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Quiet, or Mama Spank

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I love Anne Hathaway, and as I stated in “Santa, All I Want for Christmas is… Wait, Does Barbie Come with a Latex Catsuit?,” I think she has the stuff to make a wonderful Catwoman. But her upcoming interview in the Los Angeles Times “2012 Film Sneaks” contains such a perfect essence of what’s gone wrong with the Batman fandom, I thought it was worth addressing.

Back in August, when the first still of her as Selina Kyle was released wearing goggles and riding a motorcycle, without a pixel in sight that represented “Catwoman,” Anne did what she’s supposed to: she defended her non-costume. She said we hadn’t seen a tenth of what it could do. The savvier bloggers observed that all it’s supposed to “do” is make her look good and make her look like Catwoman.

Now we’ve seen one progression and, thanks to the LA Times piece, we’ve heard about another. The goggles slide onto her head forming cat ears, presenting a Julie Newmar-inspired silhouette evoking one established Catwoman, while the high heels of her Balent-inspired thigh boots give us some serrated action to serve as this Catwoman’s claws.

And that’s fine—unless you think it is necessary. Unless you say, as Anne did in her latest defense of the costume, “nothing is in place for fantasy’s sake.”

Catwoman is a fantasy. Batman is a fantasy. Comic books and superheroes, good old fashioned good versus evil storytelling, these all plug straight into that part of us that used to go outside to play, and which is seldom indulged as adults except slipped in through backdoors and subterfuge.

Anne, remember that story you told Access Hollywood about all those interviews after The Princess Diaries?  “A lot of questions that I used to get asked were, ‘So, every girl when she grows up wants to be a princess, did you want to be a princess when you grew up?’ And I so wish I’d said what I felt back then, because the truth was, ‘No, I wanted to be Catwoman!’ 

So did I. So did a lot of us. Catwoman is a fantasy, and not just for us but for all those little boys who grew up wanting to be Batman. That’s why the very first question asked on hearing you were cast was “what about the catsuit?” I don’t think this will come as a shock to you or anyone else over the age of 15: they were forming a mental picture. 

Catwoman is a fantasy. Batman is a fantasy. Acting as if there is something wrong with an element of the costume, of Gotham City, or of anything else being there just “for fantasy sake” misses the whole point. 

I’m not going to pay $12 that I worked for to sit for two hours watching an execise in practicality. I’m expecting you all to tell me a story, just like mom and dad did when we were kids. 

Not only is praising the practicality of a costume the wrong thing for anyone in this production to say, it’s worst of all coming from you, Anne, because you’re playing Selina, and that attitude is just not true to the character. Those championing “practicality” have a problem embracing their own fantasy enjoyment, I get that. Some of us feel silly or embarrassed, as adults, and we have to rationalize it. Some of us just aren’t comfortable with the power of our imaginations to make us feel.  Some of us just aren’t comfortable with who we are.  Whatever the reason, there are folks out there who can’t just read a comic book because they enjoy it, they have to analyze it for 48 layers of socio-psycho-sexual undertones.  They can’t just enjoy a movie as escapist wonderment, they have to be experts on the practical minutiae of film making.

The thing is, Selina is not one of those people. She will do something just because she enjoys it.  And say so.  “Ears, because I wanted to, that’s why. Clawed gloves? Yeah, because I like them. High heels, cause they make me feel sexy.”

You know why Batman drives a hot car? Because we’re Americans and we get this tingle at a ton of beautifully engineered metal careening down a road at 200 mph. There’s no reasonable explanation for it, we just like it! You know why women in comic books have tits that defy gravity? Of course you do! We all do!

Look, we all like what we like. And whether it’s a “Look, up in the sky” rush from childhood or something more adult in nature, we need to stop being so puritanical about it.  It’s a facet of who we are. Stop being embarrassed, stop making excuses, and simply own it.   Like Catwoman does.

Anne, you’re a wonderful actress and I have enjoyed your performances in everything from Becoming Jane to The Devil Wears Prada. So I am going to overlook portions of that interview and focus on Hedy Lamarr. As you reminded the world, Catwoman made her debut in Batman comic book #1, modeled after the sexiest movie star of the day, Hedy Lamarr. 

Hollywood Sex Goddess Hedy Lamarr was the model for CatwomanHer appeal had nothing to do with practicality.

Dragging out one puff on a cigarette longer than it takes to open a browser and see if Dishonored Lady or Copper Canyon are available on Amazon Instant Video?   Not practical. (They are, by the way).

If she’s your model, I think we’re going to be alright.

But since you’ve brought up the Batman #1 comic, it might be worth touching on another subject: “Quiet, or papa spank.” As noted in that LA Times piece, the first meeting between Batman and Catwoman culminated in him grabbing her wrists, and her “Let go of me or I’ll claw your eyes out” countered by his “Quiet, or papa spank.” 

This is the point where every blessed person of either gender has to stop and in some way acknowledge that it was 1940 and the way men could talk to women has changed. If we’re talking Huckleberry Finn, we have to stop and note the use of the n-word, if it’s Agatha Christie, we note the period attitudes towards Jews and Chinese. And if it’s Batman #1, it’s “Quiet or Papa Spank.”  Fine. As long as we’re belaboring the obvious about time and place, let’s address the kid in the cape.

Batman is less suited to a sidekick than any character in fiction, with the possible exceptions of Moby Dick and The Grim Reaper. But these are superheroes, and—see above—it’s a fantasy. That era understood that seeing yourself on the page is part of the experience. In 1940, there was no question in anybody’s mind that this type of comic was “kid’s stuff,” and Robin was there as a stand in for the juvenile reader to see himself having these adventures.

Whether you love him or hate him—and I can sympathize with both sides here, I think any Batman franchise is stronger and truer to the character with Bruce alone in the manor with Alfred, but then I have Dick and Barbara, Tim and Cassie in Cat-Tales and I love every one of them as characters—so I do see both sides. 

Regardless of which side you’re on, Robin’s very existence is the ultimate example that these stories were conceived in a fantasy experience, it’s in their core DNA.

Face it Anne, you’re playing a fantasy.  Not just yours, but mine and quite possibly Mr. Bale’s, Mr. Nolan’s, and undoubtedly a whole lot of people who will be sitting in that theatre come July.

We want to be these characters. Cat-like, we should take what we want, without excuses.

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