Nearly three decades since the film came out, the nipples on the costumes of the Dark Knight and the Boy Wonder in Batman Forever remain a source of controversy. This little detail seems to be the first thing people cite as being “wrong” with the Joel Schumacher Bat-movies, glossing over every other issue. But the controversy is not just among fans, but among actual Batman film directors.
While talking up the 30th anniversary of Batman Returns to Empire, director Tim Burton brought up the infamous “bat nipples.” And he couldn’t believe the studio fired him for the oddball kinkiness of Batman Returns, only to have Joel Schumacher add them in the next, supposedly more “Happy Meal friendly” movie. Here’s what he had to say:
“[Back then] they went the other way. That’s the funny thing about it. But then I was like, ‘Wait a minute. Okay. Hold on a second here. You complain about me, I’m too weird, I’m too dark, and then you put nipples on the costume? Go f*** yourself.’ Seriously. So yeah, I think that’s why I didn’t end up [doing a third film]…”
But in another interview this week, we actually learned the origins of the bat-nipples. And they didn’t originate from Batman Forever director, Joel Schumacher. They were the brainchild of Batman Forever and Batman and Robin costume designer, Jose Fernandez. Here’s what he said of his costuming decision to MEL Magazine (via The Hollywood Reporter):
“It wasn’t fetish to me, it was more informed by Roman armor — like Centurions. And, in the comic books, the characters always looked like they were naked with spray paint on them. It was all about anatomy, and I like to push anatomy.”
Although the nipples on the costume first appeared in Batman Forever, they doubled down on them for the sequel, adding them to Robin as well. Fernadez said, “Schumacher wanted them sharpened, like, with points. They were also circled, both outer and inner — it was all made into a feature of the batsuit. I didn’t want to do it, but he’s the boss, so we sharpened them, circled them and it all became kind of ridiculous.”
So, if the boys got nipples on their costume, why not Batgirl? Fernadez said the attempt was made, but it looked too “obscene.” All of this is a reminder of just who calls the shots at the movie studios: largely straight men. Because only straight men would call out Michelle Pfieffer in a skintight vinyl catsuit holding a whip as “too adult,” but be oblivious to the erotic nature of nipples on the men’s costumes.