. Old School Tees Blog: TV's Batman and Robin as Social Activists

TV's Batman and Robin as Social Activists

Batman has had many incarnations since its inception by DC Comics in May 1939. Created by artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger, he is a superhero without super powers. He uses his innate talents, intellect, and physical prowess to fight crime. It helps that he is very wealthy, has a devoted sidekick named Robin, has the Mayor of Gotham City giving him free reign, and comical and sometimes inept enemies, but ...still. 

In the 1960s a TV series was launched starring Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin. It aired on ABC for three seasons, from 1966 to 1968. The show was a campy take on the Dynamic Duo, with an astonishing cast that included Burgess Meredith as Penguin and Cesar Romero as Joker, with a host of other stars in both regular and cameo roles. 

The Batman movies sought to return the character to his darker roots, and the eight films produced since 1989 have had varying levels of success. It has been possible to buy tee shirts and other merchandise from the movie series, but only recently has the TV series had products available for purchase. Old School Tees has one of the new offerings from Junk Food clothing. There is a little story behind the image. 

Batman and Robin urge you to BUCKLE UP   --- FOR SAFETY!

As anyone knows who has seen the show, each Batman episode followed the same pattern. There would be a call on the red phone, the two would descend to the Batcave on those fire poles (suddenly in full costume) and jump into the Batmobile. Robin would say “Atomic batteries to power...turbines to speed." Batman would respond, "Roger, ready to move out." With that, after fastening their seat belts, the two would drive out of the cave at high speed. 

It was not always like that. When the show first aired, the Batmobile was not fitted with seat belts.

In 1965 Ralph Nader published Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile.   It exposed how dangerous the average car could be, and the automobile’s industry reluctance to implement basic safety features like seat belts. It focused on one specific car, the Chevy Corvair, which had astonishing fatality rate even in small accidents. 

The book changed the way Americans though about cars, they way cars were made, even the way industries were policed. It made Ralph Nader a household name.

In the interest of spreading the word about the safety feature in cars, the National Safety Council brought up the safety issue in the Batmobile. In view of the information made public in Nader's book, they inquired why the Batmobile was not fitted with seat belts. Producer William Dozier responded by having the two make a show of "buckling up" before they tore out of the Batcave. 

Did this action model behavior that fans, especially children, would duplicate in their own cars? Most likely it did. It must be cool to buckle up if Batman and Robin do it. 

This shirt isn’t just a Batman shirt, it is a cultural touchstone, a piece of social action, and a super comfortable high thread count vintage-inspired cool tee by Junk Food.  :)

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