Bright Lights Film Journal

Batman Begins: Now with 50% Fewer Nipples!

It’s one step forward, two steps backward as our long national aureoline nightmare refuses to end

Were you, like me, drawn as a moth to a flame to attend the premiere of Batman Begins by the iconographic publicity shot of a brooding Batman holding a recumbent Katie Holmes in his arms, a picture seemingly formed by waves of radiant energy spreading from Katie’s magnificently erect right nipple? If so, mon ami, you don’t need me to tell you that you’ve been hosed. You’ve been hosed, you’ve been posed, you’ve been diddled, dished, and done, because it ain’t in the picture.

It’s been a long time since the American public has been hustled in such a crass and craven manner. Roger Corman built a career out of making third-rate films to accompany first-rate posters, but the collapse of middle-class prudery in the sixties, coupled with rising production budgets, rendered such petty fraud unnecessary. But now, it seems, the bitch is back. The question is why.

Few pursuits in history have been as long, as sinuous, as tortuous, as downright contradictory as the American pursuit of the female breast,1 an obsession in which infinite doubt, and infinite determination, are mysteriously blended, twin immortals forever locked in an irresolvable duel to the death that cannot end.

Back in the nineties, Pamela Anderson et al. pressed their breasts so aggressively on the public that suffocation seemed a real danger. Surely, one thought, it will only be a matter of time before that seductively stretched fabric will descend that final, final inch, or grow entirely transparent, or perhaps simply explode. Such naïveté failed utterly to comprehend the powerful reactionary forces and subterranean currents lurking in the inner recesses of the American mind. The seas retreat only to advance, and the eagle swoops only to soar.

The Counter Reformation, as one may call it, exploded with all the fury of the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre during the infamous halftime show of Superbowl XXXVIII, when a monumentally reckless Janet Jackson came closer to destroying the Republic than Osama Bin Laden.2

Fortunately, a media via had already been opened up via Kirsten Dunst’s skin-tight, soaking wet, yet terminally opaque bodice in Spiderman.3 But in today’s hypercharged environment, even that measure of submerged eroticism was deemed too dangerous. And thus major studios are resorting to come-ons that were discarded as cheap by American International back in 1965.

What about the rest of the picture? Well, I’m probably not the first to say that Batman Begins, but does it ever end? How much backstory do you need on a guy who dresses up as a bat? I’ve never understood the compulsion to treat comic book characters in mythic terms. The endlessly derided Batman TV series was a lot closer to the spirit of the original comics, and, best of all, the episodes only lasted half an hour.4

  1. Male tits, dismissively described as “neither ornamental nor useful” by that galloping hetero Roscoe Conkling, simply don’t arouse the same passion in the public mind. You can see, if you want, George Washington’s nipples in a statue in the American History museum in DC. You won’t be seeing Laura Bush’s nipples for a long time. []
  2. If you’re willing to risk it, there’s more of Janet’s nipple in her recent DVD, Janet in Hawaii, which is definitely an above-average concert film. []
  3. One presumes they went the same route in Spiderman 2, but I took a pass on the sequel. I just couldn’t get excited about “Doc Oc.” I mean, it wasn’t like he was a real octopus. []
  4. And no one can tell me anything about the original comics. I read every Batman (all Batman and Robin), Detective Comics (Batman and Robin and assorted lesser DC deities like Aquaman), and World’s Finest Comics (Batman and Robin and Superman!) ever printed between about 1950 and 1960. But I never could get into the “angst of the Dark Knight” graphic novels of the past twenty years. Angst? What angst? Batman didn’t have angst. He was fucking Batman. []