It’s difficult to imagine Christian Bale’s Batman – or even Ben Affleck’s – spruiking for the war effort in South East Asia, but back in 1966, that’s exactly what the Caped Crusader did. Obviously it was a different time, before people knew what a quagmire Vietnam would be.
He starts with his back to camera
Is Batman going to turn his back on the ideals that made America great in the first place, like Manifest Destiny and the Monroe Doctrine and the Roosevelt Corollary and the Good Neighbor policy? Or have we merely caught him unawares in the Batcave, admiring a letter he got from LBJ?
Here’s the moment where Batman can’t believe what he’s about to say
Not because he thinks it’s wrong to get involved in Asian land wars over ideology. Der, Domino Theory is pretty clear that one country falling to communism in any given region means its neighbours are more likely to be lured into becoming pawns of the USSR. No, it's because he can’t believe schoolkids aren’t already buying US savings bonds.
Here’s where he makes eye contact with you, the viewer
Imagine the strength of will it takes to look away from that special message from the president in order to connect with kids who, in some cases, are just a few years off going to fight proxy wars in the twilight struggle between capitalism and communism themselves.
He seizes the letter with two gloved hands
Somewhere around here is the point Adam West inspires a young Frank Miller to someday reinterpret Batman as a crypto-fascist reactionary in The Dark Knight Returns. He had range, that man.
And here’s a close-up of the letter Batman just read
In case you thought he was just pretending to be mates with the president of the United States, or that a man in that office would never stoop so low as to ask schoolchildren to fund his imperialistic adventurism in the name of “practical citizenship”.
Finally, we zoom in on Batman’s poster
Yep, the Caped Crusader feels so strongly about US savings bonds that he has adorned the wall of the Batcave with a poster talking them up. Presumably to indoctrinate Robin with pro-America ideology in case he’s been listening to that pinko Riddler with his “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” gags. Hey, it’s happened before.
Watch Batman every Friday night on SBS VICELAND at 7:35pm. The Ken Burns documentary series The Vietnam War will air Saturday nights on SBS from 7:30pm.
You can also listen to our weekly podcast discussing the 60s Batman series BATMANLAND: