfulness that DC is failing so hard to find with films like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice or even Suicide Squad.
Superhero costumes are already ridiculous. They add steel-coated abs and boob-shaped breastplates (even though those would cause more harm than good). What is it about the batnipple that goes too far, other than some larger uncomfortableness with two fleshy little nubs?
Batman & Robin didn’t do a lot right, by the traditional critical lenses. But for once, we got to see something comically, joyfully, unapologetically weird. And in the process, we got something unexpected: Batman and his erect nipples were sexualized — like so many of his female counterparts were before and continue to be.
If Batman Forever gave us “Kiss From A Rose,” the best song ever produced, Batman & Robin reinforced this infamous (and truly revolutionary) look. So, only one question remains: Are you ready to embrace the batnipple?
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