Just forget the words and sing along

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Dance with the Devil in the Pale Moonlight

Around a month ago, I wrote a blog entry reminiscing on the 10th anniversary of a film that had massive ramifications on the geek universe, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Well, I had a lot of fun writing that, and with the 20th anniversary of another geek classic upon us, I thought I’d write another article reminiscing about that film. Yes, today is the 20th anniversary of the film that launched a franchise, Batman, directed by Tim Burton.


Words cannot describe how much I loathe you as a film. Upon repeated viewings, I can’t help but think about how you ruined my life and completely destroyed me. I hatred burns with the intensity of a thousand suns. You changed me...you altered me...you made me view myself in ways that I was not yet ready for, and I hate you for it.

But that was not the case when we first met. When we first met, it was the summer of 1989. That was quite a monumental summer in my youth. My twelfth birthday was approaching. Elementary school was done, and I was preparing for the new challenges and adventures in junior high. My family moved into a newer, bigger house, and for the first time in 8 years, I finally had my own room. And I managed to steal my first kiss from that girl next door...that spirited redhead by the name of Samantha Eddington.

OK, there was no girl living next door, there is no such person as Samantha Eddington, but everything else is true, and when I sit down some day to write my coming-of-age tale, it will be set in the summer of 1989, and little miss Eddington will come to life on the page. And another aspect in my coming of age tale set in the summer of 1989 will be true...Batman will be everywhere.

It was impossible to escape from Batman that summer. The Batman logo was on merchandise of all kinds. That Diet Coke commercial was constantly running on television. Batdance by Prince was always on the radio. The Edmonton Journal deemed it “the summer of the bat,” and even ran an interview with a graphic design major at the U of A who had painted the Batman logo all over her car. “I understand it’s all a fad, and I’ll repaint my car this fall,” she said. “I’m thinking maybe a soccer ball pattern.” Of course, all this didn’t happen spontaneously. It was all because of the movie.

Batman directed by Tim Burton. No other movie to date had been that heavily hyped. And, with my 12th birthday approaching, along with it came the annual tradition of my birthday movie. Yes, ever since my 11th birthday, I have celebrated my age by going to see a movie. And with the summer of 1989 upon me, there was only one movie I wanted to see...Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

Other things happening in pop culture was that Star Trek: The Next Generation had finished its second season. I had become thoroughly hooked on this thing called Trek and I was wearing blinders for that summer. The only movie that was on my radar was The Final Frontier. So arrangements were made. That was the movie I was going to see on my birthday. There were some friends of the family who wanted to come along, but they didn’t want to see Star Trek, they wanted to see Batman. So, Mom bent over backwards, scouring the movie listings for a Cineplex in Edmonton that was showing both Star Trek and Batman. And she found one, Capitol Square 4, right in the heart of downtown Edmonton.

My birthday came around, and it was fantastic day. We arrived at the Capitol Square to see Star Trek and...it wasn’t playing. “We’re so sorry,” said the clerk. “We stopped showing it yesterday.” My 12 year old heart sank. “Is there any other movie you want to see?” my mother asked. I walked into the lobby to stare at the four movie posters to make my decision. To this day, I remember very clearly what those four movie posters were: Batman, Lethal Weapon 2, Dead Poets Society, and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. My blinders were off. My eyes were finally open to the other films out in the summer of 1989. I made my decision, and walked up to my parents. “I want to see...Honey, I Shrunk the Kids!”

My brother said, “Screw that, I want to go with the others to see Batman.” So we split into two groups. My brother and Group A went to see Batman. Me and Group B went to see Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids was really good. My 12-year old self enjoyed the hell out of it.

And then came the waiting. Batman had a later start time and a longer length than Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, so we started spending a lot of time in the lobby waiting for Batman to get out. We went for a walk around the block. Sunset in downtown Edmonton is always really pretty, even my 12 year old self enjoyed it. Eventually, Batman ended, and this endless wave of people started pouring out of the theatre. Never had I seen a crowd so large! And it wasn’t ending. They just kept coming and coming and coming. And finally, my brother emerged from the crowd. “Ohmygodohmygodohmygod IT WAS SO AWESOME!!!” He sure was a lot more excited about Batman than I was about Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.

And for the rest of the summer...hell, for the rest of the year, my brother was the biggest Batman geek you’d ever meet. He had the official “making of” book..the deluxe hardcover edition. He got the soundtrack, so not only was it on the radio, but Batdance was being cranked up at every available opportunity. At least every 20 minutes, he’d ask me if I’d ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight. For his birthday, we went to the auto show, so he could get his picture taken next to the Batmobile. As I said, there was just no escaping from Batman that summer.

December was soon upon us. Naturally, my brother got Batman on VHS for Christmas. And there, on Christmas afternoon, huddled around the TV set, was when I finally got to see Batman. And you know what? It was so much better than Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. If I could go back in time to my 12 year old self, I would probably say, “Dude, no. Go see Batman.”

As I said, it was impossible to escape from Batman in the summer of 1989. For a stretch there, it felt like I was living with Batman. Because of its prominence that year, Batman came to symbolize a lot of the magical things of that summer. Hanging MY posters in MY room. Sleepless night wondering how different grade seven would be from grade six. And wondering if the girl who would serve as the inspiration for Samantha Eddington would ever notice me. It was the last summer of my childhood, and it was so much fun.

So how did I grow to hate such a symbol? Well, we jump forward to the year 2004. I’m back in school, going to NAIT, studying to get my radio diploma and achieve that dream of being on the radio. I’m down in NAIT’s South Lobby, doing a remote broadcast. I was partnered up with one of my classmates for this broadcast. As is my want, I was up there, dancing to the music, waiting for my time to be on the radio, when Batdance came on. “Dude! This is like the greatest song ever!” I said to my classmate. “This song is crap, how can you like it?” she said to me. And I started telling her the tale...an abridged version of what you just read. The magic of the summer of 1989. “How can you not remember the summer of 1989?” I said to her.

She looked at me cockeyed and said, “I was two years old in 1989.”

BAM. I felt as though a batarang had hit me in the face. It finally occurred to me that I was now surrounded by people who had never danced to Batdance. People who don’t know what it means to dance with the devil in the pale moonlight. And they don’t know it because it was before their time. Remembering a magical summer from 20 years ago...had made me old.

That’s why I hate you, Batman. You turned me into an old man. You are now part of a distant past that only exists in history books. And because I was there to experience it first hand, it makes me aged and decrepit. Damn you, Batman. Damn you to hell.

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