Julie Newmar was beautiful as Catwoman. But beautiful does not mean sexy. What is sexy is partly a subjective perception, but also, I believe, partly an inherently archetypal recognition of someone that is sexually desirable in a primal way that almost transcends culture.
Why, as a child, I was able to perceive Julie Newmar's Catwoman as a captivating feminine sex symbol is beyond my understanding. But the point is, it was not preconditioned by something else. I was too young to have seen much anything else. In my story, "Cat and Canary," from The Romantic Adventures of Jack & Dora, Jack reveals something about himself that I drew straight from my life, concerning his memories of watching Julie Newmar on the Batman TV show. It bears quoting.
"I think I had my first sexual stirrings from seeing her, possibly this very episode, as a child of six or seven. I actually remember sitting on the dark olive green carpet in the living room, or more specifically, lying on my stomach, face held in my hands with my elbows propping me up. I also remember the episode in color, but that's not right because we only had a black and white TV back then. Maybe it's partly an imagined memory, but mostly I think it's real. I don't remember specific feelings or thoughts, I just know that I was mesmerized by her, that there were stirrings. Mind you, they were very, very distant stirrings. Probably I was thinking,"I wish she was my mommy!”
If Mrs. Peel gave me an appreciation for strong women, Julie Newmar's Catwoman gave me an appreciation for seductive, crazy ones. Or maybe that appreciation came from somewhere else (my mother's own, occasionally, unpredictable, wild nature?). Either Catwoman embodied it or exacerbated it, or both. Catwoman goes beyond even Jeannie (from I Dream of Jeannie) as a completely moral-free character who promises a life free of society-created guilt and obligation.
Julie Newmar had a fresh, effortless, unpretentious sexiness that is rare. No other woman that has played the role has even come close to her performance. The honesty of both her passion and her callousness are well illustrated in perhaps the most wonderful scene of the series between Batman and Catwoman. Batman seems to finally be succumbing to Catwoman's charms. She suggests they go away together, just the two of them. Batman asks, "What about Robin?" Catwoman replies, completely without malice, "We'll kill him. Painlessly, of course."
One cannot call Catwoman evil or hate her for her cruelty any more than one can hate a cat that has caught a mouse. She is not evil. She is completely and totally self-interested. Somehow, this adds to her sexual allure. Perhaps it is the fact that she is completely undivided. She suffers no guilt. She knows completely who and what she is. We, with our guilt, mixed feelings, neuroses, fears and unfulfilled longings, envy such a state. I myself have stared at a cat, envying their self-sufficiency and self-completion.
Thus, even Catwoman's callousness makes her more attractive because it is naturally part of who she is. And that brings us back to the idea of what is sexy. Someone is sexy when they are self-assured, undivided, without malice, pretense, motive or intention, a being complete within themselves, sexual for the sake of being sexual, not even aware that they are sexy. Catwoman invites us into this undivided world of self-gratification, unhindered by the present mores of society or the psychological baggage of our past experience.
Julie Newmar as Catwoman represents uninhibited, uncomplicated, honest, passionate sexuality. Who doesn't want that?
She is the Puritan's nightmare. She was, and always will be, one of my heroes and one of my greatest desires.
Robert Szeles (saylesh)
Robert Szeles (saylesh)