I’m always fascinated by the fact that I was born in 1990. Think of all the things I got to grow up with. Think of all the things I got to experience because I was born in such a fateful time for humanity. And that’s not me being my usual millennial self that likes to glorify the 90s as a halcyon era. Some of the best entertainment, media, music and novels came out during the 90s and early 2000s but because of that perspective, it’s actually created a rather interesting phenomena in me. I got some of the best of the best when it comes to depictions of some of my favorite franchises. But because of that, such timing has locked in several canonical depictions in my head. And with that, let’s talk about the burden of greatness, accepting crappy prequels and nerd rage.
Batman The Animated Series was one of the most important artifacts of my childhood. Really, most superhero animated shows were. Except for Static Shock but we’ve already talked about why. Batman The Animated Series could have its own blog post on how it impacted an entire generation of fans but it certainly meant the world to me. That was the best Joker, Robin, Batman, Alfred and really, just most of the cast. It was so influential that it even changes the canon of the comic book! What animated series gets to claim that it changed the lore of the comic it’s based off of?
So when The Dark Knight trilogy came out, imagine my surprise when the movies were a mix-matched chimeric creature of canon, lore and source material. To the point that it actually ruined The Dark Knight for me. Heath Ledger’s a damn talented actor but c’mon, guys. Mark Hamil’s Joker is phenomenal. And the points that irked me about the movie’s depiction were to someone who grew up with the animated show and Bruce Timm/ Alan Moore/Paul Dini-verse. I wasn’t used to a Joker who wore makeup or was that disorganized and chaotic. My Joker had always been sickeningly charming, a bit neurotic and was not painted like a clown: that was just his face. And my movie canon for Batman at the time included the Tim Burton sojourn through Gotham. Not that I have anything negative to say about the world Nolan created, just that version of the Joker really threw me for a loop.
Let’s take a more hot button issue. Star Wars. I love Star Wars. It’s one of those instances much like Harry Potter for me where I am way more interested with the lore and the world than I am with most of the main cast of characters. But I was not born in the 70s. I was born in the 90s. I grew up with the prequels. I actually still have my movie ticket to Revenge of the Sith. I saw that movie in theaters at the tender age of 16 and I loved it. I loved the action, fight scenes, music and set pieces. I thought it was great. In hindsight, I realize that it isn’t a great movie. None of the prequels are. Attack of the Clones is way worse, though. But when I went back to watch the original Star Wars trilogy, I had a difficult time with it as a teen. The effects were dated, the fight scenes were limited to the technology of the time and while the acting was good it wasn’t to me at the time on a much higher level than Natalie Portman giggling while pregnant in a silk nightgown.
Another great example is actually a topic close to my heart: Dr. Seuss movies. The first book I ever checked out from the library back home was The Lorax. It’s probably one of my favorite books and has such an important message that really should be read by everyone. Needless to say, I adore the work of Dr. Seuss and in fact one of my favorite Christmas movies is the Chuck Jones animated version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. My little cousin is a hilarious 12 years younger than me and when he saw me during the Christmas season watching the old animated How the Grinch Stole Christmas he had the audacity to say “I prefer the live action version better.” If only there was a sound to describe how my hair contorted and twisted to stare him down for his disrespect and ignorance. The live action version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas is an abomination. A sin. A miserable heartless cash grab. But because he was born when that version was “popular” and the 60s Chuck Jones version was nearly as old as his mother, that version is his version while the animated for me was a timeless classic even in the 90s.
This really can be said about anything generational. My views on RuPaul’s Drag Race are colored by the fact that my history with LGBT and Drag Culture are very 90s pageant and early 2000s club scene. So the idea of a drag queen that doesn’t pad or doesn’t know how to sew was damn near offensive but these are slowly becoming outdated ideas about what drag is. (That doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it. Lookin’ at you, Naomi Smalls. +_+).
But that’s just the thing when it comes to times and generations. I’m sure to my seniors the Batman and Superman I grew up with were nothing like the unilaterally good guys they were in the Golden and Silver Age. But really, timing is everything. When something hits you, it hits you. When it helps form and shape who you are, that’s all about being in the right time in the right place.