In the multiverse of comic books, there’s room for just about every imaginable iteration on the classic superheroes we know and love. Between Zombie Dr. Strange, Centaur Superman, and even a Baby Batman, the possibilities for wacky alternate realities seem endless.
But apparently there is one superpower that will forever elude all our most popular heroes across the entirety of their ever-expanding extended universes — and it’s eating pussy. At least that’s what DC explicitly told Justin Halpern, co-creator of HBO Max’s raunchy Harley Quinn animated series.
In an interview with Variety, Halpern revealed that they’d been forced to censor a moment in Season 3 which depicted Batman going down on Catwoman, because DC insisted that “‘heroes don’t do that.'” While Halpern protested the notion that all superheroes were selfish partners, DC appeared far more concerned with Batman’s viability as a consumer product. Unlike the villains who do most of the debauchery on Harley Quinn, superheroes generate lots of profit in the form of kid-friendly toys. So, to sum up Halpern’s recollection of DC’s logic, “‘It’s hard to sell a toy if Batman is also going down on someone.'”
The news of Batman being a canonically ungenerous lover exploded across the internet when the interview first came out last summer (with even Justice League director Zack Snyder contributing his own chaotic tweet to the discourse). But after the first three episodes of Harley Quinn Season 3 dropped on Thursday, July 28, we finally got to see the censorship in action for ourselves.
And, let me tell you, Catwoman isn’t the only one who was left out to dry by DC’s ban on oral sex. In fact, we’ve all lost a lot more than just one joke from an animated series due to the bizarre prudishness that comic books impose on their superheroes’ sexuality.
In the Harley Quinn Season 3, episode 3 opener, the clunkily-reworked joke comes after Poison Ivy ends a call by commiserating with Catwoman about how much better she could do than the guy she’s currently seeing. Catwoman agrees, only to put down the phone to reveal an overly eager Batman on his hands and knees, hunched over her lap, performing…a foot massage.
“Shall I continue?” Batman asks the obviously dissatisfied Catwoman like the latex-clad sub that he is. “No, it’s not worth it,” she sighs.
While the original implications of the scene are hard to miss, the censorship neuters what should’ve been a dynamite opener into a perplexingly limp start. The show’s superb writers recover quickly. But this controversy is only the most recent example of how the MCU and DCEU’s puritanical rules around superheroes is holding the entire genre back.
Critics have been calling out Marvel’s conspicuous sexlessness since 2013. But in the past year, legendary directors like Steven Soderbergh, Pedro Almodóvar, and Paul Verhoeven joined the chorus by pointing to it as their main gripe with the comic book takeover of the entertainment industry.
Erasing the existence of sexual desire from these characters’ lives makes for some pretty dehumanizing storytelling.
The hottest people alive are all virgins who hang out in skin-tight suits together without ever really getting horny for each other.
The total lack of fucking has become one of the most alienating parts of these fantastical cinematic universes, where the hottest people alive are all virgins who hang out in skin-tight suits together without ever really getting horny for each other. Yet while superheroes may not be allowed to express desire or experience pleasure, they’re also still simultaneously required to adhere to today’s strict, hypersexualized body ideals. Like live-action toys themselves, the superhero movie star is sold to audiences as a sex symbol who can only ever be the object rather than a subject of voyeuristic pleasure.
Yeah, this reads like more than just a foot massage to me…
Credit: HBO Max
Tellingly, DC only cares about policing the sexuality of its hero characters. Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn are given total liberty to munch away at each other’s carpets throughout Season 3, as they celebrate their newfound love with an “Eat Bang Kill” tour. (Is pleasuring your partner something only the morally corrupt do?) To make matters worse, Batman’s moral virtue (or rather commercial viability) doesn’t seem at all threatened by the near-sociopathic acts of mass violence he commits later on in the season. We won’t get into specifics to spare you the spoilers, but let’s just say they include but are not limited to terrorizing a traumatized child and almost sacrificing the entirety of Gotham to get what he wants.
At the end of the day, we all know that DC’s insistence that superheroes don’t schtup is a financial rather a moral statement. It’s a damn shame, though. There’s undoubtedly plenty of money to be made from leaning into — rather than shying away from — the sexiness of it all by launching an adult line of superhero-themed toys instead, if you catch our drift.
Until then, though, I guess Catwoman will have to make do with caring for her own pussycat. Anyway, she can keep her sulky, sexless Dark Knight. We’re just happy that we get to join Harley and Ivy on their horny honeymoon.