Wednesday, March 31, 2010

When Batman and Robin Were First Outed as Gay Lovers

In 1954, best-selling writer, Frederic Wertham became the first person to accuse Batman and Robin of being gay lovers.  Fredric Wertham was a German-American psychiatrist and crusading author who protested the purportedly harmful effects of violent imagery in mass media and comic books on the development of children.

How did Wertham come to the conclusion that Batman and Robin were gay?  He based it on the following:
  • "Bruce Wayne was rich. Several of Wertham’s patients said they wanted to live with Bruce and be rich too. "It is like a wish dream of two homosexuals living together" (p. 190). Here Wertham proposed that Bruce’s money was an aphrodisiac."
  • "Alfred served lavish meals and kept Wayne Manor filled with freshly cut flowers. This is called stereotyping. So we will address this point immediately and say that a person’s attitude toward flowers or breakfast is not a gender-based or gender-defining characteristic."

  • "Batman and Robin spent a lot of time caged, trapped or tied up while the other tried to save him. "Like the girls in other stories, Robin is sometimes held captive …. They constantly rescue each other from violent attacks by an unending number of enemies. The feeling is conveyed that we men must stick together because there are so many villainous creatures who have to be exterminated. They lurk not only under every bed but also behind every star in the sky" (p. 190-1). Wertham argued that danger could be stimulating, and that in the wrong circumstances that stimulation could take a sexual turn. He called such stories "erotic rescue fantasies." They were intended, he said, to make Robin more devoted to Batman than to anyone else on earth."
  • "Bruce and Dick must be homosexual because there were no women in their home. The underlying assumption was that these were sexually active characters and that, lacking appropriate outlets for their passionate urges (i.e. wives) they were compelled to sate those urges with each other. In response let the record show that Robin had been born a boy because the creators didn’t want their moral crusader living alone with an adolescent girl. They were trying to avoid even the appearance of wrongdoing. They had not anticipated this alternate interpretation."

All of those quotes were from his best-known book - The Seduction of the Innocent (1954).  As crazy as some of those ideas may sound today, the book created a bit of a frenzy at the time.  It led to a U.S. Congressional inquiry by the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency into the comic book industry.

Publishers who became concerned about the possibility of government regulation instead created the self regulating Comics Code Authority.

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