Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Batman: The Animated Series: “Mean Seasons”

Illustration for article titled Batman: The Animated Series: “Mean Seasons”
TV ReviewsAll of our TV reviews in one convenient place.

Age is an interesting concept for the many superheroes that have remained relatively unchanged since their debut appearances. And Batman is maybe the most fascinating of them all, having taken in multiple protégés who have all grown up while Bruce Wayne stays in stasis. And the fact that superheroes have only been around for about five years in the New 52 DC universe complicates things even further for the Caped Crusader, who not only has all those old sidekicks, but also a son. The remarkable thing about the DCAU is that it’s given us the opportunity to watch Bruce Wayne mature over time, and his character evolves as he moves from Batman: The Animated Series to The New Batman Adventures, Justice League, and Batman Beyond.

“Mean Seasons” has Bruce confronting his age when a new villain with a calendar theme starts terrorizing Gotham. A new twist on Batman rogue Calendar Man, Calendar Girl takes inspiration from the seasons as she crashes fashion and auto shows, seeking vengeance for being fired from her spokesperson jobs. Paige Monroe was a gorgeous model-actress before she started looking too old for the roles she used to play, which motivated her to put on a Kabuki mask and commits crimes while showing off a chic wardrobe. Calendar Girl is like a mix of Roxy Rocket and Firefly, with the campy edge of the former and the implausibility of the latter. That’s not to say that Roxy Rocket is a plausible character, but she had Penguin holding the purse strings while Firefly and Calendar Girl somehow have the resources to create experimental explosives and buy animatronic dinosaur security guards.

Many of Batman’s villains have origins in the entertainment business: Joker, Clayface, Ventriloquist, Baby-Doll, Roxy Rocket, and now Calendar Girl. As entertainers themselves, perhaps it’s easiest for the writers to relate to these characters who dedicate their lives to their art and end up being consumed by it. Life becomes one big gag for the Joker, Matt Hagen can become anyone he wants as Clayface, Ventriloquist’s second voice becomes his second personality, Baby-Doll never has to grow up, Roxy Rocket can perform the riskiest stunts she can imagine, and Calendar Girl’s fixation with age turns into an obsession with the seasons and the passage of time.

This episode has a fair amount of commentary on TV programming at the time, making digs at the show’s new parent network when Calendar Girl crashes a TV press conference. The network’s new lineup includes a show about students at a modeling university, a teenager on a skateboard who is also a cop, and a group of scantily clad Malibu beachgoers who are also vets! The WB was finding success with teen-oriented shows in that vein like Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Dawson’s Creek, and while those series ended up having some merit behind them, think of all the rejected pilots and canceled one-season shows that were probably exactly what is pitched in “Mean Seasons.”

Partnering with TMS is one of the best things to happen to BTAS and TNBA, and the studio can stage an action sequence like no other. There are multiple breathtaking fights in this episode, and the fact that they lose no intensity despite being fought by guys in Chippendales costumes is a testament to Hiroyuki Aoyama’s direction. As the studio behind films like Akira, TMS knows how to animate amazing vehicular action, and the auto show scene is a highlight. To be amazed by the intricate detail, go back to the scene at the TV presentation and watch the individual martini glasses get swept away by Calendar Girl’s giant fan. Great animation can make up for some questionable story elements, and this episode wouldn’t be as memorable if it didn’t look this good.

While Calendar Girl is causing trouble in convention halls, Bruce Wayne is dealing with problems of his own at Wayne Enterprises when he learns that employees are required to retire at 65. This makes Bruce think about his own age, and he starts looking for wrinkles in the mirror. It’s a subplot with an odd message about how people should be allowed to retire at any time they want, which isn’t what members of this show’s target audience needs to learn about at their age. This entire episode’s message seems more geared toward parents than children, although the lesson of learning to accept yourself, flaws and all, is something that everyone should learn. When Calendar Girl is finally unmasked, it’s revealed that she’s still beautiful; she allowed other people’s words to make her believe that she’s hideous, when she really should have just embraced her age and asked her agent to find her older parts.


Stray observation:

  • Batman Beatdown: Batman is a beast at the auto show, throwing one Chippendale henchman onto a car hood that shuts on top of him and then dooring a thug who comes after him on a motorcycle.
  • Really, Batman? Slip on a piece of wood? That’s some novice superheroing.
  • “Death Of The Family” ended in Batman this week, and I’ll just say I’m glad that it’s over. I wanted to like this storyline a lot more than I did, and I blame Mark Hamill’s Joker for cementing himself so firmly in my mind as the quintessential take.
  • “Check out this body work,” says the girl in daisy dukes and a belly shirt at the auto show. Tongue-in-cheek!
  • Batman: “What happened to her?” Agent: “She turned 30.”
  • “You know what I want from you two? QUIIIIET!”
  • “Another season, another reason for making trouble.” Can they not say “whoopee” on children’s television, or is this just the writers changing the song lyric?