TO THE BATPOLES podcast #103: Pop vs Camp: Which is Batman ’66?

General goings on in the 1966 Batman World

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TO THE BATPOLES podcast #103: Pop vs Camp: Which is Batman ’66?

Post by bat-rss » Thu Feb 07, 2019 6:02 am

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New TO THE BATPOLES podcast: Is Batman '66 Pop or camp? Can it be both? Tim and Paul take a nice long "camping trip" in this episode! Get your sleeping bag!

http://ow.ly/45iE30nC7Ux

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Re: TO THE BATPOLES podcast #103: Pop vs Camp: Which is Batman ’66?

Post by bat-rss » Thu Feb 07, 2019 9:04 pm

Thanks to High C for pointing out that the link on our page to the Sasha Torres essay was pulling up a different article. That link is fixed now!

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Re: TO THE BATPOLES podcast #103: Pop vs Camp: Which is Batman ’66?

Post by BATWINGED HORNET » Tue Feb 12, 2019 5:07 pm

Guys, Torres suffers from the same affliction as many with what seems to be a very reaching agenda.

Anything Adam West (and anyone else from the '66 series) had to say about the tone and meaning of the series should be broken up into a few categories:

1. What he said while the series was in production.
2. What he said in the first decade after its ABC run.
3. What he said in the 80s - forward.
4. Can the production years stories be corroborated with other interviews conducted in the same period?

The reason I point this out is that West--like Gene Roddenberry and some of the cast of the original Star Trek--changed their views on their job, its potential, meaning and anything else that they believed kept their biggest claim to fame relevant to some (whether in the media, academia, politics, etc.) who happened to be trying to speak for culture of their time--usually in sweeping strokes fitting their preconceived notion, rather than what was said at the most important time of all--the creation/production years.

It reminds me of so-called music journalists who--because of their own social or political views they want shared by their idols--reinterpret too many Beatles or Rolling Stones songs to fit their view that was formed by other circumstances and influences completely different than those behind the aforementioned groups' songs of decades gone by.

That's what I'm seeing with Torres' work--and even that of a production's former personnel who have continued to modify the origins and intent to fit those trying to redefine it in recent times.

Honestly, when Peter Parker had to lie to Aunt May (when he was living with her) to change into Spider-Man was it some suggestive idea of his hiding a secret life in a gay sense? How about Clark Kent: when he had to bail on his Daily Planet co-workers? Silver Age Tony Stark when he had to lie to Pepper in order to live that other life as Iron Man?

Batman and its characters was the result of several sources--its not some pure representation of a certain, single belief system or creative influence--it part tongue in cheek, part strict comic book adventure, part dramatic action, part film noir and part mid-late 1960s culture. For Batman as a character, this cannot be read as Fredric Wertham and yes, Torres have in completely misinterpreting it to fit their apparent agendas--like whoever believed the notion that Batman only spent his time around men.

I guess Vicki Vale--a character almost as old as Batman & Robin--was a dream....

Regarding the TV series, Tim mentioned Wayne's interest in Lisa Carson and Miss Kitka, and in the unfortunate 3rd season, he certainly had an interest in Barbara Gordon. That cannot be ignored, or treated as an outlier.

The reason most superhero characters try to avoid relationships as the duel identity usually poses a potential threat to loved ones. Just ask Peter Parker (Gwen Stacy) and Bronze Age Barry Allen (Iris West Allen) about that. Its a classic dramatic tool to have the hero "risk" a normal life, knowing that their heart might be broken, and its all their fault for operating as that noble other half.
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES podcast #103: Pop vs Camp: Which is Batman ’66?

Post by Kamdan » Wed Feb 13, 2019 8:55 am

It’s a shame that the show seemed to have stuck to the “camp” brand that was given to it by the media. It made it difficult to convince others to see it more than that or as a kid’s show, which the second and third season safely fit into The Family Channel’s Fun Town block.

For a while I only had a handful of episodes recorded on VHS, mostly from the third season. At the tail end of it was the premiere episodes which boasted more production value and were later learned to have been adapted straight from the comics at the time. When TV Land started rerunning the show, it was my opportunity to see the show in its heyday. It brought back memories of me actually being terrified over the thought of Batman & Robin suspended over a vat of boiling wax. I never had that thought when they were being “barbecued” over a red light or being stitched into a mattress.

