The major comic book publishers—specifically Marvel and DC—are at least gesturing toward being a little less precious with their characters these days, with Marvel doing some weird experimental-ish stuff on Disney+ and DC throwing a lot of money at vanity projects like Joker and Zack Snyder’s Justice League, proving that we’re a long ways away from the days when comic book movies and TV shows had to apologize for their nerdy origins or goofy costumes. The Harley Quinn cartoon, now on HBO Max after originally premiering on DC Universe, is a prime example of this new approach to superheroes: It’s violent, it has swearing, and it pulls from a nicely deep well of characters that rewards comic book knowledge rather than shaming you for it. There’s one thing that Harley Quinn apparently cannot do, though, and that is show Batman going down on Catwoman
Speaking with Variety for an unrelated purpose (credit to Variety for resisting the impulse to make the entire interview about this), Harley Quinn co-creators Justin Halpern and Patrick Schumacker revealed that DC has given them a ton of “leeway” in terms of what they can do with Harley and her villainous friends, but they were told “you absolutely cannot do that” when they tried to include a scene in the show’s third season that involved a Batman and Catwoman having sex. Here’s the full quote, because anything else won’t do it justice:
...we had a moment where Batman was going down on Catwoman. And DC was like, “You can’t do that. You absolutely cannot do that.” They’re like, “Heroes don’t do that.” So, we said, “Are you saying heroes are just selfish lovers?” They were like, “No, it’s that we sell consumer toys for heroes. It’s hard to sell a toy if Batman is also going down on someone.”
Is it the most absurd objection one of these comic book publishers has ever had to something? Probably not, but it’s certainly up there. Basically, DC needs to sell Batman toys, and it believes that people won’t buy a Batman toy if they know that he went down on someone… which actually might really be the most absurd objection DC has ever had to something. DC isn’t selling specific Harley Quinn Batman toys, and the show isn’t marketed to kids, so is the issue just that some misogynistic nerd would get mad about it? And is that misogynistic nerd so important to DC’s bottom line that this is the one thing it would have a problem with?
Batman uses a gun to murder people in those Zack Snyder movies, but god forbid he actually do something nice for Selina Kyle, a woman who has put up with a lot of bullshit over the course of their decades-long on-and-off-again relationship. Of course, this is all coming second-hand, so the reasoning might not literally have been “we need to sell Batman toys,” but DC presumably did at least really object to it. Either way, the race is now on for some comic book company to get out there and explicitly confirm in a movie or TV show that one of its heroes does like to perform oral sex. It won’t be Marvel, because people in the MCU barely hold hands, so this could be the trick for one of these other companies to finally beat Disney at something.