Back in 1954, when America was gripped with anti-Communist paranoia, psychiatrist Frederic Wertham emerged with his book, Seduction of the Innocent, which cited in-depth research that pointed a finger at comic books for corrupting the morals of America’s youth.
In addition to claiming stories about monsters and mutants warped kids minds, and that Superman was an anti-American fascist, Dr. Wertham stated that Batman and Robin were essentially comicdom’s first queer couple—and were encouraging young boys to go gay. (He also claimed Wonder Woman was a kinky dyke who was into bondage, but we have a harder time refuting that one.)
Batman and Robin, Wertham charged, inhabited “a wish dream of two homosexuals living together.” They lived in “sumptuous quarters,” unencumbered by wives and girlfriends, with only an aged butler for company.
“Only someone ignorant of the fundamentals of psychiatry and psychopathology of sex can fail to realize the subtle atmosphere of homoeroticism which pervades the adventures,” wrote Wertham.
“The Batman type of story may stimulate children to homosexual fantasies.”
The publication of Seduction of the Innocent came at a time when America was facing an uptick in crime and juvenile delinquency, and Wertham offered an easy scapegoat. As a result, comic-book creators were pilloried and the self-censoring Comics Code Authority was created to police the industry.
Now it turns out Wertham fudged a lot of his “research.”
In a new article in Information & Culture Dr. Carol Tilley maintains that Wertham “manipulated, overstated, compromised and fabricated evidence,” especially in regards to interviews he conducted with young subjects. The New York Times reports:
According to Dr. Tilley, he may have exaggerated the number of youths he worked with at the low-cost mental-health clinic he established in Harlem, who might have totaled in the hundreds instead of the “many thousands” he claimed.
Dr. Tilley said he misstated their ages, combined quotations taken from many children to appear as if they came from one speaker and attributed remarks said by a single speaker to larger groups.
Other examples show how Wertham omitted extenuating circumstances in the lives of his patients, who often came from families marred by violence and substance abuse, or invented details outright.
And about those queer caped crusaders Batman and Robin?
[Wertham] cited a young gay man who says that he put himself “in the position of Robin” and “did want to have relations with Batman.”
But in Wertham’s original notes, Dr. Tilley writes, these quotations actually come from two young men, ages 16 and 17, who were in a sexual relationship with each other, and who told Wertham they were more likely to fantasize about heroes like Tarzan or the Sub-Mariner, rather than Batman and Robin.
So Wertham interviewed some gay teens and found out what turned them on—rather than finding any teens “turned” gay by the Dynamic Duo.
We can’t help but think if the good doctor were alive today, he’d have a nice cushy job with the Family Research Council.