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10 Jokes In Old Superhero Movies They Wouldn’t Get Away With Now

New Line Cinema

Whether you consider it to be a natural evolution of social civility or the domain of political correctness run amok, there’s no denying that there were things you could get away with in film years ago that you simply can’t do today.

The examples are myriad — like that embarrassing yellowface performance Mickey Rooney put on in Breakfast at Tiffany’s — but they’re not always so poisonously overt. Hell, a half-dozen scenes from Blazing Saddles would never make it to film these days.

Oddly enough, though, a fair number of superhero films also contain some ill-considered attempts at humor lurking in the script.

Sure, the modern films have some questionable moments — like Loki calling Black Widow a “mewling quim” in the first Avengers movie, or Tony Stark joking about invoking “prima nocta” if he gets to rule Asgard in the second Avengers film — but those scenes have got nothing on some of the “gags” that made it past the censors in years past.

Remember the hookers fawning over the Batmobile in Batman Forever? Or the moment in Blade when Deacon Frost called Blade “Uncle Tom”?

Now you’re getting the idea.

So strap your capes and grab your Bat-scuba mask from your utility belts. We’re diving into the deep end of bad examples of superhero comedy.

10. The Batwoman And The Mouse

Cinematografica Calderon S.A.

We’re going way back for this first one, back to 1968 when all sorts of cinematic attempts to cash in on the popularity of Batman, thanks to the delightfully tongue-in-cheek TV show of the same name.

Not to be confused with The Wild World of Batwoman, The Batwoman (aka La Mujer Murcielago) features a frequently bikini-clad Batwoman who battles evil and finds time to wrestle on the side.

Although proven to be a credible fighter throughout the film, when confronted with a half-fish half-man monster at the film’s climax, she screams and faints.

She does go on to defeat the creature and end the mad scientist’s diabolical scheme, but instead of being allowing her to celebrate her victory, the film instead ends with her being scared by a tiny mouse and being laughed at by her two male companions. “Women, amirite fellas?”

Ugh.

9. Super-Creepy X-Ray Vision

Warner Bros.

Which of Superman’s powers would you want, given the opportunity? Maybe the power of flight, or invulnerability, or super-speed, or heat vision? Leaping tall buildings in a single bound, or crushing coal into a diamond with your immense strength, perhaps?

Well, in Superman Returns, we know what power Lois Lane’s rebound guy Richard White wants: X-ray vision. And for less than noble purposes. The man himself states, “I love that he can see through anything. I’d have fun with that.”

Clearly we’re not supposed to like Richard, given Lois and Superman’s past, but making him an out-and-out lecherous goon seemed like a step too far.

8. Nick Fury: Double (Entendre) Agent

Fox

Long before Samuel L. Jackson strapped on the eyepatch and brought S.H.I.E.L.D.’s most infamous agent to life, Ye Olde Hasselhoff had a crack at the iconic role in Nick Fury: Agent of Shield.

In addition to appearing drunk in nearly every scene, Hasselhoff practically oozed unpleasantness and sexism in every line, delivering gems dripping with condescension like “Contessa Valentina de Allegro Fontaine. Quite a mouthful when you try and wrap your tongue around it” and “Val’s an old hand at the sexpionage game, aren’t ya?”

For someone who is supposedly an elite spy and master manipulator, Fury comes off as a dour Butabi brother, fumbling in the general direction of attractive women with his shady, scummy spiel.

Hopefully Jackson disinfected that eyepatch before putting it on.

7. The Meaning Of Terror

Dovemead Films

In Superman 2, the team at the Daily Planet are discussing a hostage situation in Paris, as the Eiffel Tower has been seized by armed militants, complete with 20 or so captured tourists. Apparently, the perpetrators have a hydrogen bomb at their disposal, and they’re threatening to detonate it and devastate Paris.

Seems like the sort of thing Superman should take care of, but instead, he opts to remain in dorky Clark Kent mode long enough to drop this gem:

Clark Kent: Well, jeepers Mr. White. Tha-that’s terrible!

Perry White: That’s why they call them “terrorists,” Kent.

Ha-HA. Good one, Perry. Nothing funnier than wordplay when nuclear armageddon is near.

6. Subtlety… Not A Punisher Strength

Lionsgate

The 2004 version of The Punisher was better than most people gave it credit for. Mostly marred by John Travolta’s scene-chewing performance and a few hamfisted bits of dialogue, it otherwise stands as a strong adaptation of the “Welcome Back, Frank” period of Garth Ennis’s run with the character.

