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Mite Club: Metatextuality, Fandom, and Media Industry Responses in Batman: The Brave and the Bold

by Ethan Tussey

by Chistopher M. Cox for IN MEDIA RES

Bat-Mite, self-described as Batman’s “biggest fan,” appears in several episodes of Batman: The Brave and the Bold as a fourth-wall-breaking agent of chaos bent on reshaping Batman’s fictional world. In the episode “Legends of the Dark Mite,” after endowing the villainous Calendar Man with the power to summon holiday-themed antagonists, Bat-Mite conjures yet another oppositional force: fellow die-hard Batman fans. Wary that Calendar Man’s mutant Easter Bunnies are too off-brand, Bat-Mite again manipulates the diagetic framework by interposing a scene in which he asks “what the Batman fanboys think.”

The successive scene (as demonstrated in the video at left) finds Bat-Mite looking out onto a throng of fans dressed at Batman, while to his right sit creative personnel presumably involved with Batman: The Brave and the Bold. The scene replicates the look and dynamic of a pop culture convention panel, particularly when a Batman fan admonishes the light-hearted approach of the animated series, preferring instead the configuration of Batman as “gritty, urban crime detective.” Bat-Mite then reads aloud a statement provided by the creators in which they posit consistency between Batman: The Brave and the Bold’s characterization and that of previous Batman story cycles.

The metatextuality of this episode calls attention not only to itself as a fictional text, but the relationship of fans to the text itself and, further, the Batman franchise writ large, a dynamic intensified in the series finale “Mitefall!” Convinced Batman: The Brave and the Bold is past its prime, Bat-Mite conspires to infiltrate the episode with tropes discordant to even the most ardent Bat-fans, including the incorporation of Batman costumes and vehicles for toyetic merchandising purposes. The rouse ultimately succeeds, culminating in a scene in which an executive cancels the show and asks series developer James Tucker to think about a new animated incarnation akin to the episode “Chill of the Night,” which embodied qualities reminiscent of the plea for a “gritty, urban crime detective.”

The series comes full circle in its metatextual loop by parodying fan entitlement in the first season and then carrying out their sentiment in the finale. It mirrors the accelerated feedback loops through which fans and producers increasingly interact and the eroding barriers between them. The penultimate scene of “Mitefall!” in which Bat-Mite is wiped from existence likewise echoes the transformative nature of fandom: how far can their influence progress before they are the arbiters of their own disenchantment?

Batman and Fanboys

A clip from Batman: The Brave and the Bold

from Batman: The Brave and the Bold (2014)
Creator: Warner Bros.
Distributor: YouTube
Posted by Ethan Tussey