When I was a kid, I never grasped that Adam West’s TV “Batman” was kitschy, ironic, and sarcastic. I just though it was cool.
Like Pixar movies today, that TV show worked on several levels. Adults reveled in the cool 60s references, and sexual innuendo.
I was five. All that went over my head. To me, Adam West’s Batman was the greatest Batman, ever. Hell, it was just about the only live-action super hero for a boy my age.
I was so completely engrossed by Batman that it’s all I ever wanted to play with my friend, Robbie Lomax. When we were at my house, Mom made me let Robbie be Batman, since he was our guest. When we were at his house, somehow that rule didn’t apply and he got to be Batman there too. That seemed patently unfair.
But, I told myself that Batman would do the right thing, and let Robbie be Batman anyway….so…
We watched Adam West’s Batman afternoon, along with the other staples of Gilligans Island and Leave it to Beaver.
Batman was the smartest, coolest, strongest superhero, ever. That bat utility belt. The ability to have just the right tool at just the right time. The wisdom he imparted to Robin. The grace of Alfred.
Catwoman (both of them) what a woman…My Lord….
Again, I didn’t understand at the time just how ridiculous it all was….how intentionally campy. To me, a good guy like Batman was SUPPOSED to be able to do all those things….that’s how the world worked. The good guys won.
Little did I realize, as I’ve said…the show was already poking holes in that mythology. The adults were laughing AT it, not with it…for how ridiculous it was.
Perhaps my favorite birthday party of all time (not just childhood) was my Batman party age five. As you can see from the piecture, every guest got a batman cape and mask.
Mom bought the masks. Mom MADE the capes….that’s right…sewed from scratch…
One of the many things I’ve never thanked her for enough….
But, don’t miss it….at that party, EVERYBODY…boy, girl….everybody was Batman…
As I got older, it gradually dawned on me that people laughed at Adam West’s “Batman.” People laughed at Adam West.
The TV Batman receded into our cultural imagination, hidden away like a pair of bell bottom jeans.
“Oh my God, can you believe we used to wear (watch) that?!”
I realized that some of the laughing wasn’t ironic. It was literally laughing AT the dated faux-hipness of it all.
That Batman got replaced by a series of Batmen who became progressively darker and grittier. I thought they were ALL cool, in their own way.
But unquestionably, the darkness around the Black Knight grew. Christopher Nolan’s Batmen were far darker than Michael Keeton’s…although comparatively it was darker than Adam West’s, sooo….
There seems to be a logical, and ever darkening progression to that. I love the current Batman movies too. Yes, even Ben Affleck. Because I’ve grown to see the world as a more jaded, less innocent place, my love of the newer Batmen have grown. I love their inner moral struggles. I love their struggles with darkness and light. It’s way more “real” somehow…
It fits, somehow…it marks the loss of childhood innocence, and the coming of the all-too dark adult world.
But somewhere back there inside of me, there is still a pure, unsullied, unapologetic love for the first Batman of my heart…the one that started it all for me.
Rest well, Adam West.
And thank you.