Nov 17, 2012

Green Hornet: Batman Lite

The Green Hornet appeared on Friday nights in the fall of 1966 with guns blazing, ready to take the kid world by storm.  There were coloring books, comic books, action figures, viewmasters, Green Hornet costumes for Halloween (apparently he was a revision of an early pulp hero).

  But he turned out to be Batman lite, reviled or ignored by everybody at Denkmann Elementary School, especially the boys who liked boys.

1. Instead of spandex costumes that beautifully displayed muscles and bulges, crime-fighting vigilantes Green Hornet (Van Williams) and Kato (Bruce Lee) wore silly green business suits and overcoats.  Ironic, considering that Van Williams, formerly of Sunset Strip, was well known for his muscular physique.

And Bruce Lee's beefcake posters would soon be plastered on the bedroom walls of millions of gay and non-gay kids.

2. Instead of cool villains like the Joker, the Riddler, and Catwoman, the Green Hornet and Kato fought crooked insurance companies, construction contractors, and local politicos.  And they expected kids to watch?

3. People actually died on The Green Hornet. And they expected kids to watch?

4.Robin was Batman's "youthful ward."  I didn't know what a ward was, but apparently it involved living together, emotional connection, and lots of nick-of-time rescues.  Kato was the Green Hornet's valet.  They lived together, sort of, but no emotional connection and no "my hero!" moments.  Ironic, considering that Van Williams was one of Rock Hudson's associates and rumored to be gay, and the liberal Bruce Lee would probably be a supporter of gay rights.

Facing strong competition from The Wild Wild West and Tarzan,  the series crashed. Guest appearances on Batman in September 1966 and March 1967 didn't help.  After 26 episodes, it vanished, never to be seen again -- until Seth Rogen and Jay Chou starred in a comedy version in 2011.