A site of satirical musings, commentary and/or rhetorical criticism of the world at large.

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Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States

Friday, July 04, 2014

A Quiet Fourth at Home with Batman

The Fourth of July this year has been quiet for us. Vague plans to run a few errands and maybe take in a movie were abandoned early in the day. Instead, we stayed home to spend time with our cats. It was an easy decision since we will be away for the remainder of the holiday weekend.

While visiting our basement cat, Oreo, this morning I discovered that one of the cable networks was running a marathon of the old Batman television shows. Ah, I basked in the glory of my childhood for a few hours! I lived to see this show each week when it premiered at the height of the 60s.

I never read the comic books, but I got caught up in the Batmania that overtook the country. For many of us, the television was our introduction to camp, and by camp I am not referring to some remote place where children were sent at least once a year (usually summer) with only a thin canvas cloth to protect them from the elements, which could include intense heat and humidity, torrential rains, and, of course, mosquitoes. This was our parents idea of letting us have fun. When camping season was over in the fall, then we had Batman twice a week in the fall and winter.

Of course, at that time, we youngsters didn’t “get” the subtle, perhaps satirical, nuances of comic book superheroes supplanting our respect for what passed for political leadership in America at that time. For example: can any one of us imagine our Batman punching and kapowing the bejesus out of the Vietcong in Saigon? The mind reels at the possibilities!

Next week, Batman meets Mao Zedong and the Gang of Four!

All we knew was that there were bad guys in the world and our Caped Crusader would pose a serious threat to them amid a torrent of slapstick fights accentuated by sound effects and cartoon balloons and outrageously clichéd dialogue. How, I now wonder, did our parents overcome the intense waves of nausea they must have felt while their progeny planted themselves in front of the television each week to worship their hero.  

The situations in each episode were comical, which made sense since the source material sprang from comic books. Each week, our hero and his teenage sidekick (Robin the Boy Wonder, for those of you playing along at home) would summarily take on the villain and at least three henchmen, and fisticuff the entire mob into submission. And, oh yeah, the criminal element never thought to exercise their Second Amendment rights and arm themselves with guns. They always showed up ready to duke it out after their boss failed to kill the dynamic duo with some sort of plot device that surely originated with The Perils of Pauline.  In other words, Batman was not only campy, but it was creaky as well.

Then, after a hard day of protecting the good citizens of Gotham City and sending the bad guys back to prison, our heroes would return home and assume their day-to-day identities of millionaire capitalist Bruce Wayne and  his youthful ward Dick Grayson. The elderly Aunt Harriet - clueless and naïve about their lives - and the wiser and even older (like Methuselah-old) butler Alfred completed their family at “stately” (always “stately”) Wayne Manor.   

Here Bruce/Batman would muse on their recent adventure and Dick/Robin would nosh on milk and cookies offered to him by Alfred. Of course, everyone over-acted like there was no tomorrow!

Yes, I lived to watch this series when I was a child.

Watching a few of these episodes today brought back a flood of memories and gave me an excuse to spend more time with Oreo. I spent the entire afternoon with Oreo as I engaged in my annual Fourth of July ritual: watching 1776.  Not the greatest musical produced in Hollywood, but still a lot of fun and played more or less straight (except for the singing). The film recounts the story of our Founding Fathers debating and declaring our independence from the tyrannical King George III without resorting to bat capes, bat mobiles, opening secret passages in stately manors via a split top bust of Shakespeare, answering bat signals in the sky, climbing up the sides of buildings, or having elderly men creep up behind them and whisper into their ear, “It’s the batphone, sir!” Go figure!

Picnics and fireworks on the Fourth of July? Who needs them when we’ve got 60s camp to warm the cockles of our hearts?

(Thank you for reading and hope everyone had a great Fourth of July! Again, for those playing along at home, here is another memory from Batman: “Atomic batteries to power…turbines to speed…blah, blah, blah!)


Blogger Raybeard said...

As someone equally mad-keen on the 1960s Batman series I was also surprised how many adults didn't 'get it'. I was on the wavelength from the very start, though would have been around 20 when it began being shown here. Kids would, understandably, miss the nods and winks a-plenty in the script, given especially to Bruce Wayne, seeing it only as a comic-book adventure, but it was much more than that. It was unmissable, and I'd love to have the chance of seeing several episodes back-to-back as you did (with my own furry 'Dynamic Duo' nearby). Pity that the feature film made on the back of its success was so inferior, trying to cram far too much into itself.
My favourite regular villain was Cesar Romero as 'The Joker' with his purple suit, clown face and histrionic deliveries, but they all had watchable qualities. Outrageously entertaining.

I'd so like to see '1776' in any form. It was playing on stage (had just recently opened, I think) on Broadway during my only visit to New York in 1969, but I've not had a chance to see it even on film. I don't recall having heard any of the songs either. It did come to London's West End shortly afterwards around then but I don't think it lasted long, and am pretty sure it hasn't been revived since.

Sounds like you had an enjoyable 4th. If Oreo is your 'basement cat' you presumably still have to keep them all separate. Be that as it may, do give my regards to G & N - and not forgetting 'mummy' too, who's probably posted another dance-along vid on her own blog by now, which I shall investigate.

July 5, 2014 at 3:23 AM  
Anonymous Janey, Secret Lover of Robin, Batman's "Teenage Sidekick said...

What the fuck have you been smoking? :-)

July 5, 2014 at 7:37 PM  
Blogger Ur-spo said...

When I think of comics I think "Hot Stuff"

July 6, 2014 at 11:21 PM  
Blogger Amanda said...

I couldn't resist. Check this out :

July 7, 2014 at 9:23 PM  
Blogger todd gunther said...

Hi Raybeard! Thanks for your thoughts and well wishes. Yes, Batman was addictive when I was young. Romero was very good, as was Burgess Meredith, two actors who had been around for a long time before then. They also looked like they were having a lot of fun when they played these roles. The feature film version did suck, didn't it?

I'd love to see s stage version of 1776 someday. I've only ever seen the film.

We'll work with Oreo so she becomes acquainted with the rest of our house.

Thank you, Janey, once again for another of your confessionals. Sadly, i've not been smoking anything. Warrior Queen pointed out to me that Burt Ward turned 69 over the weekend. 69! I know this sounds like a double entendre, but I can't make this stuff up...smoking or not!

Thank you Ur-spo. I assume you're referring to the tight leotards that all super heroes wear? I could've added a few thoughts about Yvonne Craig's outfit when she played Batgirl, but....

Thank Nadege for the video. Our pets can figure out how to arouse us when they need us.

July 8, 2014 at 8:30 AM  
Blogger Fearsome Beard said...

Thanks for the memory wake up this morning from my childhood as well! Happy belated holiday too.

July 10, 2014 at 9:48 AM  
Blogger todd gunther said...

Thank you Fearsome Beard! Hope you had a great Fourth as well!

July 17, 2014 at 7:14 AM  

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