Monday, 5 January 2009

Post#111 Batman Returns (Urban myths and their origins)



Now that I've got that out of my system, I'll stipulate that this post really has nothing to do with the Batman comic books, television series or movies - but wait! - it has plenty to do with kinky sex!! (sort of...)

What prompted me to think of Batman was a story that has appeared in the media during the past two years concerning an incident of October 28th, 2006. The story, as always, was somewhat fragmented in the media reports. The gist of it is that a young woman named Nicola Jane Clunies-Ross was charged with conspiring to trap a boyfriend in her home and then assisting another boyfriend in violently and sexually abusing him. She has now been sentenced to 2 1/2 years prison (suspended, so effectively nothing). As far as I can make out from the tangled media versions, the mess originated with a combination of jealousy on the part of the other boyfriend and resentment by Clunies-Ross. This link to The Australian covers the basics of the story. More links can be found in this Google search. My view is that Gurdulic's "apology" in his suicide note for coercing Clunies-Ross is baloney and an attempt by him to give post-mortem assistance to her. I believe the jury should have stuck her on for "guilty" on all the charges and that she should have copped a minimum of ten years before parole. Quite a bit of the Internet comment on the topic is along the lines of "Lots of people pay for this kind of thing..." Of course, those who pay for it have some control over the process and its outcome.

"Sexy Police Chick" Costume

The reason I mention this yarn is that, when reading about the scenario in which Clunies-Ross, dressed in what she called a "sexy police chick outfit", bound the victim and then opened the door for Gurdulic, I had a memory-flash that caused me to think, "All that's missing is Batman coming through the door..." The story is almost identical to one I heard in 1978 which was told to me as a joke. It goes like this:

"A bloke meets an attractive woman in a night club and she persuades him to go to a hotel with her and engage in some kinky sex. When they're in the hotel room she has him strip naked and binds his wrists and ankles to the bed-frame. She then prduces a roll of heavy adhesive tape from her handbag and gags him with it. After making sure the bindings are secure she smiles sweetly at him and leaves the room. He thinks he's going to be left for the maid to find and he's mighty vexed and embarrassed. Then he discovers things are worse than he thought. The door opens again...and a bloke wearing a Batman suit enters and does him over!"

Not a bad joke, as a joke. Then, five years later, I was talking with a work colleague who had just met a mutual acquaintance of ours who had joined the Western Australian police. This recently-minted cop had been telling him some good stories over a few beers. One of them was about a guy known as "Batman". Sure enough, it was the same story, except that the boy/girl bondage/rape team were allegedly real and working the clubs and pubs of Perth. The racconteur took a while to be convinced that our cop mate was either deluded himself or having him on. When you think about it, once you remove the suspension of disbelief which is usually granted to a joke, the story can't hold up. Perth had a small selection of nightspots in those days and someone trying to work the "Batman" scam repeatedly would soon encounter a previous victim or the word would get around so that any prospective new victim would quickly recognise the come-on and where it was leading. And the detail has to be considerably supplemented. Where is "Batman" supposed to be while the sucker is being bound? Perhaps in an adjoining room - he's not likely to be hanging around in the hotel corridor in his costume. Or we can change it slightly and have him hiding in a walk-in wardrobe or closet in the room where the trap is being sprung.

This is, I believe, how a lot of urban myths begin. A joke is misremembered or misheard as a true story; someone hears something while distracted or intoxicated and it later seems to have been told to them as a true story. Then imagination does the rest, smoothing out the implausibilities. "Where was Batman?" asks the skeptical listener. "Oh, he must have hidden in the closet", responds the improvising story-teller. After a few more recountings the story is polished enough to not immediately provoke scorn. Then it begins to seriously spread. It's also possible that someone deliberately translates a joke into a "true story" as mischief-making or just to impress a listener.

Somewhere in the five years between my first hearing the joke and its return as "reality", one of these two processes took place. The story of Clunies-Ross and her boyfriends indicates another aspect of the urban myth. The jokes that give birth to the myths may have a basis in reality. A real incident can provoke a joke on the same theme which is one day purveyed as fact.

Even now, someone may be turning the story of Clunies-Ross and her "police chick" costume into a joke which will return as a legend which may inspire some twit to actually try it and thereby generate a new wave of jokes...

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