Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Batman: The Agony of Loss and the Madness of Desire--a few notes five years later

Well, of the many things I've written as a blogger over the last eleven or so years one of the most enjoyable projects I ever took up was writing about Batman: the animated series for Mockingbird.  When DZ proposed that I do a write-up about the DC animated universe what he had in mind was something like a simple overview of highlights about the best-known shows similar to a piece that was run by the Onion AV Club years ago.  I enthusiastically agreed to the project of writing about the DCAU but made no promises about how short or, more importantly, how long such a blogging project would eventually be.

The first series I ended up writing about was actually Superman: the animated series.


Then I felt obliged to set the stage by articulating what sea changes were happening in American animation in the final decade or so of the Cold War.  Without some grounding in a sea change of popular thought that if we were getting an end of the Cold War and an "end of history" that perhaps we no longer had the luxury of viewing ourselves as the heroes of world narrative, the introduction of characters like Batman BTAS-style or Fox Mulder might be harder to appreciate.


After decades of Cold War "moral clarity" a la Optimus Prime mainstream heroes and heroines were introduced whose default view of American life was more skeptical.  This doesn't mean these were really revolutionary sorts aka 1917 or anything.  In the wake of the Cold War's end and some bad movies, the pop culture attention shifted from The Man of Steel to The Dark Knight.  The time was ripe for developing an animated series that was not like so many 1980s cartoons that were ultimately about moving units of merchandise. 

For a majority of Americans who tacitly or explicitly identify themselves as "grown-ups" this will all, of course, be not only moot but positively silly.  As I get older and observe how self-described grown-ups talk about pop culture and even high art culture the more dubious I am as to the alleged fundamental distinction between adult and children's entertainment.  I've seen plenty of cartoons in my life (whether American, Japanese, French or from elsewhere) that are as artfully and thoughtfully done as a lot of supposedly "grown up" entertainment.  I don't really see that a show like Friends was necessarily more "grown up" than Batman: the animated series, for instance.

By extension, I don't think that superheroes are better or worse than westerns or horror or urban/suburban marital meltdown genres.  I thought I read somewhere the author Eve Tushnet wrote that "realism" is for those people who presume their own views of the world are "realistic" and that the rest of us make do with this thing they call "genre".   So, as a kind of post-script here are the links where you can, if you want, read everything from Batman: The Agony of Loss and the Madness of Desire as it was originally published at Mockingbird from late 2011 through later 2012.


Regular readers of this blog from the earlier days will recall that this blog was focused on ... let's just call it Puget Sound history back in that period. 

But this isn't really the occasion where I feel like writing much about THAT.  This is a reminder to myself that in spite of what a few people used to say about how "all" somebody ever did was write critical things about somebody who claimed to be a nobody, there were plenty of other things I wrote about during the 2011-2014 period.  I was even putting finishing touches on the composition of a set of 24 preludes and fugues for solo guitar during that period, too.  But for those committed to a tunnel vision understanding of things ... they're set on that. 

Meanwhile, some of us branched off into other topics like writing about cartoons we like.

We're actually here at the end of the work week and I've posted using the scheduling prompt to ensure these are all 25th anniversary posts.  Sometimes other things are going on in life that you don't always post at the time that would be "suitable".  Working on notes about that The Classical Revolution book I mean to review. 

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