irony, politics

The Oswald Cobblepot School of Debate

A forward link landed in my e-mail yesterday. It led me to a 13-second lark trying to portray John McCain as Oswald C. Cobblepot, better known as the Penguin, from Batman. You can see it here:

The Penguin is surely one of the more entertaining Batman villains–my favorite, if we’re working from the 1960s television series, where he showcased the talent of Burgess Meredith. Burgess Meredith, sneering behind that cigarette holder, was right on with his swaggering greed, the casual entitlement papering over the insecurities of a truly desperate character. (All the showcase villains from that show were surprisingly good: Frank Gorshin/Riddler, Eartha Kitt/Catwoman, Cesar Romero/Joker.)

The modern iteration of the Penguin in today’s politics has been identified by John Stewart, for the last few years, as Dick Cheney, whose mimicked utterances Stewart punctuates with the occasional side-of-mouth squawk. But the McCain parallel drawn above put me in the right frame of mind to appreciate another bit of Penguin scenery chewing. This video, posted on Marc Ambinder’s worthy politics blog, hits the right notes for the current campaign’s meta-narrative.

Anyway. Watch and learn:

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2 thoughts on “The Oswald Cobblepot School of Debate

  1. Will says:

    Most instructive. Only the Penguin, as portrayed by the great Burgess Meredith, possessed the intellectual penetration necessary to argue ‘a dictio secundum quid ad dictum simpliciter,’ as seen here. The Joker? Too erratic. The Riddler? Too indecisive. Those three actors were wonderful. The last time I saw reference to Frank Gorshin, whom I particularly liked, he was on a dinner theatre bill in Calgary. I hope he viewed it as the honest work it is, much like Greg Kinnear’s Bob Crane did in Auto Focus, because he was very good. Certainly better than Jim Carrey 30 years later. Governor Weightlifter, however, was a passable Mr. Freeze, turning that freeze ray on Gotham City 15 years before he turned it on the state’s public education funding. I have a soft spot for that movie, where they managed to shoehorn Alicia Silverstone into the bat girl suit at the last possible moment before she, well, disappeared from public view.

    But my point is, none of these fine actors ever garnered a Knight Award for Best Piece of Narrative Journalism on A Science or Environmental Subject. I haven’t checked the blog in some time and was delighted, when I did, to see the feature notice declaring that Tim succeeded where these others, for all their chops, had fallen short. And on as prestigious a forum as Front Line, no less. I just finished watching this excellent piece of investigative journalism, every bit deserving of both its venue and its award-winning recognition. The editing, which I imagine presents certain challenges when working with still images, was consistently adroit. “They have garages? … I didn’t know that.” Cue garage full of ill-gotten potatoes. Fantastic. A tremendous job all around on this, Tim, and congratulations on the award. I’m looking forward to your next production along these lines, though I’m guessing William McDonough won’t be jamming up your voicemail box with offers to help out.

  2. Will, very good to hear from you, as ever. I’m glad you appreciate the fine work of Burgess Meredith. I confess I know him best from Batman, though he seemed to play pretty well as the crotchety old horndog in Grumpy Old Men. And fair enough, we say, honest work for honest pay.

    In light of the revelation that Frank Gorshin was doing dinner theater for the Calgary cowboys come to see a show before whooping it up on a Saturday night, I’ll second your point on honest work. Gorshin was surely the most inscrutable of the actor/villains of the old Batman series. As I recall, his Riddler always referred to Batman as “the Batman,” and this reflexive insistence on the article helped to reinforce that the Riddler, as they say, is not like you and I. He’s different. I also remember him for playing a psychiatrist in 12 Monkeys, a straight performance made strange for knowing Gorshin’s previous incarnation. In light of those two roles, I’m inclined to write, “And so the circle remains unbroken.”

    Thanks, too, for the note on the Knight Award. That was nice to get. I’m doubly glad that you actually watched the thing. It’s hard enough to get people to see that bidden, so always a pleasant surprise to hear that it is sometimes seen unbidden. I labored for some months reporting and editing and tweaking the timing. I’m partial to the reveries of the middle section, evoking as it does indelible moments in the countrysides of China, India, and South Korea. To be a little sentimental, it is the heart of the story. But it’s the brisker procedural that comprises that last section that gets to the heart of the matter. I’m not sure if this business about garages is a high point or a low point, but it is a key point in figuring out what the hell happened over there.

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