Costume designer Jose Fernandez has been chatting about the Batman & Robin costume controversy – and it definitely wasn’t a ‘wardrobe malfunction’.
1997’s Batman & Robin is maligned for many a reason, some fair, others not. However, no critique sums up the film’s reception like the crazed fervour around the ‘Bat-Nipples’ that the two titular characters sported on their costumes. Whilst the offending articles first appeared in 1995’s Batman Forever, it was Joel Schumacher’s 1997 follow-up that really made them headline stars, accentuating them as a key feature of the Batsuit.
A quarter of a century on and the term ‘Bat-Nipples’ has become shorthand for creative excess, a byword for when filmmakers ‘go too far.’ The designer of that suit, Jose Fernandez has been reflecting on the suit and those nipples, reminiscing about the choices that created the symbol for a low point in the Batman franchise:
“With Val Kilmer’s suit in Batman Forever, the nipples were one of those things that I added. It wasn’t fetish to me, it was more informed by Roman armor — like Centurions,” he explains to MEL magazine. “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”.
The question that has plagued Bat-fans for a quarter of a century remains though: why did they choose to double down on the offending articles in 1997’s Batman & Robin? According to Fernandez, that was all Schumacher.
“For Batman & Robin, Joel Schumacher loved the nipples, so he said, “Let’s showcase them.” 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.”
Of course, Schumacher is no longer with us but he did fully accept responsibility for the Bat-Nipples so this certainly checks out.
And what about Batgirl? How come she never benefited from the same costume design?
“With Alicia Silverstone, they wanted nipples on her too. They said, “If the guys have nipples, the girls should have nipples, too,” recalls Fernandez, ”after I sculpted it though, everybody realised, maybe not. It was a bit obscene, so we took the nipples off. ”
So there you go. Next time you watch Batman & Robin, just try and think to yourself ‘Roman Centurion’ rather than ‘fetish. fetish, fetish!’ That’s where you’ve been going wrong.
I’m off to try that now. You can catch the full interview at MEL here, it’s well worth the read.
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