Monday, September 21, 2015

Batman, Hugh Hefner, and the Call of St. Matthew

Happy Monday, everyone!! I hope that you all had an amazingly blessed weekend. I had a great weekend, filled with games, training at a local crisis pregnancy center, crocheting, and Batman. You see, recently I used some graduation gift money to purchase season 1(which I've heard is the best of the 3 seasons, so it's the only one I really wanted) of the 1960s Batman: The Television Series, so I have been gradually watching the episodes.  Since today is a "Mercy Monday," the Feast of St. Matthew, and Pope Francis is about to visit the U.S.A. with his message of mercy, I think it's a great time to discuss Batman, Hugh Hefner, and the Call of St. Matthew! So let our discussion begin!

For those of you unfamiliar with the 1960s Batman television show, there are a couple of things you should know: 

  • The level of cheesiness and campiness is high. Really, really high. The Dark Knight, this is not. Definitely not. If you want dark and intense, pick up some Christopher Nolan (love his movies!!!). 
  • You really aren't supposed to take it seriously. Just laugh and let yourself be amused by the all the shenanigans. 
  • It's Batman and Boy Wonder, could things get any cooler??
Ever since I was introduced to this take on Batman in my latter years of high school, I have had a special fondness for this quirkiness and lightheartedness. This show, and the corresponding movie, are innocent, upbeat, and fun! They are something I can feel comfortable showing to a kid of any age without worrying about sexual content, graphic violence, or extreme darkness, which is pretty cool. I mean, Batman is awesome, and I would love for all kids to be exposed to Batman, but would it be a good idea to show The Dark Knight to a little kid? Umm...I'm going to say that's a negative. But, the 1960s Batman is completely appropriate (yes, there are a couple female characters who pop up occasionally wearing outfits that are a tad revealing, but that's about it thus far). This show is fantastic for when you just want to relax with some comedic entertainment that's not crude, vulgar, or a complete waste of time. 

Several months ago, when I should have been studying for college finals, I was researching 1960s Batman on the internet. I had heard that the series was finally available on DVD, so I was trying to see the available options out there. In the process of my research, I stumbled across an article which blew my mind: One of the people I may have to thank for 1960s Batman is Hugh Hefner. 

What??? You may cry. Hugh Hefner? The same Hugh Hefner who has supported and contributed to an awful culture of pornography, utilitarianism, and lust for years? 
Yes, that guy. 

I read an article which claimed that Hugh Hefner helped inspire the campy 1960s Batman show. WHAT??? Is this really true? 
Yet, how does one research that? I certainly didn't want to try and find the truth of 1960s Batman and accidentally land on some pornographic website!! Thankfully, since I focused my keyword searches on "1960s Batman," this wasn't that difficult of a task to maneuver. And I found several articles which gave slightly varying stories. You can find them here, and over here, over here, and on here! Oh, and over here
What's the basic legend? 
Hugh Hefner, a huge comic book fan, showed Batman serials at either a Playboy Theater or Playboy Club. The young adults present were enjoying the campiness, and an ABC executive who was present, Yale Udoff, saw people's positive reactions. So, since he had connections in the television business, he worked and voila, 1960s Batman appears! 

There are, of course, different variations on the story. One variation states that Hugh hired people to dress up as Batman and Robin and use phrases from the show. Another variation states that the audience was encouraged to cheer on or boo the characters. But at its heart, the bare bones story is quite consistent. However, this well-written source disagrees, and says that the show was well in the works without Hugh's influence. Oh, but this website disagrees with them! 

But even the source which claims this is all a myth concedes that Hugh's screenings most likely influenced An Evening with Batman and Robin,which then furthered the Batman craze during the Adam West era. So, I think it's safe to say that Hugh Hefner, in some way, helped spread the love of Batman, and directly or indirectly helped the Adam West show gain momentum. 

When I've revealed this information to some people, they've been completely scandalized, appalled, and disgusted, because they-like myself-can't stand what Hugh Hefner has promoted. However, when I first encountered this legend, I got really excited. 

Yes! Proof that God can bring abundant goodness out of every person!!!! 

After all, even if you don't like the 1960s Batman, I think  you can agree that this show portrays goodness. Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson are continually talking about living a moral, upstanding life, Batman and Robin are always bringing about justice, and Batman tries to give criminals a shot at redemption (example: In season 1, he visits Zelda the Great in prison, and tells her that since she's been well-behaved, he's found post-imprisonment employment for her as a magician at a children's hospital. Is that cool or what?). Yes, Hugh Hefner has a dirty track record, and I completely am appalled and saddened at what he's done to countless numbers of women. Still, God can bring goodness out of him, just like the Thenardiers of the world. 

Today, we celebrate the Feast of St. Matthew, the Apostle. He was a down-and-dirty tax collector. Tax collectors like Matthew, who worked for the Romans, were widely hated. Tax collectors were not trusted or respected, because they selfishly took extra money for themselves, stealing from others. What did Jesus do when he encountered this tax collector named Matthew? 
As Jesus passed by, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” He heard this and said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” (Matt 9:9-13)
Jesus called Matthew closer to himself, to a life of intimacy, redemption, and mercy. God brought so much good out of a horrible man like Matthew, from evangelizing and dying as a martyr to his work as a Gospel writer. God brings good out of all people. He redeems those who are broken, he holds close those who are lost. As Jesus told St. Maria Faustina, 

"From all My wounds, like from streams, mercy flows for souls, but the wound in My Heart is the fountain of unfathomable mercy. From this fountain spring all graces for souls. The flames of compassion burn Me. I desire greatly to pour them out upon souls. Speak to the whole world about My mercy." (Notebook III, #1190) 

My friends, we are all broken, lost, hurting people. More than that, though, we are redeemed by God! We can receive the graces of redemption and the strength to follow God, no matter what we've done or who we are. Today, we can begin anew. Ask God to help you find healing and accept His gift of redemption. Pray for Hugh Hefner and all people who have built up or been involved with the culture of pornography, that they experience healing, peace, and the fullness of life. Read the stories of people who have turned their lives around and discovered help and healing, and spread the word about the lies of pornography. 

And then, if you're up for some fun laughs, watch some Batman (because what's more hilarious than a super awkward Batman in a night club?)

Thanks for joining me today! Have an awesomely blessed day! 


  1. Wonderful, AnneMarie! What a great start to the week! Thank you so much for bringing mercy to mind as we prepare for Pope Francis' visit.

    1. Thanks, Rebecca! I'm so glad you enjoyed this! You are most welcome. Mercy is really on the forefront of my mind as the Holy Father comes. We must pray that people are open to the mercy that God offers!