When I read that Semple described the show as “pop art adventure,” I liked that term a lot more than “camp,” which even Bob Kane described it as since that’s what was being said about the show in the media. I definitely wish that the show could have been able to grow more, which could have broken the formulaic plots and maybe provide updated costumes and props as the show went along. Instead, they copied themselves over and over and they fell into their own Bat-trap that lead to a swift cancellation and deemed as a fad.

The brand of camp also created a perception that people could easily make fun of fans of the show and characters, but I think a lot of that stems from a large number of adults believing Wertham‘s interpretation of the Dynamic Duo. I believe my grandpa was one of those that thought the show was very homoerotic, so if my dad ever got to see it all, it would have been at someone else’s house. Thankfully, my parents that didn’t carry on that interpretation and definitely saw that wasn’t the case.

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Re: TO THE BATPOLES podcast #103: Pop vs Camp: Which is Batman ’66?

Post by Dan E Kool » Mon Feb 18, 2019 3:10 pm

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A much needed trip to the Great Outdoors, away from the humdrum of Season Three and a chance to relax in our natural element - C A M P. Many a fire-roasted wiener was had and enjoyed, to be sure! :D

I very much enjoyed reading Torres' examination of Batman's dual identity of Camp Crusader and Pop Artist, and your discussion about it likewise. It's a neat look into how the show was interpreted in its time and beyond. I also enjoyed her take on the broader meaning and weight of these words (pop and camp). I'm sure this piece made a fine addition to the greater Andy Warhol collection that it is a part of.
BATWINGED HORNET wrote:
Tue Feb 12, 2019 5:07 pm
Guys, Torres suffers from the same affliction as many with what seems to be a very reaching agenda.
I don't see an agenda. Torres attempts to show how Dozier and the Batman PR team tried to influence public perception of the show by tagging it to the Pop Art movement as opposed to the Camp scene. Dozier did this (or tried, anyway) to avoid any connection between his show and a very gay sense of humor. I think she states her case well.
BATWINGED HORNET wrote:
Tue Feb 12, 2019 5:07 pm
Anything Adam West (and anyone else from the '66 series) had to say about the tone and meaning of the series should be broken up into a few categories:

1. What he said while the series was in production.
2. What he said in the first decade after its ABC run.
3. What he said in the 80s - forward.
4. Can the production years stories be corroborated with other interviews conducted in the same period?

The reason I point this out is that West (...) changed their views on their job, its potential, meaning and anything else (...)
Torres does cite a Rolling Stone article from the time where Adam West is pretty open about Batman's gay audience. Perhaps a reason we don't see much else said about the queerness of the show during its run (by Burt Ward, for example, who changed his tune when he wrote his book) is for the same reason that Sontag denies camp's inherit queerness - Camp, as well as the rest of America, is still very much in the closet in the mid 60s. We are barely a decade removed from the Lavender Scare and still three years before the Stonewall Riots. That is to say, as homosexuality has become less taboo, people have more to say about it. Gay people have always existed, but what is or isn't acceptable discussion has evolved since the 1960s.
BATWINGED HORNET wrote:
Tue Feb 12, 2019 5:07 pm
Honestly, when Peter Parker had to lie to Aunt May (when he was living with her) to change into Spider-Man was it some suggestive idea of his hiding a secret life in a gay sense? How about Clark Kent: when he had to bail on his Daily Planet co-workers? Silver Age Tony Stark when he had to lie to Pepper in order to live that other life as Iron Man?
Right. Exactly. All in the closet.
BATWINGED HORNET wrote:
Tue Feb 12, 2019 5:07 pm
Batman and its characters was the result of several sources--its not some pure representation of a certain, single belief system or creative influence--it part tongue in cheek, part strict comic book adventure, part dramatic action, part film noir and part mid-late 1960s culture. For Batman as a character, this cannot be read as Fredric Wertham and yes, Torres have in completely misinterpreting it to fit their apparent agendas--like whoever believed the notion that Batman only spent his time around men.
The most central thing about Camp is that interpretation trumps intention. It doesn't matter if Batman is written as the Most Heterosexual Man Alive. It might only make him that much more suspect. Vicki Vale, Barbara Gordon, Catwoman, etc. It doesn't matter.

What matters is that, as a man with a secret life which he guards at all costs, who embodies masculinity with his muscular frame in a pair of tights and leather boots, Batman can and does represent something other than what he was designed as to a very specific audience. Taking that character from the pages of a comic book and putting it on screen only amplifies those qualities.

It's not Torres' goal to redefine Batman's sexuality. She only writes of the queerness of the character as a way to understand Camp, firstly. And secondly, as a way to explain why Dozier was so eager to distance the show from that term.