However, the need to hammer home the fact that Howard Saint’s number two, Quentin Glass, was gay, was handled with all the deftness and grace of a bazooka shot to the nuts.

As Quentin is lured to a secret meeting by Frank Castle in order to manufacture evidence of an affair between Glass and the wife of mob boss Howard Saint, Glass is bothered by a clothing salesman with questionable tactics:

Sales Person: Need any help with some underpants, sir?

Quentin Glass: Go f*** yourself.

The interaction is so cringeworthy and unnecessary — the salesman is such a mincing little creep, and Quentin comes off as self-hatingly abrasive — that it paints the entire film’s view on homosexuality in unpleasant tones.

5. Bonesaw’s Husband

Columbia Pictures

In the first of many… MANY… attempts at a Spider-Man franchise, the webslinger tries to make some money with his newfound abilities as a pro wrestler. But when he stumbles into a CZW Cage of Death situation with the intimidating Bonesaw, he’s in over his head.

So, naturally, he turns to the gift of gab to wrong-foot his opponent. It’s a classic Spidey trait, and when executed well, makes him both funnier and more likable.

Unfortunately, in this case, he comes off less as your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man and more as a massive homophobic tool when he comments on Bonesaw’s “cute outfit” and asks, “Did your husband give it to you?”

After a statement like that, it’s hard to feel bad for Ol’ Webhead when Bonesaw plasters him with a few stiff chair shots.

4. Wheels

Fox

Wolverine definitely softened as a character throughout the original trilogy of X-Men films. He was never more dismissive or abrasive than when he arrives at Xavier’s School and meets some of his fellow mutants.

Admittedly, it’s awkward when the Professor starts dropping codenames like Storm and Cyclops alongside their real names, but Wolverine replies with the incredibly dickish, “What do they call you, Wheels?” and snickers to himself.

This improvised line has more punch that the original scripted line (where he called the Professor “Baldie” instead), but it comes off as pretty tone-deaf in retrospect, even for a character the audience isn’t necessarily supposed to like at the moment.

3. Mystery Men Musings

Universal Studios

Mystery Men is an underrated take on superheroes, exploring the lives of c-level wannabes living in the shadow of a renowned hero. Most of the gags still hold up today, but a few of the comments from Kel Mitchell’s Invisible Boy probably wouldn’t make the cut.

The first is a casual aside when he meets Mr. Furious, The Shoveller, and The Blue Raja during their attempts to recruit additional superheroes to their cause. Before he auditions for the trio, he says to his oblivious father, “Hey Dad, I’m going to my room with three strange men.”

The less said about that, the better.

Then again, there’s the time he lists superheroes he has met, like The Pincer, The Pickler, and Princess Headbutt, before namedropping the duo of “White Flight and The Black Menace.”

It’s pretty ballsy to discuss race in a throwaway gag, and these days, that would most likely end up on the cutting room floor.

2. Superman Slap

There’s nothing like smacking around a child to provide a little levity in your superhero film.

Yes, in the original Superman from 1978, our hero rescues a cat from a tree, has a pleasant conversation with a little girl, and departs. The girl tells her mother what happened, and receives a slap for it.

This is meant to be a funny little aside, a tangential bit of laugh, unrelated to the main story.

But it’s a very jarring moment. You could’ve had the same effect if the mother simply brushed off the girl’s account as just another childish tale. Or even built up a running gag throughout the film of the little girl seeing Superman’s impossible feats, but her mother repeatedly missing them.

Instead, it’s one-and-done domestic unpleasantness. Ick.

1. The Mask Riffs On Rodney King

It might be a stretch to call the Mask a superhero, but he’s certainly a superpowered agent of chaos, and for the purposes of this list, that’ll do nicely.

There are a few scenes in this film that might not fly these days — like the crooked mechanics getting cornholed with auto parts as punishment for their misdeeds, or the Mask’s obsessive Pepe Le Pew-like pursuit of Cameron Diaz — but the top spot goes to an exchange between the Mask and Lieutenant Kellaway.

As the police handcuff and search the zany character, he asks what the cops are going to do to him, and then asks “where’s a camcorder when you need one?” The implication here is that the cops are going to indulge in some excessive force and beat him with nightsticks.

Ha. Good one. Nothing like a funny joke about police brutality to really lighten the mood.

Worse yet, the police officer nods his head at the comment. He’s totally fine with the implication.

 

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