Can Anne Hathaway cut it as Catwoman? A look back at the pun-tastic legacy

Sure, Anne, go with that costume.
Sure, Anne, go with that costume.

Fresh from the movie news wire comes the announcement that Anne Hathaway will play Catwoman in the third entry to Chris Nolan's gritty Batman series, inexplicably titled The Dark Knight Rises (probably because these movies make everyone involved a lot of dough). The character was introduced in the first official Batman comic ever, Batman #1, and is the villain that's made the most appearances in Batman media, including video games, comic books and the dreams of children everywhere. In the comics she's been reborn and reinvented dozens of times, from a master thief to a former prostitute to Bruce Wayne's wife and the mother of his child. Her cinematic legacy is just as complicated and contradictory.

Catwoman's first screen appearance came in the 1966 Batman TV series (known for it's easily written-out theme song: da da da da da da da da Batman!) where she was played by Julie Newmar. The redhead rocked a black catsuit with pointed cat ears and no mask, because the "purrfect" villainness don't even care if those two fools see her face, yo (Adam West's Batman wasn't exactly the greatest detective that ever lived, either, although he was almost a good a dancer as John Travolta, who would later steal the Batusi dance for his performance in Pulp Fiction).

A big fan of puns, she had two hideouts called Cat-Lairs (original), including one in New Jersey, probably hidden in one of those big piles of trash the state is known for. She also took on apprentices, including Leslie Gore in 1960, meaning she was probably bisexual (If you don't know who Leslie Gore is, do what I do -- Google her secretly and then act all superior when other people don't know her). She wasn't so much a cat burglar or a master of stealth as she was an insane thief who constantly racked her brains trying to come up with ways to literally use cats to help her steal fortunes (including ones belonging to people with names like "J.J. Spaghetti"). Oh, and she had a thing for Batman.

When Julie Newmar ran off to be sultry somewhere else, Catwoman was taken over by brunette Eartha Kitt, probably because her name sounds like "cat." Eartha Kitt also rocked a black catsuit, though she subtly changed the bling around her neck in the form of a newly understated cat medallion that sat on her chest and approximated Batman's logo. She liked puns even more than Julie Newmar, but had the same predilection for high-profile plans and schemes involving cats (why she never thought of strapping explosives to them, I do not know. First thing I'd do).

The year being 1966, and Eartha Kitt being black, this permutation of the character most definitely did not have a thing for Batman -- in the '60s, interracial kisses only happened on Star Trek. This never really made sense because everyone knows Eartha Kitt had a thing for paunchy white guys (I'd flirt with Orson Welles for a part too, and he's dead). A gay rights activist, Eartha Kitt's Catwoman did however, heavily empathize with Batgirl, so she was probably bisexual.  

The many faces of Catwoman
The many faces of Catwoman

In the 1966 film Batman: The Movie, also starting Adam West and Burt Ward as Robin, Newmar and Kitt were both unavailable, so she was played by Lily Munster, also known as Lee Meriwether. Being a brunette as well a white person, Meriweather played the part as a mix of the Kitt and Newmar Catwomen, as though she was their clone-love-child. This Catwoman was murdered out in all black with nary a piece of bling in sight, though she did have cool black things painted over her eyebrows.

The costume change reflected her darker nature -- this Catwoman meant business, and joined the "United Underworld" alongside Joker, the Penguin and the Riddler, killing world leaders left and right with a "dehydrator gun." A master of disguise and strategy, Meriwether's Catwoman used her wits and sexuality moreso than any Catwoman before, going undercover as a Soviet journalist to seduce and lure Bruce Wayne into a trap (she had a thing for Batman). In later years Meriweather, obviously not a fan of grim, gritty sexual tension, would go on record stating that Eartha Kitt made the best Catwoman.

Catwoman wouldn't be seen again on screen for 30 years, until Daniel Waters (writer of Heathers!) and Tim Burton reimagined her for Batman Returns, casting the lithe, blonde Michelle Pfeiffer, who's name is hard to spell, as their (12 year old fantasy) vision of a repressed woman's id gone wild.

Her Selena Kyle was a repressed and lonely middle-aged secretary who survived a near death experience that drove her insane. Violent, uber-sexual, and filled with rage, especially toward the society of patriarchy that corrupt cities like Gotham are built on, the fetishized, latex-covered Catwoman's mission of crime began as a mission of revenge against the CEO that threw her out of a 20 story window. Her psychosis was so strong she actually manifested nine lives -- showing an almost supernatural ability to cheat death and survive injury.

She still likes puns (a lot - she even breaks a neon sign in her house to change it from "hello there," to "hell here."), though this version of Catwoman, unlike the feminine felines before her, exclaims every line of the dialogue as though she's in the midst of a earth-shattering orgasm. She has a thing for Batman, though it appears to be heavily based on their mutual love of wearing masks and dressing up in skin-tight fetish gear -- when he reveals himself to be Bruce Wayne, she rejects him and then kills herself by kissing a taser.

The next Catwoman isn't really Catwoman, okay? Let's just lay those cards out. Halle Berry made a movie called Catwoman that started out as a spin-off of Batman Returns and ended up a skinified poorly-shot female version of Spider-Man where a nerdy secretary gets thrown onto a trash barge (these keep coming up in the Catwoman mythos) and then an ancient Egyptian cat god of vengence resurrects her to take revenge and also save women from the evil cosmetics corporation she worked for that's poisioning all of them (by maintaining a culture of impossible standards of beauty, creating an epidemic of poor self-image. Not really, but at least that would've been interesting).

There's really no reason to see this movie. Ever. Even as a so-bad-it's-good thing, 'cause it's mostly boring. Even an attempt to enjoy the cheesecake of Halle Berry's revealing costume is impossible, given that she spends 90 percent of the movie as a bad CG effect, snarling and leaping from rooftop to rooftop. I have an idea: let's just pretend this version of Catwoman doesn't exist and that there isn't really a director named "Pitof" (Isn't McG enough?) The movie is so incoherent, it could have Batman and she could have a thing for him, Batman could be woman, or she could fall in love with a piece of fruit. I'm not entirely sure.

And finally, that Oscar-host that loves to get naked on screen, Anne Hathaway, the sixth Catwoman. Who knows what kind of Catwoman she'll be, especially considering she still looks like a Disney Princess and has an ample bosom in a way that means I think it would be rather difficult for her to do a flip and then hang from her pinkies on a rooftop. But I'm obviously not Christopher Nolan, and if I made a movie about dreams, it'd have Catholic schoolgirls and I'd bring my dying mother fresh apples over and over again through a see-through elevator instead of having cool zero-g fistfights. Let's just hope she's a little more of this:

Can Anne Hathaway cut it as Catwoman? A look back at the pun-tastic legacy

And a little less of this:

Can Anne Hathaway cut it as Catwoman? A look back at the pun-tastic legacy

But hey, as long as it's not a cat-astrophe (yeah, I know).

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