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.


Are their eyes still watching God?

“Those that don’t got it, can’t show it. Those that got it, can’t hide it.” Zora Neale Hurston

I’ve always been fascinated with the Harlem Renaissance, and the geniuses who embodied a time of artistic expression. I gobbled up any and all literature about the eclectic, cultural period, and the players like poets Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen,writer Jessie Redmon Fauset, artist Romare Bearden, and historian and scholar W.E.B DuBois.

In 1980, it was by sheer stubbornness that I discovered the work of writer, anthropologist, and folklorist Zora Neale Hurston. I was writing poetry, a few short stories and had begun to think about a novel. I was pleased to learn that Mrs. Redmon Fauset was a leading female writer during the Harlem Renaissance.

But then I became agitated. Why weren’t there more female writers during that time? I started digging–again, and then ran across an article about a woman on the verge of becoming one of the greatest literary figures of our time. Zora.

I began devouring her books, short stories, and her life. Born in 1891, Ms. Hurston and her seven siblings lived with their parents, who were prominent leaders in their middle-class community. Although she had a pleasant childhood, she was astute enough to recognize the often fragile imperfections of life, especially after losing her mother at a young age.

I was mesmerized by her work, “Mules and Men” and ultimately, her most famous book, “Their eyes were watching God,” a spiritual journey of a middle-aged woman, Janie Crawford, toward love and self-awareness in rural Florida in the 1930s.

I remember dreaming of what it would be like to bounce ideas off Ms. Hurston or have her critique my short stories, much like Owen Wilson’s character in “Midnight in Paris,” a writer who travels back in time and becomes friends with greats Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, and Ernest Hemingway.

Hurston was such an inspiration to me, which makes the fact that $943.75 was the highest royalty she ever earned from any of her books, heartbreaking. She never received the financial rewards that we as writers hope to achieve. Not so far-fetched, it was still hard for me to fathom that this eminent figure of the Harlem Renaissance died in 1960, penniless.

However, thanks to the unrelenting efforts of Alice Walker, author of the “Color Purple,” and a few others who have taken an active interest in the power of Hurston’s work, her ideologies and words live on, much like another hero of mine, Edgar Allan Poe.

In 2005, Oprah Winfrey produced a television adaptation of “Their eyes were watching God,” which starred Halle Berry as Janie Crawford. It received mixed reviews, often citing that the movie left out important concepts found in the book. One thing is clear, it thrust Ms. Hurston’s book back into the literary world–after being out of print for almost 30 years–and took it by storm. Again.

August 2012 marked the 75th anniversary of, “Their eyes were watching God.” Since its original publication, it has been lifted from years of obscurity and now appears as required reading on many college syllabus.

Harper Perennial, (an imprint of Harper Collins Publishing) sponsors The Zora Neale Hurston Award, which honors librarians who demonstrate leadership in promoting African-American literature. A fitting tribute.

Finally, Ms. Hurston’s grave in Florida is no longer unmarked, and is clearly identified with the epitaph: Zora Neale Hurston: A Genius of the South.” I hope to visit in the near future.

Are their eyes still watching God?

I believe so. Just read the books of Toni Morrison, Ralph Ellison,
and Alice Walker. Listen to the voices of emerging writers, who use the 1920s and 30s as the setting for their WIPs. There’s an undertone, an echo of Ms. Hurston’s voice, and often with the gritty, primitive dialog once criticized by many—particularly Renaissance elites.

Good versus evil, man vs. nature, man vs. man, search for love, the meaning of life, and the fight against societal dictates are still prevalent themes that keep readers reading, teachers teaching, and literary scholars and critics debating.

And in that place where literary greats like Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Langston Hughes gather in heaven, Ms. Zora Neale Hurston is there too, watching us.