Do you ever dream of being a superhero? You may not be able to do that, but you can become a super human being—you could be like Batman.
When I read the news that Adam West, television’s 1960s Batman had died, a wave of nostalgia washed over me. Good memories. Good wholesome television. Campy fun for adults and children. Good life lessons, without knowing you’re even being taught.
In the original series, Batman was no superhero. He might have dressed like one, but he had no superhuman powers. He could neither fly like Superman nor climb buildings like Spiderman. He wasn’t gifted with limitless strength like the Incredible Hulk. He didn’t have X-ray vision. What he did have was an uncompromising will to right wrongs and ensure justice was meted out to those who would dare do wrong. That’s pretty super, don’t you think?
Batman never gave up hope that those who committed crimes could change, and seemed surprised and disappointed when they didn’t. But he wasn’t naive, either. He once noted that “Only a criminal would disguise himself as a licensed, bonded guard yet callously park in front of a fire hydrant.”
He was humble and caring: “A reporter’s lot is not easy, making exciting stories out of plain, average, ordinary people like Robin and me.”
And he was always ready to mentor Robin. There were life lessons, like,
“Let that be a lesson. In future, be more careful from who you accept free lemonade.”
“That’s one trouble with dual identities, Robin. Dual responsibilities.”
In just a few words he combined a lesson of being ethical, honest, and responsible.
Batman: “Better put 5 cents in the meter.”
Robin: “No policeman’s going to give the Batmobile a ticket.”
Batman: “This money goes to building better roads. We all must do our part.”
When Robin neglected to put on his seat belt because they only had a short distance to go, Batman explained that most accidents happen close to home—and Robin secured his belt.
Batman was always ready with educational lessons, as well:
Robin: “You can’t get away from Batman that easy!”
Batman: “Good grammar is essential, Robin.”
Robin: “Thank you.”
Batman: “You’re welcome.”
(With such pure motives, we can be forgiven if we don’t fault him for confusing “who” and “whom.”)
Children watching Batman absorbed these lessons—I know my daughter and son did. As a Baha’i, those moral lessons still resonate for me. The Baha’i teachings, regarding the education of young children, say that moral education should come first:
First and most important is training in behavior and good character; the rectification of qualities; arousing the desire to become accomplished and acquire perfections … – The Baha’i World: 1972-1976, Volume 16, pp. 36-37.
The Caped Crusader helped millions of children with this kind of moral training. Each program dispensed some wisdom for children, like the importance of homework, eating vegetables, being fair and helping those in need.
Without any superpowers, Batman used wisdom, moral uprightness and common sense to find his way out of difficult situations. When he remarked to Robin, “It’s sometimes difficult to think clearly when you’re strapped to a printing press” he didn’t give up. It may be difficult, but not impossible. Especially if you’re armed with the latest technology. Batman had unlimited gadgetry at hand, always ready for anything he came up against. He was always prepared for any eventuality.
Robin: “Where’d you get a live fish, Batman?”
Batman: “The true crimefighter always carries everything he needs in his utility belt, Robin.”
We can watch modern superheroes, yet know we can never be like them. But we watched Batman and knew he was really ordinary human Bruce Wayne. We saw his resourcefulness, his thoughtfulness, his understanding and his choice to stand up for what is right.
Yes, Batman was fictional, a creation of comic books and television—but his quest for justice mirrors the hope of every human being, and of the prophets of God:
We cherish the hope that the light of justice may shine upon the world and sanctify it from tyranny. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 218.
That was Batman’s quest, and if we so choose, we can follow his example.
My daughter was so impressed with him and such a lover of justice that she collected Batman memorabilia, but she didn’t name her first car the Batmobile—she called it Bruce Wayne. She understood that all human beings are capable of fighting for justice. It just takes will, determination, action and perseverance, like Batman—like Bruce Wayne.
Adam West’s Batman wasn’t “The Dark Knight ” of the movies, rather he was “The Bright Knight,” of the small screen who we welcomed into our homes and let him mentor our children as he dispensed his wisdom to Robin. His light continues to shine for all of us who had the joy of watching him fight — [*KAPOW*] —for right.