Saturday, June 13, 2015

They called him Bruce.

This whole Bruce Jenner thing you may have heard about has gotten me rather sad.

When I was a kid and thought Bruce Wayne (Batman---shh, don't tell) was the coolest guy in the world, it bothered me that simultaneously the name Bruce had become a shorthand joke for an extremely effeminate type of homosexual. Batman is not like that! I wanted to say.

Some theorized that this joke on the name actually came from Batman, as a grown man living with an unrelated teenage boy, but I never bought that explanation. An exploitative adult male would, certainly in those days, not "ponce about" and draw attention to himself that way. He would just wear costumes at night and beat up clowns. Wait, this is getting confusing. (So is the rumor that Bruce Wayne is dead, but I think we can discount that. Famous characters dying in comic books has become the new impoverished country photo op; all the best people have to do it once in a while.)

I remember reading that Bob Kane, when he created Batman, chose the name Bruce Wayne from two very manly men of history: Robert the Bruce, the King of Scots, and Revolutionary War hero Anthony "Mad Anthony" Wayne. Very butch: Robert (whose last name was Bruce, not "the Bruce") beat up the British for Scotch independence. And you don't get a nickname like "Mad Anthony," or a recreation area named for you off the Palisades Parkway, by being a scaredy-cat. Kane meant for Bruce Wayne to be a very tough, virile guy.

And what about some of the other Bruces? Bruce Lee was a legend when I was a kid, even though he died when I was quite young; the playground stories were ferocious, about how he could pull out a man's heart with his bare hand and the guy wouldn't know about it until three hours later, when he was getting into his car and fell over---whoa! no way!

You don't mess with Bruce Lee. Even though he was dead, he could beat you up.

You didn't mess with Bruce Banner, either. Although he was not a manly man, until he got all Hulked up. Interestingly, when they made the Bill Bixby Incredible Hulk TV show back in 1978, they changed the character's name to David Banner because of all the flagrancy associated with the name Bruce at the time. At least that's what Stan Lee said.

Bruce Springsteen looked like an all-American manly man in the early '80s, but has turned out to be a typical tax-dodging showbiz jerk, with that great brand of socialism that divas love: income equality for thee... but not for me.

Then there was Bruce Jenner, a magnificent Olympic athlete. Although he always was too much of a California kind of guy to be a macho man. He wasn't the sort of athlete who went on to play Tarzan; he was the sort of athlete who went on to Hollywood Squares. So while he didn't hurt the Bruce cause, he didn't help it much. Now, of course, he's wounded it, perhaps fatally.

Maybe it was hopeless anyway. Some of the most famous names from comic books have become pretty rare in the real world, possibly because of the connection to the characters. Bruce, Clark, Reed, and Lois are extremely uncommon names now. Peter Parker's first name survives because he has a Biblical connection.

But there has been no St. Bruce. I checked.

(Some seem to be rushing to declare a St. Caitlyn, however.)

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