Especially in a post-Wertham world, it's impossible to imagine that no one in production of the show saw these connections. Multiple characters were created for the comics to combat these very allegations, some of whom are even in the show. But ultimately it's even funnier if they didn't see it.


That is perhaps my biggest takeaway from this article. Previously I thought of the Batman show as being very aware of itself - campING, as Paul has said before. But now looking back at some of the innuendo (Burt Ward as Molly as Robin, styling his hair in the most effeminate way possible springs to mind) and imagining that Dozier and perhaps even Semple was completely unaware about how queer it was, raises even the First Season to an enjoyable Naive Camp status. One in Pop Art drag, even.
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES podcast #103: Pop vs Camp: Which is Batman ’66?

Post by BATWINGED HORNET » Tue Feb 19, 2019 1:41 am

Dan E Kool wrote:
Mon Feb 18, 2019 3:10 pm

I don't see an agenda. Torres attempts to show how Dozier and the Batman PR team tried to influence public perception of the show by tagging it to the Pop Art movement as opposed to the Camp scene. Dozier did this (or tried, anyway) to avoid any connection between his show and a very gay sense of humor. I think she states her case well.
Agenda exists when a preconceived conclusion leads research and investigation. For example, over the decades, agenda-minded "writers" all sold themselves on the idea that The Rolling Stones' 1968 song "Sympathy for the Devil" was written because of some long disproven idea that the band were "caught up" in the nonsensical Satanism sub-culture of the mid-late 1960s.

They were not. The song's authors (Jagger, Richards, et al.) looked at a few specific literary sources and some cultural ideas, but contrary to the hollow conclusions of the aforementioned "writers," the band did not create the song as some genuine paean to Satan and his alleged acts throughout history. Ah, but never let objective truth / historical fact get in the way of whatever personal beliefs--agenda--which had a conclusion in place before one investigative word was ever read or heard.

Again, the following is crucial: anything Adam West (and anyone else from the '66 series) had to say about the tone and meaning of the series should be broken up into a few categories:

1. What he said while the series was in production.
2. What he said in the first decade after its ABC run.
3. What he said in the 80s - forward.
4. Can the production years stories be corroborated with other interviews conducted in the same period?

Torres does cite a Rolling Stone article from the time where Adam West is pretty open about Batman's gay audience. Perhaps a reason we don't see much else said about the queerness of the show during its run (by Burt Ward, for example, who changed his tune when he wrote his book) is for the same reason that Sontag denies camp's inherit queerness - Camp, as well as the rest of America, is still very much in the closet in the mid 60s. We are barely a decade removed from the Lavender Scare and still three years before the Stonewall Riots. That is to say, as homosexuality has become less taboo, people have more to say about it. Gay people have always existed, but what is or isn't acceptable discussion has evolved since the 1960s.
This is the reason I said West quotes--and anyone else from the '66 series has--for the sake of honest, objective investigation--had to be placed in several categories to view in that chronological order, as those who created the series knew what their goals were and why the show was shaped in a certain way.

