Batman and Robin: Just Friends?

Batman and Robin enjoy some downtime: a panel from World’s Finest Comics #59 (1952)


Today’s National Post contains an article an article I’ve written examining the history of the rumour that Batman and Robin are gay. (like everything I write for the Post the article came along with an instant rebuttal, which you can read here. As a special treat for Sans Everything readers, I’ve posted below the full-length version of the article, which has many details that didn’t make it into the Post.


Inside the Batcave: Intellectual Genealogy of A Rumour
by Jeet Heer

When Batman returns to the big screen later this summer in The Dark Knight he’ll be joined by his familiar cast of secondary characters: Alfred the Butler, the decent cop James Gordon (soon to be a commissioner), the evil Joker. One character, however, will be missing: Batman’s familiar sidekick Robin, the Boy Wonder. In part this is due to the fact that the movie focuses on the early years of the Caped Crusader. But it’s also the case that movie makers in general have been reluctant to bring in Robin lest they revive longstanding rumours that Batman is gay.

It seems like a stale old joke, albeit one that can still produce a smirk in the immature. Yet the gayness of Batman has been a topic of serious debate over for nearly 70 years now. The history of this idea shows how once-marginal notions can quickly become mainstream.

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The Churchill Cult inverted

The Churchill cult has a lot to answer for: In England and the United States virtually every foreign policy disaster or near-disaster of the last six decades – from Suez to Viet Nam to Iraq – has been justified with pious invocations of Churchill’s prescient warnings against appeasement and his wartime leadership. So a book challenging the Churchill cult is sorely needed. Alas, Pat Buchanan’s new cut-and-paste tome doesn’t so much critique the Churchill cult as invert it, giving us less a debunking of religion than a Black Mass that turns a familiar ritual upside down. Instead of Churchill as the great hero and repository of wisdom we get Churchill as arch-villain responsible for all that went wrong in the early 20th century, from the outbreak of the two World Wars and the degradation of British power.

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An Imperial Paradox

Winston Churchill loved India but hated Indians, a seemingly anomalous stance which is all too common among imperialists, who tend to disdain inhabitants of coveted lands. It’s worth asking how these divergent strands of Churchill’s thought – his desire to keep India under British rule and his extreme distaste for the real people who lived in that country – coexisted.

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A Reluctant Defense of Winston Churchill

I’m not a fan of Winston Churchill. The man had his virtues and did some good but he was also a militarist (of the type that romanticizes war as a grand adventure), an imperialist, a bungling administrator (Gallipoli being only the most famous of his many botched operations), a racist, and a militant supporter of ruling class interests. Still, reading Pat Buchanan’s new book Churchill, Hitler, and “The Unnecessary War”: How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World had the unexpected effect of creating in me some sympathy and affection for the old reprobate British bulldog.

I’ll have more to say about Churchill in some subsequent posts, but in the meantime, my initial take on Buchanan’s book can be found in this Guardian column.

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