My son is four, and through pop culture, friends, and what appears to be a priori knowledge that kicks in around this age, he’s obsessed with Batman.
On the one hand, the geek in me loves this, but on the other, the parent in me was worried about how to introduce Batman without entering the whole violent and broody movie world. The answer, old chum, was in the 1960s series starring Adam West and Burt Ward!
We started with the movie, clearly a high mark in cinema history. It features, among other things, the Joker/Riddler/Penguin/Catwoman team up, a plot to turn the UN ambassadors into powder, and the infamous shark repellent. But here’s what’s great about it: while yes, there’s some punching, it’s so fake even my four-year old can tell it’s staged. There is no cursing, no bloodshed, no one dies, the heroes are beloved by everyone and the good guys win in the end. It’s about as kid-friendly as you can get!
We stuck with the movie for quite a while, but over the weekend my parents surprised us with the complete series on DVD. The show is even gentler than the movie at showing violence, and the villains rely a shocking amount on bombs that only emit a tiny red cloud. But, again, this is about as non-angsty a Batman as you can find. He’s friendly, polite, and is firmly on the side of law and order. It’s bright and simple, and neatly sidesteps some of the weightier questions surrounding a grown man dressed as a bat who goes full vigilante on villains dressed as clowns and penguins. Also, there is almost nothing cuter than your kiddo turning to you and saying “Same Bat-time, same bat-channel!”
Best of all, there has already been one animated sequel, with another coming later this year. The animated movies took great pains to bring back all the original actors who were still alive, and the upcoming October movie is Adam West’s last performance. Check out the trailer and tell me you aren’t insanely excited about William Shatner as Two Face against Adam West’s Batman.
Between the live action movie and show, plus two animated features, we are well stocked for the kinder, gentler version of Batman for quite a while. Yes, part of what makes Batman so special is his complexity and the demons he conquers through crime-fighting, but when you’re 4, it’s good to have a squeaky clean hero too!