Going into it assuming something exists and completely ignoring even the possibility that "what you see is what you get" (in other words, there's no need to read anything into it, as it is plainly self-explanatory) cannot lead to a conclusion based on truth. See that Rolling Stones reference.
BATWINGED HORNET wrote:
Tue Feb 12, 2019 5:07 pm
Honestly, when Peter Parker had to lie to Aunt May (when he was living with her) to change into Spider-Man was it some suggestive idea of his hiding a secret life in a gay sense? How about Clark Kent: when he had to bail on his Daily Planet co-workers? Silver Age Tony Stark when he had to lie to Pepper in order to live that other life as Iron Man?
Right. Exactly. All in the closet.
Incorrect. Secret identities are an ancient concept in civilization--both as a real tool for concealment and in creative concepts. The need to conceal one's 2nd or other half dealt with safety, usually in trying to achieve some goal/mission that was dangerous to the one on the mission, or was designed to protect others from the potential of revenge against relatives or friends. There's no camp or queer element to that original, basic motivation.
.What matters is that, as a man with a secret life which he guards at all costs, who embodies masculinity with his muscular frame in a pair of tights and leather boots, Batman can and does represent something other than what he was designed as to a very specific audience. Taking that character from the pages of a comic book and putting it on screen only amplifies those qualities.
Notice what you're saying--"...to a very specific audience." In other words, a group--by no means a majority--will and have decided to see whatever they desire in anything, no matter what the truth of the creation was and continues to be ("what you see is what you get"). Once again, I refer to the Rolling Stones example, as some will use their isolated, preconceived conclusion and attempt to turn that into the official meaning/idea of an entire concept, which is what's happening in the '66 Batman case.
It's not Torres' goal to redefine Batman's sexuality. She only writes of the queerness of the character as a way to understand Camp, firstly. And secondly, as a way to explain why Dozier was so eager to distance the show from that term.
For all his fault$, Dozier was wise in trying to make a comic book adaptation appeal to a mid-late 1960s audience of both kids and adults, and there was a careful way of achieving that goal--which did not need misinterpretations, hence his desire to steer the show away from the waiting-at-the-gates group waiting to tell Dozier (in a most arrogant fashion) what he meant with his creation.
Especially in a post-Wertham world, it's impossible to imagine that no one in production of the show saw these connections. Multiple characters were created for the comics to combat these very allegations
That was reacting to--once again--an agenda (Wertham's) with no basis in fact. Either one knows his own creation, or he allows someone else to attempt to redefine it for him.
That is perhaps my biggest takeaway from this article. Previously I thought of the Batman show as being very aware of itself - campING, as Paul has said before. But now looking back at some of the innuendo (Burt Ward as Molly as Robin, styling his hair in the most effeminate way possible springs to mind)
You realize as part of the "joke," Molly as Robin had to act in that manner. Part of its humor coms from Burt (or perhaps at the insistence of director Robert Butler) going overboard, which is a very old routine predating film. However, for accessible visual references, look no further than The Three Stooges, who were just as exaggerated as Burt in their behavior/mannerisms anytime one of the Stooges dressed as a woman (typically to escape some crook or con someone out of something). To say there is something inherently queer in that (as a default definition) misses the entire point of assuming other characters or identities, then exaggerating it for obviously and outrageously comedic purposes.
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES podcast #103: Pop vs Camp: Which is Batman ’66?

Post by Dan E Kool » Wed Feb 20, 2019 2:27 pm

BATWINGED HORNET wrote:
Tue Feb 19, 2019 1:41 am
Dan E Kool wrote: Right. Exactly. All in the closet.
Incorrect. Secret identities are an ancient concept in civilization--both as a real tool for concealment and in creative concepts.
For the record, I was being facetious...

In regards to the rest of your comment, if I understand you correctly, it is your belief that when interpreting a creative work only the creator's original intention is a valid interpretation of said work.

Nobody writing Batman thought of him as gay or that anything might possibly be considered queer, ERGO Batman is super straight.

That viewpoint will make it difficult to discuss Torres' essay. It also strikes me as really, really boring. Serious Snoresville, man. :D

Unlike other discussions hosted by The Super Young Bros, this topic isn't really so much about names and dates. This is a more subjective topic on, essentially, the nature of this show. Torres examines what Pop and Camp meant to different people in the 1960s. She describes how those words were viewed by contemporary critics and audiences. Then she connects that to how the Batman TV show was promoted and finally, postulates why that was the case. There's no attempt to rewrite history here. It's not about redefining what Batman was "supposed" to be. It's about understanding how audiences connected to it and why the creators (Dozier, Semple, West) tried to frame that connection.

To use your Stones example, this topic is not "Did Mick Jagger write a satanic song?" Rather, it's "What is it about 'Sympathy for the Devil' which resonates with Satanists so?"

Like you said a few times, "What you see is what you get." Torres' essay explores what it is that audiences were seeing and why it is that they were getting it.

To recap:
In the case of Batman, we have an intentionally campy show in a time when Camp is still a relatively new term. Batman is by all accounts aware of its camp appeal in that the humor comes from an absurd seriousness. What Dozier attempts to reject, however, is the inherent queerness of Camp. He does this by adopting the similarly new term of Pop. Dozier points to the ways that his Batman appropriates the aesthetics of Pop - perhaps by way of the bright colors, the cartoonish stories juxtaposed with their very real actors, the promotion of the lowly, consumer art of comic book characters to a higher medium on television - as a means of elevating his show to a status of High Art rather than Low ("faggy") Camp.

There's room for both interpretations. As for me, I agree with Paul that Torres' comments on Sontag's rejection of the queerness of Camp (and yet simultaneous admittance of their connectedness) was kind of eye opening. With that in mind, I will coin a term of my own to describe what Dozier created with Batman.

I call it Closeted Camp! ;)
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