I found out on Facebook that Adam West, who played Batman in the 1960`s television series, died at age 88. This essay is an appreciation of the Batman character, and not the actor of whom I know very little about.
Today there`s hundreds of satellite, cable, and network shows devoted to the world of celebrities, and not to mention millions of entertainment Web sites. Celebrities have taken over the TV, Internet and social media, there`s saturation coverage of every aspect of their lives. We`ve seen Kim Kardashian`s naked butt that almost broke the Internet, and Amber Rose displaying her hairy vagina and masquerading as a feminist hero. We`re numb; we`ve seen too much, Dear Lord we`ve seen too much.
Adam West is of a more innocent and simple time, Pre-TMZ, Pre Entertainment Tonight we knew very little of the private lives of celebrities.
I was a precocious child who liked Frank Sinatra and enjoyed PBS programming, not the stellar children`s shows but the nature and political programs. I may have been wise beyond my years, but the ten-year-old version of me was oblivious to the camp aesthetic of the Batman series.
The Batman series was a drama to my innocent mind, and even if there had been a laugh track, it would have struck a discordant note. My childish mind would have wondered “why are people laughing at the thrilling adventures of Batman and the Boy Wonder?”
It`s impossible to understand America without immersing yourself in pop culture. American pop culture is triumphant, it`s our greatest export. We don`t have an identity separate from pop culture.
But even in the 1960`s pop culture had an outsized influence, most of my childhood is a blur but I remember two incidents connected to Batman.
My mother was the disciplinarian in our home; she was a fervent believer in corporal punishment. My brother and my three sisters were the usual victims of my mother`s tender mercies, but I didn`t escape childhood without a few beatings.
I can only remember one time that my mother tried a method besides beating to punish me. I don`t remember what transgression I was guilty of, but my mom punished me by making me sit in the kitchen while my brother and my sisters were watching Batman in the living room. The walls in our tiny house were so thin that I could hear the audio, with every BAM, POW and ZAP I pictured my hero beating the hell out of the dastardly criminal of the week. Not being allowed to watch Batman stung more than the most brutal and sadistic of my mother`s beatings.
The other incident was at recess, I jumped down stairs, startling a little girl who exclaimed: You scared me, I thought you were Batman. That was one of the few times that the nerdy kid with glasses and acne felt like a hero.
As an adult I have become quite enamored with camp, so much so that I feel like an honorary gay man. I sometimes watch Batman, incredulous that as a child the camp style was way over my head.
A part of my childhood died today, farewell Caped Crusader!
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