Adam West did what few could do- he made Batman laughable.
The 1966 Batman television series is both loved and loathed, but in my heart was my favorite interpretation of the character. This was a Batman that grew up, was a “decent” father figure to Robin, and was explicit in his virtues. While the Batman of Bale and Affleck brood, bloody, and barely keep on the straight and narrow, West’s Batman never killed, brutalized, or berated.
We have a culture that calls victims “heroes” and survivors of tragedy “inspirational.” When we discuss the fictional persona of Batman, a common retort is “he witnessed a tragedy, of course he’s damaged” and when he brands criminals with the Bat symbol, we hear “he’s fighting fire with fire.”
West’s Batman wasn’t just Batman, he was Bruce Wayne. This was the Dark Knight who didn’t allow his tragedy to dictate his life, nor allow Batman to become his single identity. More importantly his Batman series came at a time when the Cold War was at it’s highest and evil in the world was truly a clear and present danger. 66′ Batman gave America a laugh when life was grey, and showed a colorful world of good vs. evil when reality wasn’t so black and white.
A year ago I watched “Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders” during a special showing with Julianna and Ryan, and as we laughed and enjoyed ourselves we got to see the heroes embrace being good and evil trounced by justice. I’m not as poetic nor wordy in this blog as I typically am, because as a fan of the 66′ Batman and the impact Adam West had on pop culture, I’m deeply saddened and at a true loss for words.
Just because the night is dark doesn’t mean we shouldn’t embrace the bright light of day. The 66′ Batman showed we shouldn’t allow tragedy to define us, and instead of being a reflection of the ugly world around us, we should work to be better.
West was just an actor who portrayed a beloved character, but the impact of his commitment to putting on a quality show when the studio was against him and the Communist were after the United States showed us that the underdog can still come through at the end.
We shouldn’t aim to make things better just the silence the pains of life, sometimes we need to admire beautiful things simply for the sake of it. Now we are in a 66′ Batman renaissance since now with the freeing of licensing rights we can now enjoy show merchandise and memorabilia like never before. Young people are flocking to West’s Batman because they want to have fun again, fun that didn’t force them to question their heroes action’s or morality.
West’s Batman wasn’t the hero we deserve, it was the bright hero that grey America needed.