Crap journalism: Best Batman?


It’s been a while since I’ve felt sufficiently irritated by the Guardian‘s patented brand of garbage that I indulge myself myself in one of these kickings, but here we are again, with another piece of egregious stupidity.

The recent death of Adam West has brought forth an outpouring of nostalgia and genuine affection for a man who, by all accounts, was an intelligent, thoughtful and genuinely nice person, whose career was effectively blighted by the one role for which he was known. Most people who worked with him have made it clear that he was a talented actor, capable of much more subtle work than was required by his role as Batman/Bruce Wayne, but which was denied him because of his indelible association with the ‘Biff! Bam! Pow!’ TV series.

People have been falling over themselves to praise West’s portrayal of Batman, and to contrast it with the modern day interpretations that take the character seriously. Naturally, I disagree. But that doesn’t make these people wrong. Nor does it make their affection solely justifiable by nostalgia. I say again, they like that Batman, I don’t, and there is nothing more to be said.

However, a guy named Jack Bernhardt clearly thinks there is much more to be said, and he says it here. Please go read: I’ll still be hear when you return.

At base, it’s the same old story that has inspired many previous ‘Crap Journalism’ posts. Person has Opinion. Person mistakes Opinion for Universal Truth incorporating bitchy put-downs of everyone – usually the overwhelming majority – that disagrees with him or her. Advancement of human knowledge: zero, even if the opinion being offered is of some kind of merit.

In a way, Bernhardt’s contempt for anyone who regards not merely Batman but any superhero in any way remotely seriously is apt for someone defending the 1960’s series, because it exactly mirrors the attitude of the people making Batman for the character, the concept and, most appalling, the audience who bought the comics and wanted to see a decent treatment of the character onscreen.

This is not to say that a less-than-wholly-reverent approach to a character is an abomination before God, or at least that part of the audience that represents the concept. I have seen hundreds of spoofs and parodies and send-ups and absurdist deconstructions and I have seen plenty that I found hilarious. Without exception, the ones that have worked best, for example, The Princess Bride, are done by people who know and understand the subject matter, who can be completely aware of its inherent flaws, weaknesses, absurdities yet still share some level of enjoyment of the original. This gives them the insight to accurately, vividly and perceptively take the piss, without ever extending that disdain to the audience, because they know why people love these stupid, silly and flawed things in the first place.

Producer William Dozier and writer Lorenzo Semple Jr., thought Batman’s fans were morons. They despised them for the crime of liking the character, of seeing something of worth in it, and they set out to effectively fart in that audience’s face. Batman runs unconvincingly around a pier, carrying a bomb so cartoonish it only lacks the word bomb in big white letters painted on it. People get in his way, nuns, a woman with a baby carriage. They are ridiculously oblivious to a man waving a cartoon bomb around. Even a gaggle of fiendishly cute ducklings frustrate Batman’s attempts to dispose of this bomb before it goes off and, guess what, kills everybody horribly.

Bernhardt thinks this makes Batman a likeable, punning character and, get this, genuinely anti-authoritarian. He seems not to notice that by creating this scenario, the people involved are pissing all over a character they cannot sustain belief in for a moment, and which they cannot understand anyone with their level of sophistication, intelligence and taste holding any belief whatsoever. So does Bernhardt, whose piece reeks of superiority.

If he likes this version of Batman, let him. The series was made, it cannot be undone or changed, and I’d be very wary of it if it were. It was a comedy, but there is no real humour, or point, in any comedy that exists simply to say, “You’re all so fucking dumb for liking this.” There is no purpose or comedy to be made from ripping into something you can’t understand because by definition, you’re not so much going to miss the point as going to miss that there ever was a point to begin with.

And as with Dozier and Semple, so too with Berhardt, the only thing remaining from your supposed enthusiasm for your opinion is your overriding smugness at having one.

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8 thoughts on “Crap journalism: Best Batman?

  1. It was fun. I don’t care about his opinion: I disagree with him and he brought nothing to the argument, and I get pissed off at those who think (and who the Guardian allows to say) that their opinion is the whole of the law.

  2. Ah, I’m horribly guilty of this when talking about Transformers and Fast and Furious movies. But I’m right though, right?! Then again the author of the article might like those two franchises…
    Though I suspect he’s more the elitist looking downward at SciFi/comic book related films. In that case it’s very easy to swipe right over misguided drivel…

  3. It is a tendency in the Guardian’s journalism, a regular clickbait element, to write crap like this. When i offer my opinion, it’s my opinion and I consider it ‘correct’. I am always willing to listen to other opinions, if they’re argued as opposed to presented as ‘I’m-right-you’re-wrong’, and sometimes I learn and change. I call these articles out for arrogance.
    I’ve no interest in either of the franchises you mention, and I doubt you’d convince me otherwise, but then again because they don’t appeal to me does not in any way make it a crime for them to appeal to you. The writer of this piece, however…

  4. ^Clickbait is horrible. Comic Book Resources has turned that way, with similar articles and then a day or two later someone arguing the opposite point in some way.

    I can’t fathom the appeal of either franchise. I guess people just like mindless entertainment. I’ve only seen one of the Transformers movies, because my cousin dragged me to it, because he’d seen everything else at the time, Green Lantern, Super 8 and X-Men First Class among others. Visually it was interesting and it played around the Apollo 11 moon landing at the beginning, but horrible writing, plot, wooden acting and everything else…

  5. I’m sure you’re right, but i know people, who otherwise appear completely sane, who love Transformers, and who will proclaim how good it is. Their business. As for CBR, I only read stuff that interests me. i don’t respond to clickbait, normally, as I don’t let myself get manipulated into defending something.

    1. With CBR it’s me more lamenting what the page used to be, with decent blogs and the main page design vs 15 reasons/characters/etc lists and the combination of all areas into the less visually pleasing moblie/tablet design of their homepage.

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