“I’m Bi-man!” is something that Bruce Wayne hasn’t said, admittedly… But I have to say, of all the dual-identity, spandex-clad, ball-busters out there, Batman is the nearest and queerest to my heart. We’re currently spoiled in the presence of the caped-crusader with a fabulous new turn by Robert Battinson on the big screen, the not-so ambiguously gay duo of Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy on HBO Max, and an entirely fresh DCU planned for the near future that’s sure to celebrate all of what Gotham has to offer.
In 1995, when this reviewer was still battling bullies on the Timberwilde playground, there was slightly less of the Bat. He was a household name with parents for the 60’s television show, the Burton film had built a solid enough foundation to ensure that the cowled character would grapple to the heights of the silver screen for ages, and the Animated Series, which should go without saying, is the best Batman has ever been. However, we were still, in a way, just grateful to have any Batman on screen at all. Comic books weren’t the surefire Blockbusters they are today. Batman’s fate was uncertain to a degree, and after “Batman Forever,” even though it was a commercial and financial success, there were plenty of detractors who could’ve BIFF, POWED, and BAMMED the Bat into obscurity. Of course after “Batman and Robin” failed to um… FREEZE people to their seats… people weren’t even sure if he deserved his spot in the bat signal.
People knock three times or more on both “Batman Forever” and “Batman and Robin.” I get it. They are far from the Nolan perfection of a dystopian Chicago-New York hybrid run by mob bosses and corrupt bureaucrats on the verge of a collective conscious nervous breakdown. They are, however, and especially “Batman Forever,” Bisexual perfection. What you don’t get is Frank Miller. What you don’t get is “Year One.” What you do get is an expansion on the world Tim Burton built in 89’ with a double shot of the 60’s camp many people got to know Batman for in the first place. While this cod(piece)tail isn’t a flavor suited for everyone, it might just tickle your taste buds, as it did and does mine. Here are 13 reasons Bi “Batman Forever” is Bi-Excellence! TO THE BAT LIST! DA NA NA NA NA NAAAAAAAA!
1. The Style and ASSthetic-
Out gay director, Joel Schumacher (RIP, you legend), traded Tim Burton swirls for neon streaks. The bat suits are now tailored with nipples (in case you hadn’t heard…), the music is infused with that “Super Friends” esc optimism, and Batman says things like “It’s the car, right? Chicks dig the car?”
Have you watched “Rupaul’s Drag Race” lately? When the contestants come together for their “acting” challenges, every Queen, for the most part, is trying to take center stage. In “Batman Forever,” it isn’t just the actors. The sets, the costumes, the music, and pretty much every element, save for the camera itself (crucially) are fighting for your attention as “the feature.” This is Batman in drag, as he has every right to be. I’d liken this to a late-night melodrama where the popcorn tossing is built right in or that “Batman Live” show at Six F(l)ags you caught in between rides. Queer media and camp have a rich history, and given that many previous iterations of Batman have exuded it, there’s no reason it shouldn’t have been the choice here. Yes, I know, there were so very many choices…
2. The Goops and Gags-
After McDonald’s made it clear that the bird-swallowing Catwoman would not lead more young people towards any more sexual awakenings and the sewer-stained Penguin would bite noses no more, Joel Schumacher set about making a “kid-friendly” (cue shiver) Batman movie. However, there is enough entendre in this thing to start a forest fire in Pamela Isley’s wild garden. Dick Grayson makes the floor (and all the rest of us) wet, Two-Face and the Riddler negotiate over and over about who’s the top and who’s the bottom, and when they finish those debates, they move on to playful “let’s whip it out and measure things” horsin’ around. Let’s not forget, Dr. Chase Meridian makes it a point to let Batman know she likes his use of rubber. This Gotham City is a sexual playground, but in the most repressed way possible. As many queer people can attest, you can’t always live out loud. The stealth sexuality that vibrates both visually and in lots of the witty banter is something many sexual minorities can relate to. Joel, you’re such a tease!
3. The Theme of Duality-
One of the main villains is a big nerd who crafts a wild, drag persona to express his demonic, not to mention manic, truth. The other villain is literally named “Two-Face ” and has two very distinguishable lovers. Of the two lovers, one is angelic, feminine perfection labeled as “conservative” by the aforementioned Riddler (and this moment does come across as a read). The other, a dominatrix in leather (which was her original name), has excessive hair and makeup that would challenge even Alaska Thunderfuck. Our hero is torn between the two halves of his hole truth… *Cough, cough,* I mean his whole truth. Yes, this is an internal conversation between Bruce Wayne and Batman, but symbolically, it’s just very Bi. His entire problem is thinking he needs to be only one thing or the other, and he feels the pressure to let one aspect of his truth go in favor of the other. When he finally decides near the end to embrace both sides, his choices were personified as the captive Dr. Meridian and Dick Grayson, the likes of whom Riddler challenges Batman to save. As Batman does save them, on some level, he seems to save his bisexuality too. Even if this isn’t proven in context, this decision offers a lot to bisexual comic-book fans who are looking to love a little more of themselves.
“Batman Forever” meant a lot to me as a queer kid, and it still means a lot to me as a queer adult. While my favorite Batman film has to be “Phantasm,” this might be a close second or third (it’s a spectrum, just like sexuality). What this movie ultimately reminds us of is that no one character has the purpose of being written for any single type of person in particular. IPs can morph and mutate depending on the person behind the mask, and if created with integrity, it’s best to remain open-minded. This existence doesn’t diminish the brilliance of “The Batman,” “Batman Begins,” or any other crusading romp you prefer. We all have our Batman, and we will all have plenty more Batmen to choose from in the (probably) near future. Embrace them all as much as you can, and remember, while one may not be for you, it might very possibly be for someone else. And btw, just because you don’t identify as being similar to a character, it doesn’t mean you may be unable to appreciate them or find a point of connection or understanding. What!? I’m not standing on top of a pedestal! This is the top of a skyscraper!
And now that we’ve gotten the big three out of the way, here a few shallower reasons why we think you should Bi “Batman Forever.”
4. The Gigermobile
5. Queer icon, the Magical Nicole Kidman
6. Makeup for Gays!
7. Hot Robin (The OG Chris)
8. A new daddy learning how to discipline his reckless Twink
10. Joel Schumacher, a visionary
11. The character’s roots
12. Bruce Wayne’s introspection
13. A “How-To” at how to be extra