clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

America’s emergency president is really into Batman.

Like, really.

MARI MATSURI/AFP via Getty Images. Banner Society Illustration.

One day in the future, a historian or a journalist or the synthetic carbon replicant of Chuck Klosterman will determine when exactly in Western culture it became acceptable to publicly enjoy Nerd Things.

This specific date will birth a B.C. and A.D. for fandom as a concept (and a business), and the secret enjoyment of activities and materials considered “nerdy” (a term that will and already has begun to void its own meaning) in the Before Times will be viewed as a kind of prehistoric behavior.

I grew up in a time when you were ruthlessly mocked for expressing passionate feelings about stuff like Batman after the age of nine, so you know 80-year-old Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy did too. And Leahy loves Batman. He either loves Batman way more than I do, or is just way more comfortable expressing it. Probably both, because this feature from CNN last week skeeves me, Guy Who Just Requested The Day Off On March 18, the hell out:

“Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont and the longest-serving member of the current Senate, is a Batman aficionado who’s turned his fandom into philanthropy. He’s even used the comics to forward his legislative agenda.”

Have we reached some kind of intellectual nadir where sitting politicians can claim ANYTHING informs their political philosophy? Pizzagate, Batman, what the fuck is next? “This junior senator is a strict constructionist, in the Tony Robbins and r/dankmemes sense.”

When he’s not working in the Senate chambers in Washington, Leahy retreats to Gotham, where Batman fights cartoonish villains and mans the Batmobile. It’s a comfort he took up when he was 4 years old.

“If you live in the real world all the time, it can be kind of boring,” the senator told Vermont alt-weekly newspaper Seven Days in 2008.

OK, so we’re all aware, that quote is tantamount to an admission that the man who is now third in line for the Presidency is cosplaying Baman in his spare time, right?

“Leahy declined an interview for this story through his spokesman, but his affinity for all things Batman is well-documented.”

Yes, because the CNN blog post gathering up anecdotes from Leahy’s decades of weird fandom — including cameos in FIVE DIFFERENT BAT FILMS — is the bridge too far. NOW it looks embarrassing.

Leahy was elected to the Senate in 1974 and until the mid-1990s, his affinity for Batman didn’t have much to do with his duties on Capitol Hill. That changed in 1996, when Leahy collaborated with DC Comics to create “Batman: Death of Innocents: The Horror of Landmines,” a graphic novel warning of the dangers of landmines.

OK, that’s pretty damn cool, and certainly a worthy cause. I even remember reading about this comic in Wizard magazine — “Death of Innocents” is credited for saving children’s lives in Kosovo. Bravo.

“...he told the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call that he placed copies of the comic on every senator’s desk that year.”

LOL Pat, you proud dork. I can only imagine Trent Lott reacted to this the exact same way Will Muschamp received “Star Wars.”

You’ve actually seen Senator Leahy in a pretty big “Batman” moment — he tells Heath Ledger’s Joker he’s “not intimidated by thugs” in “The Dark Knight.” It’s a pretty amazing scene in a wonderful film. And Ledger’s friends and family have said this was the one particular scene where Ledger figured out how to fully play the role. So that’s cool!

“While his film roles have certainly satisfied his inner fanboy, Leahy does it for the library where his love for reading bloomed. He donates every fee from his appearances and royalty checks from residual showings to his beloved Kellogg-Hubbard Library, where he helped finance a children’s wing named for him. From his roles in “The Dark Knight” trilogy alone, Leahy has donated more than $150,000 back to his hometown library, said Carolyn Brennan, co-director of the library.”

OK, that’s pretty noble, too. I really gotta stop making fun of this guy. Maybe a very public display of admiration of nerd stuff like Sen. Leahy’s has caused me to reevaluate the intellectual merit of the material? Maybe then I’d realize there are deeper, more meaningful works of fiction I should reference daily and puzzle over nightly? (Maybe I just wish “Harry Potter” fans would do this?)

It’s just that at this point in my life, I feel like comic book characters and stories are a lot like religious parables — you’re a better person for believing, but maybe we should hold on to the details a little looser, ya know? The more passionate we get, and stricter in our adherence to dogma, well… bad shit happens.

Ultimately, Leahy is a big nerd who, despite being a generation older than me, is clearly way more comfortable with it.

Leahy preferred Batman to other characters because, unlike the god-like Superman or the super-powered Spider-Man, Batman was just a man, albeit an extremely rich one, with “human strengths and human frailties.”

Again, this guy is a Democrat from Vermont and this guy is also a Democrat from Vermont. Amazing. I love this country.