The peerless inventiveness of the hive mind has at last hit on a sequel to planking
You know how it is. You had a few drinks last night. You can't quite remember how the evening ended. Now you're worried you, or someone you love, may have been Batmanning. Open your eyes. What do you see? It it the bottom of your bedroom door, upside down? Yes? Oh dear. You have been Batmanning. But don't panic: it's what all the groovy young kids are doing these days.
The peerless inventiveness of the hivemind has at last hit on a sequel to planking, the health-and-safety-bothering trend where people posted photographs of themselves lying flat out in a dangerous or improbable public place.
Horizontality is so last year. Now the thing to do is to suspend yourself upside down with your toes hooked over the edge of a door, wall or piece of piping. Look at me! I'm upside down ? like a bat! It's a whole new world of stupid. Naturally, it's screamingly popular.
Have a Google if you don't believe me. That's the one: "Batmanning is here". Click the link: there's a blurry still photograph of somebody hanging from a door in the corner of a quite unremarkable room ? captioned "Batmanning: Because Planking's For Pussies". The hit counter, at time of writing, read 1,690,764.
Can we pause, momentarily, to digest that? A still photograph of someone hanging upside down from a door has been deemed interesting enough for 1,690,764 separate people ? or, possibly, a handful of very bored students with short memories ? to look at it. There's a video, too ? 350,000-odd hits ? posted by an organisation calling themselves the Batman Boilers and inviting you to follow them on Twitter for more upside-down lulz.
I tried it, in the interests of research. I have established that footwear is key. Stout walking boots of the unbending-Kevlar-toe type are undoubtedly the best. Best start with a half-Batman from your desk. Position a cushion underneath. Do you feel good when you're upside down? Not completely. Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, is said to write his novels in this condition. That's all I'm saying.
Unfortunately, if one and a half million people are interested in this, it becomes the province not only of the ambulance service, but the arts pages. So: where does it stand?
In terms of the Batman canon, Batmanning is a Christian Bale stunt with an Adam West flavour. West ? camp 60s TV Batman ? couldn't manage it because his tubby tummy would prevent him hanging perpendicular to the door. Also, his feet would give way. Bad scene: sore head; dented bat-ears; Boy Wonder not knowing where to look.
So it's firmly Christian Bale, athletically speaking ? wasn't he hanging upside-down in Buddhist gravity boots in the first Christopher Nolan film, Batman Begins?Tonally, however, we're in Adam West territory. The soundtrack to Batmanning is definitely good old "dinner dinner dinner dinnerBatman"; not the 14-second blast of Satan having a good burp, rendered in five-dimensional surround-sound, that stands for atmospherics in those movies.
Plus, Batmanners flap their arms. Bale didn't move his arms in either of those movies, as far as I remember. He might as well have been Michael Flatley. Upside-down or right way up, Bale had to conserve his energies for his acting, ie scowling and talking in a deep voice. So, no. If Batmanning is intended as some sort of viral marketing for the third in Nolan's trilogy, it is woefully misconceived.
In terms of the wider world, Batmanning is clearly the same sort of thing as planking and extreme ironing, and sort of the same sort of thing as one of those flashmobs in which the concourse at a railway station is suddenly cluttered up with people in pac-a-macs dancing the Time Warp.
Is it performance art? Probably, on balance, not. Is it part of the culture? Certainly. Batmanning, and all these things it resembles, may be among the few genuinely distinctive pseudo-artistic emanations of the internet. Go, internet.
It will move on, mark me. We'll have Wonderwomaning (spinning round and round in a public place), Hulking (smashing stuff up in a public place ? pioneered in Tottenham) and the odd tragic Spidermanning accident before the madness comes to an end.
What's the point of it? Well might you ask. The point is, evidently, the pointlessness. In this I think we can track it back to early surrealism and the Situationist International. According to Andr� Breton, the pointless gesture ? the acte gratuit ? is a sort of concrete expression of philosophical freedom. There's little more gratuit, as actes go, than Batmanning. (Actually, Breton said that the ultimate surrealist act would be the random firing of a pistol into a crowd ? though that would technically qualify as Punishering.)
In any case, that eejit imperilling the top two vertebrae of his neck for internet giggles is a distant cousin of the existentialist antiheroes of Albert Camus, by way of Johnny Knoxville. God help us all.