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Matt Yockey

Publication Year: 2014

ABC’s action-comedy series Batman (1966–68) famously offered a dual address in its wildly popular portayal of a comic book hero in a live action format. Children uncritically accepted the show’s plots and characters, who were guided by lofty ideals and social values, while adults reacted to the clear parody of the values on display. In Batman, author Matt Yockey argues that the series served as a safe space for viewers to engage with changing attitudes about consumerism, politics, the Vietnam war, celebrity, race, and gender during a period when social meaning was increasingly contested in America. Yockey examines Batman’s boundary pushing in four chapters. In “Bat-Civics,” he analyzes the superhero as a conflicted symbol of American identity and considers the ways in which the Batman character parodied that status. Yockey then looks at the show’s experimentation with the superhero genre’s conservative gender and racial politics in “Bat-Difference” and investigates the significance of the show’s choices of stars and guest stars in “Bat-Casting.” Finally, he considers how the series’ dual identity as straightforward crime serial and subversive mass culture text set it up for extratextual production in “Bat-Being.” The superhero is a conflicted symbol of American identity—representing both excessive individualism and the status quo—making it an especially useful figure for the kind of cultural work that Batman undertook. Batman fans, from popular culture enthusiasts to television history scholars, will enjoy this volume.

Published by: Wayne State University Press

Series: TV Milestones Series

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii

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Introduction: Batman Begins

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pp. 1-12

A little over a month after ABC’s action-comedy series Batman debuted on January 12, 1966, Los Angeles Times critic Charles Champlin bemoaned that the highly rated show had been “merchandised beyond the dreams of avarice . . . shaping our televiewing for years to come” and was a “tasteless, witless . . . bore . . . born of a devout...

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1. Bat-Civics

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pp. 13-38

With the country swept up in the “Batmania” inspired by the television series, a feature-length Batman movie was released in the summer of 1966. In one scene, Batman and Robin narrowly survive an encounter with a submarine manned by the Penguin (Burgess Meredith). Back on land, Batman telephones the Department...

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2. Bat-Difference

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pp. 39-68

There is perhaps no more useful lens through which to examine Batman’s struggle to maintain ideological flexibility at a time of seismic changes in American society than that of gender. The dynamic of emergent, dominant, and residual American values activated by viewers’ memories of Batman and shifting ideas regarding...

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3. Bat-Casting

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pp. 69-98

As the example of Eartha Kitt in the role of Catwoman indicates, casting directly informed Batman’s parody of good citizenship, confirming the central paradoxes of both national and consumer identities. American identity is defined by individualism and participatory democracy that requires...

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4. Bat-Being

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pp. 99-122

The debut episode of Batman, “Hi Diddle Riddle” (12 January 1966), offers one of the most iconic moments in the show’s short history. Pursuing the Riddler to Gotham City’s newest discotheque, What a Way to Go-Go, Batman dances with a young woman he suspects...

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Conclusion: Batman Forever

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pp. 123-128

One of the most interesting aspects regarding Batman is that, since its debut, so many Batman fans have identified themselves as “anti-fans” of the series. That is, Batman has been routinely regarded by such fans as the ultimate “bad” Batman text, the one that most egregiously violates a perceived essence of the character...


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pp. 129-134


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pp. 135-142


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pp. 143-147

E-ISBN-13: 9780814338186
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814338179

Page Count: 160
Illustrations: 15
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: TV Milestones Series