That beauty standards are socially constructed and change according to time and place is well-accepted, and nowhere are these changes in recent times for men more apparent than in Batman and Batman Beyond. Yes, I have been watching an unholy amount of both these cartoons.
Bruce Wayne is the original Batman, strong of jaw, thick of girth, large of leg. Behold, our rich vigilante:
Yes. This is how we used to like our men: manly, (disregarding his peculiar and unhealthy tendency to wear black underpants over his tights). Look at those firmly rooted feet. Those bulging biceps. The pure arrogance. Nothing can go wrong when he is around to take care of us and protect us.
Time passes. Bruce Wayne, he of the strong jaw and narrowed eyes grows old:
Enter Terry McGinniss, the protagonist of Batman Beyond. A 16-17 year-old “juvie”, he becomes Bruce Wayne’s protege, learns the skills, dons the suit, and roams the streets of Gotham taking up where Bruce could had to leave off. But this hero is an entirely different creature:
Note the delicate small feet, the narrow waist, the ballerina-like lift of the arms and pose of the legs? Yes. Yum. The male hero for our modern sensibilities: we no longer need large strong men – this is what we’d like, please and thank you: a very young, barely literate child (he’s under 18!) with criminal tendencies. And a poncy hairstyle:
And clear blue eyes and delicately chiselled cheekbones. In fact, Terry McGinnis looks like Ville Valo: not an action star, but a rock star, who sells love songs he calls heart-metal or something.
If society’s taste in men has changed, can we hope that our taste for violence and bloodshed has also softened, become more feminine and refined? Not so, judging by the insane amount of violence in Batman Beyond. Our bloodlust remains eternal through the centuries. We only like to tweak the packaging, for variety.