Before I am massacred by fans and non-fans alike for my really gay reading of Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, let me just preface by saying that not only am I entirely allowed to read the film in such a way, but I would also like to make it understood—for the skeptics, bigots, and the community about to give me a lot crap—that queer readings, as explained by renowned queer theorist Richard Dyer, are entirely valid and mean a whole lot to those doing the reading. “Because, as gays, we grew up not only isolated by our heterosexual peers but also from each other, we turned to the mass media for information and ideas about ourselves,” Dyer stated in his critical book Gays and Films. That being said, Batman v Superman is hella gay.
History of the comic book characters aside (Batman and Robin gay rumors have been swirling around forever), it also helps my case that the title of Batman v Superman is pretty homoerotic. From the get go it suggests a face-off between two really attractive dudes we know are in tights, a fact obvious enough for gay porn studio Men.com, who felt obliged to create a parody version of the film—Batman Vs Superman: A Gay XXX Parody.
Anyway, near the close of the film—which runs at over two and half hours—there’s a crucial fight scene that occurs between Superman, played by English actor Henry Cavill for the second time after leading Man of Steel (also a gay title?) and Ben Affleck's Batman. The fight is how we get to the “versus” point in the film, the moment where the two heroes are finally pinned against one another, the moment where they land punches, launch themselves into each other’s upsettingly large arms, and shout words of disdain throughout. This sequence is significant because, despite it being action-packed and featuring relatively impressive choreography, it’s one of the least sensical elements of the film. It not only manages to be dull, but it also comes across as insincere and unearned—suspiciously so.
Much of the film, as evidenced in its trailer and in the trailer of the porn parody, is build-up, a collection of sequences and plot devices that get the two heroes’ blood boiling. Affleck’s Batman is bitter about how Superman recklessly destroyed much of Metropolis in his fight against General Zod. Batman’s also having dreams about a post-apocalyptic world in which the alien Superman reigns supreme over the humans. On the other hand, Superman is skeptical of Batman’s intentions, as he sees newspaper headlines and photos showing the vigilante branding criminals with his bat symbol. Their immediate tension is made all the worse by Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), who not only allows Batman to steal the kryptonite he found as a preemptive move against Superman, but frames Superman for a courtroom bombing.
So finally, near the end of the film, the two have their fight. After Superman is threatened by Luthor, who is holding the hero’s adoptive mother captive, he rushes to Gotham to try to convince Batman to join his fight. But it doesn’t work. Batman is enraged and the two begin to brawl, throwing each other into each and every nook and cranny of Bruce Wayne’s childhood home. It’s an entirely unbelievable sequence, and the hate that Snyder was supposed to be building between the two figures doesn’t feel earned or palpable. Instead, it feels performative, a cheap reenactment of masculine rage that’s supposed to eventually bring a truth between the two. It’s so ridiculous, and at some point it certainly brought the question “When are they going to kiss?” into my mind—and probably the minds of the audience at large.
The question quickly sparked another, “Who else feels this way? Who else wants to see Batman embrace Superman in his arms as the fly through walls?” Lex Luthor, that's who.
Snyder frames this scene with this tension in mind, and it becomes impossible to forget that there's isn't much time before Luthor's men kill Martha Kent. So from the start of their encounter, where Superman begins by trying to explain the situation to Batman, we see how the showdown between the two is solely a product of Luthor’s sick obsession and fascination with the heroes. It wouldn’t be totally absurd if we had a moment in the film where Luthor exclaims, “I want to see them fight!” He’s not only a creepy voyeur, but Luthor’s mania even borders on erotic as he practically calls for Batman to penetrate Superman with a long staff of kryptonite. “Bring me his head,” he tells Superman at one point before the hero dashes off to engage with Batman.
Perhaps that’s why the scenes feels so false and comes to a close so soon. Batman and Superman have nothing to fight about, really, and the short time they are fighting speaks to their idiocy, how easy it was for Luthor to toy with their fragile masculinity and bring them in a room together. They are both heroes, both concerned with their respective cities, both dudes who love their moms. Their fight, their bodies mashing into one another, therefore, is just a fantasy come true for Luthor, whose sick obsession with the heroes and their abilities, feels charged enough to question his motives. Is he jealous of their forms and the ease in which they save the city? Perhaps. But his giddiness at having them brawl to death seems to have this intense sexual undertone to it.
And in retrospect, I’m like, yeah, I guess I wanted to see them fuck just as badly as Luthor did.