Why Joel Schumacher's Batman & Robin Costumes Had Nipples

One notorious point of contention that has been mercilessly criticized in Joel Schumacher's two Batman films, 1995's Batman Forever and 1997's Batman & Robin, is the costume change that added visible nipples to the superhero suit. Unceremoniously dubbed by audience as "Bat-Nipples," the design change is perhaps more often cited by critics of them as an example of the series' diminishing quality rather than any specific scene from the two films themselves. However, according to Schumacher himself, the reason behind the controversial cosmetic addition was a simple one, and one inspired directly by classical Greco-Roman artwork.

While the Bat-Nipples are perhaps more frequently associated with Batman & Robin, both the Dark Knight and his fledgling Boy Wonder sport this infamous costume design in Batman Forever as well, though Batman's shiny sonar suit at the end of the 1995 film foregoes the nipple addition. However, the Bat-Nipples are front and center at the start of Batman & Robin, with the 1997 sequel beginning with closeup shots of Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson suiting up. This includes zoom-in shots on the nipples and codpieces as the Dynamic Duo prepare for their first confrontation with the villainous Mister Freeze. For Schumacher, the rationale behind the strange costume design was influenced by Greco-Roman statues and a greater sense of keeping in line with human anatomy than the armored design for Batman seen in 1992's Batman Returns.

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Twenty years after the release of Batman & Robin, Schumacher was largely apologetic over the mixed reception to the 1997 film in a reflective interview. The topic of the Bat-Nipples was mentioned, with Schumacher acknowledging the level of notoriety that the costume design garnered over the years.

Schumacher explained that he felt that the costumes used in the two Tim Burton Batman films looked too large on original film series star Michael Keaton. Arguing that rubber molding had improved significantly by pre-production on Batman Forever, Schumacher gave the production's lead sculptor, Jose Fernandez, photos of ancient Greco-Roman statues as reference to give the superhero costumes a more vaunted and anatomically correct appearance for the film.

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Of course, for better or worse, the superhero costumes in Batman & Robin, including the costume for Batgirl, aren't completely anatomically correct, though the nipples are more prominent in the costumes used by the Dynamic Duo for the majority of the film. The nipples have since become something of a laughingstock within the Batman mythos, with the animated series, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, making fun of the costume, while Zack Snyder's 2009 adaptation of Watchmen would quietly homage the Schumacher-era Batman films through Ozymandias' superhero costume similarly possessing visible nipples. Subsequent live-action Batman films would feature costumes ranging from nipple-less rubber and armored plating to the cloth material utilized in the DC Extended Universe.

Batman & Robin has gained a reputation as not only the worst Batman movie, but one of the worst superhero movies ever made, effectively putting live-action adaptations of the Dark Knight on ice for nearly a full decade until 2005's Batman Begins. The Bat-Nipples are the most visible symbol of how far the Schumacher-era films had deviated from the darker approach Burton employed with his two films, with the nipples immortalized in high-detail figures. The controversial change all reportedly sprung from Schumacher drawing from classical artwork for inspiration in the costume design, though fans have lambasted the decision for years.

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Sam Stone (8466 Articles Published)

Sam Stone is a 10th level pop culture guru living just outside of Washington, DC who knows an unreasonable amount about The Beatles. You can follow him on Twitter @samstoneshow and ask him about Nintendo, pop punk, and Star Trek.

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