Remembering the Phenomena of 1989’s ‘Batman’ 25 Years Later
My most vivid memory about the 1989 release of ‘Batman’ is that a kid who played on my summer baseball team wanted to put the Batman logo on the doors of his white El Camino. Tim was a year older than me and I thought it was cool that he had a car at all, let alone if the Batman insignia was part of the equation or not.
Honestly, I don’t remember if Tim wound up fulfilling his wish. My memory now likes to think that he did; that, somewhere in time, Tim was driving down a desolate back road, imagining his El Camino was actually the Batmobile.
‘Batman’ was a big enough moment in popular culture that, at one time, a perfectly reasonable high school sophomore wanted to permanently attach a logo from a movie onto his only mode of transportation and, no other seemingly reasonable classmates of his were going to publicly disagree with this idea.
I really don’t have a strong attachment to ‘Batman’ one way or another. Important moments in popular culture can have a way of bringing people together, but, it’s weird: ‘Batman’ made me feel awfully alone.
The summer of 1989 was a weird time for me. My parents had moved to a suburb of Kansas City the previous fall, which, as an only child, meant I was the “new kid” during my freshman year in high school. I barely remember that year of school. There was just a lot of sitting in my bedroom moping, missing my old friends.
As my freshman year wound down, the ‘Batman’ hype machine was amping up and everyone was excited about seeing it. Looking back, I probably should have just told someone, “Me, too,” and perhaps that would have been enough to create a bond with someone, anyone. Then again, that last sentence is a very “adult” sentence to write: the kind of advice a well-meaning parent will give his or her child, then the child is unmercifully ridiculed for being sincere -- because now I remember that’s what high school was actually like.
And, being that it was Batman kind of made it worse.
I wasn’t a huge Batman fan, but I was a comic book fan and Batman was certainly a part of that. It felt like something that was mine, and now it was something that belonged to everybody -- which is fine, but when you’re the outcast, and something belongs to the masses, all of a sudden it no longer belongs to you. It became something the “cool” crowd now owned.
I never saw ‘Batman’ in a movie theater because I had no one to go with – and there was no way I was going to show up at the local mutiplex with my parents. I’m sure they invited me to see ‘Honey, I Shrunk the Kids’ with them that same weekend, an invitation I declined.
I want to apologize for being such a mope. That wasn’t the intent, really. But all day, as 'Batman' celebrates its 25th anniversary, I’ve been reading tribute after tribute and I couldn’t for the life of me understand why I do not have fonder memories. I remember when I finally saw ‘Batman’ on VHS, I thought it was OK – which kind of seems to be the consensus today. My pet peeve was that Michael Keaton’s Batsuit looked dandy, but it was pretty terrible in action – which led to a lot of heavily edited fight scenes so that we never got a prolonged look at the suit in action because I’m sure every extended scene kind of looked silly. Poor Batman couldn’t even turn his head. But, as part of popular culture, it’s without a doubt important.
By the summer, I started to become a little more social. I joined a summer baseball team, which is where I met one of my best friends, Dan, whom I still talk to today. And this is probably why, today, the thing I remember most about 'Batman' is Tim wanting to get the Batman logo on his El Camino -- probably because he was the first person who ever wanted to talk to me about the ‘Batman’ movie. (And I've decided that, yes, he did wind up putting that logo on his car.)
Mike Ryan has written for The Huffington Post, Wired, Vanity Fair and GQ. He is the senior editor of ScreenCrush. You can contact him directly on Twitter.