The HBO Max animated Harley Quinn series has been a hit with wide audiences thanks in large part to its irreverent take on the heroes and villains of the DC Universe, and for its progressive take on the relationship between Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy. It seems there’s a line to how far the show is able to take some things, though, as it was revealed today that DC Comics at one point requested the show remove a scene in which Batman performs oral sex on Catwoman.
In a Variety article about TV shows like Harley Quinn and WandaVision that “subvert the superhero genre,” Harley Quinn producer Justin Halpern spoke about the relative freedom he and co-producer Patrick Schumacher experience while working on the show, and the notable instance in which DC objected Batman going down on Catwoman:
“Harley Quinn” is also unique among the current crop of comic content in that its main character and all of her closest allies are villains rather than heroes in the DC canon. That allows the show to do different things with the characters that heroes simply cannot do — at least according to DC.
“It’s incredibly gratifying and free to be using characters that are considered villains because you just have so much more leeway,” says Halpern. “A perfect example of that is in this third season of ‘Harley’ [when] 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.’”
(In fairness to DC, both Halpern and Schumacker went on to say that the company has been remarkably supportive of their series and has allowed them to push the envelope numerous times. Still, it remains to be seen if Batman and Catwoman will be shown engaging in some bedroom antics in Season 3 or if it will simply be implied via cunning linguistics.)
“‘Heroes don’t do that.’” I know a lot of people who would argue to the contrary.
The idea that what Batman does on an adult-oriented cartoon available only on a premium streaming service could impact toy sales is somewhat laughable. If Harley Quinn were on Cartoon Network it might make more sense. It does make one question whether the same would be true if the scene were of Catwoman giving Batman a blowjob. Is the issue that heroes – which Catwoman has arguably been for at least a decade now – don’t ‘do that,’ or that the specific scene involved a man giving a woman oral pleasure?
The whole thing reminds me of a famous Neil Gaiman quote, in which he says he was told while writing The Sandman that “people do not masturbate in the DC Universe:”
Actually, that explains a lot. That’s probably why the characters all dress in tight costumes and go around thumping the shit out of each other.
Times have changed since then, at least somewhat, though. We’ve notably seen Oliver Queen perform oral sex on Dinah Lance in the first issue of Kevin Smith‘s 2001 run on Green Arrow.
Why that was acceptable twenty years ago and Batman performing oral sex on Catwoman in an animated series for adults isn’t acceptable now is another question. It’s also been a little under three years since DC published a comic (again, adult-oriented) that caused a stir for including Batman’s penis, so it could just be that the publisher is a little shy about these things.
Either way, we’re going to need some clarification on the parameters for what’s acceptable and unacceptable sexual behavior between consenting adults within the DC Universe, DC.