Bat nipples. One of the most baffling things in the Batman film saga. They seem to be unnecessary, so why do they exist at all? In the world of Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin, sexuality and the confidence to wield that sexuality drive each character’s actions. It creates a need to act aggressively flamboyant in order to achieve dominance.
Batman and Robin has an unfortunate reputation. It's conventionally viewed as the reason the Batman franchise needed to be born-again. Sure I can understand why the film may be viewed negatively, but I believe the main problem with Batman and Robin is that its deeper meanings of "free sexuality" and gender equality are completely ignored.
What? You mean you didn't notice Batman and Robin's genuinely fantastic sexual underbelly? Allow me to show it to you.
Batman is not exactly known for his subtlety. For Batman and Robin, Schumacher throws out whatever semblance of subtlety Batman may have had left. That isn’t all bad though. Why is it necessary for Batman's suit to have nipples, 12 pack abs, and a butt? Because Batman no longer has to repress his sexuality. The Batman franchise before Batman Begins tended to depict Bruce Wayne as an extremely lonely individual. Sure he had a few girlfriends here and there, but he could never truly satisfy his desires since he needed to work for the greater good. In Batman and Robin, Bruce has found a way to continue to help Gotham while running around in a pleasurable skin tight suit.
Because of his flamboyant suits, silver codpieces, and protruding nipples, Clooney's Batman is far more aware and accepting of his desires and that feeling of acceptance affects the rest of the film. Since Batman is confident in himself, I can accept that Mr. Freeze has light up butt cheeks, Poison Ivy runs around in spandex and has weird hair, and that Batgirl has high heels for no reason. The new focus on flamboyance and sexuality gives Batman and Robin a different feel than the rest of the franchise. It’s almost as if Batman needs to act as goofy as he does in order to fit in with everyone. Oh, and in case you're still doubting that Batman and Robin is about freedom of sexual expression, the film starts off with Batman and Robin's bat-butts.
Batman and Robin has all of the makings of reboot. It has a large shift in tone from its predecessor (Batman Forever), the main male lead was replaced with one of the sexiest men alive, and it introduces ideas that ignore the previous films. In order for the film to maintain its hypersexualized reality, the film needed a sexaay cast. Chris O' Donnell remains as Robin since he is an arguably attractive man, Alicia Silverstone is hot off of Clueless, Arnold Schwarzenegger is a musclebound manly-man who used to embody the muscular ideal (which would explain his light up butt cheeks), while Uma Thurman was actually believable as someone who could manipulate their own sexuality and attractiveness to her own benefit while seeming dangerous.
While each actor may not be the greatest with their clunky dialogue, they remain sexy enough to keep the film afloat. Honestly, it doesn't matter how hammy Uma Thurman or Arnie may be, they are damn fine to look at.
Speaking of Uma and Arnie, Poison Ivy and Mr. Freeze could only exist in the sexy world of Batman and Robin. Since sexuality is the dominant force in the film, the one who can confidently control that sexuality gains the most power. Mr. Freeze exists in order to be the "cold shower" that keeps the sexuality of the world in line. Notice how he wasn't effected by Ivy's sexiness? Mr. Freeze ends up becoming the more dominant villain because he wants to "ice down" the entire sexualized world of the film.
Poison Ivy, a villainess who uses her "feminine wiles," (which was tried once with Catwoman in Batman Returns but not to the same extent) is meant to serve as the blatant sexual power. She represents sexuality in its purest form: wild, untamed, and alluring. While Poison Ivy may seem like a weaker female character since she embodies the "femme fatale" archetype, she has power over men without having to degrade herself. She never does anything she doesn't want to. It's also pretty neat when she gets trapped in a metaphor for lady parts.
Gender Bending and Female Empowerment
The reason I wrote this article in the first place is not just to exploit Batman and Robin's hidden sexuality, its to point out how strong female characters were ignored thanks to all of the bat-nipple backlash. Because there is a superfluous amount of confident sexuality amongst the characters, there is no need to segregate the genders. In this film, everyone is on equal ground. There is no semblance of masculinity or femininity. It's just pure flamboyance.
Batgirl's character should be a lot more iconic. She's one of the only females in DC's entire repertoire to be represented in a big budget film while in a heroic role (the other being Supergirl). She's a strong female too. She attends school for computer science -- she's not your typical "damsel in distress" -- while having a knack for judo and riding motorcycles. She's an all-around girl that isn't just a sex icon. In fact when she shows off her super tight suit, it's not that surprising to see a tight outfit since Batman already has one. It doesn't degrade her at all.
After reading this article, I hope the bat-fans out there can look past the nipples and get into the genuinely spectacular sexual undertone of Batman and Robin. What's scary about all of this is that Schumacher may have intended the film be interpreted like this, and if he did, we don't give him nearly enough credit. The man may be a genius.