Batman’s Lady: Sexy. Vulnerable. Wicked. Varied.

I love Batman. Well, if you count the original with Adam West and the Dark Knight series with Christian Bale, I LIKE Batman. And although he’s a talented actor, I’m lukewarm with Val Kilmer’s Batman Forever. I did enjoy Tommy Lee Jones’ Two-Face. Go figure.

Bottom line, my allegiance is to Michael Keaton’s portrayal. Last night, I watched Batman and Batman Returns (for the fiftieth time), and had a brain scramble. (Thoughts that pop in without order or reason.)

I started to analyze the evolution of Catwoman and the women who brought her to life. (I know. It’s right up there with splitting an atom!)

According to historical data, “Batman’s creator, Bob Kane, was a great movie fan and his love for film provided the impetus for several Batman characters, among them, Catwoman. She was primarily inspired by Hedy Lamarr and partially inspired by 1930s film star Jean Harlow who at Kane’s then-early and “impressionable age… seemed to personify feminine pulchritude at its most sensuous.”

Who knew?

Wikipedia goes on to say, “Wanting to give his Batman comic books sex appeal and someone who could appeal to female readers as a female Batman, Kane and writer Bill Finger created a ‘friendly foe who committed crimes but was also a romantic interest in Batman’s rather sterile life.’ She was meant to be a love interest and to engage Batman in a chess game with him trying to reform her. At the same time, this character was meant to be different from other Batman villains like the Joker in that she was never a killer or evil.”

And if you’re familiar with the movies of Hedy Lamarr and Jean Harlow, there’s no doubt that the core of Catwoman’s personality is sensuality.

All the women who have portrayed Catwoman over the years, brought their own special finesse and style to the character.

Julie Newmar. BATMAN (THE TV SERIES) 1966
Lee Meriwether. BATMAN: THE MOVIE (1966) and BATMAN (THE TV SERIES) 1966

Eartha Kitt. BATMAN (THE TV SERIES) 1968
Michelle Pfeiffer. BATMAN RETURNS (1992)
Maggie Baird. BIRDS OF PREY (2002)
Halle Berry. CATWOMAN (2005)
Anne Hathaway. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES  (2012)

Actresses who lent their voices as this “good to be bad” character in animated series or programs include Gina Gershon, Melendy Britt, Adrienne Barbeau and Courtney Thorne Smith. (yes, of Melrose Place and Ally McBeal fame.)

During the 1960’s, which embodied war protests, peaceful sit-ins and the sexual revolution, American TV tested the waters of sexuality with sitcoms such as Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. However, they skimmed the surface when it came to programming, where the target audience was children. In the Batman TV series, Judy Newmar, played the part with womanly (or feline) wiles and suppressed sexuality.

By the ‘90s, the gloves were off, and it was full-blown sexuality both in TV and cinema. Which is why, I think Michelle Pfieffer’s portrayal of Catwoman is closer to the character than those of her predecessors.

She embodied the smoldering character created by Kane and Finger, and brought  sexiness, vulnerability and wickedness. And the things she did with that whip? Enough said.

IMHO the role of Catwoman will always belong to Michelle Pfeiffer. She is such a class act in any role she plays. It was nice to see her cuddle up and then go toe-to-toe with Batman. The footprint she left behind is huge and I’m not sure any actress after her will be able to fill it. We will see.

Anne Hathaway is a good actress and tried to make the role of Catwoman her own. In all fairness, her portrayal stayed truer to the fact that Catwoman was a cat burglar with expensive taste. However, something was missing. Hey, that’s just me.

Julie Newmar, the original Catwoman is my second favorite, followed by Lee Meriwether, Eartha Kitt and Halle Berry. Yes, the plot in CATWOMAN wasn’t that great. But Halle wore the hell out of that outfit.

My favorite line, (and probably quite a few folks enjoy it) is between Selena (Catwoman) and Bruce (Batman) in Batman Returns.

Selina Kyle: A kiss under the mistletoe. You know, mistletoe can be deadly if you eat it.
Bruce Wayne: But a kiss can be even deadlier… if you mean it.

NOTE TO SELF: (Is there room for a Catwoman-like character in one of my books? Must think about that.)

So, which Catwoman did you purrfer? Sorry, couldn’t resist! Just a brain scramble for Thursday’s Toss.


6 thoughts on “Batman’s Lady: Sexy. Vulnerable. Wicked. Varied.

  1. Great reflections on something I have never considered more deeply – Thanks!

    • nettrobbens says:

      Thank you! It’s said when you write a book you never read a book the same again. Not that I’ve made a movie, but I think the concept is spreading to film. Or maybe, I just can’t be left to my own devices anymore. The old brain starts to wander, and then who knows what will emerge! 🙂

  2. The old brain… yes, what a concept! Let’s let the new brain show what it can do… who knows what will emerge? 🙂

  3. Paul S says:

    It’s funny that I saw Halle Berry’s Catwoman movie on tv here in the UK last night and lo and behold, I come across your article the very next morning.
    I really enjoyed reading this piece and it certainly filled in some gaps in my knowledge, especially regarding the influence of Hedy Lamarr and Jean Harlow.
    Like you, Michael Keaton is my favourite movie portrayal of Batman and Michelle Pfeiffer will always be my definitive movie Catwoman.
    “Michelle is a class act in any role she plays” and even though The Fabulous Baker Boys is the most critically acclaimed performance of her career, Batman Returns is the most iconic.
    Selina Kyle and her alter ego form one of Michelle’s darkest and most complex characters, an amazing amalgam of anger, sadness, humour, sex appeal and raw physical power. Selina’s transformation from mousy secretary to furious feline is one of Pfeiffer’s finest hours.
    Michelle is Catwoman, hear her roar!

    • nettrobbens says:

      Hi Paul,

      Yeaa! Another Michael Keaton-Batman fan! And I loved Michelle in The Fabulous Baker Boys, and her portrayal of Selina Kyle was very dark and complex. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. It was meant for you to comment, particularly after watching Halle Berry’s Catwoman!


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