Mediamatic Magazine vol 4 # 1+2 Jouke Kleerebezem 1 Jan 1989

Vleermuiszwarte Batjoker electrocuteert Sexrelated Vertigo

Oh, I got a live 1 here

Neither Batman nor his arch-enemy the Joker is the central presence of Prince’s Batdance clip: it is a human figure that consists of two different halves. One side of his face is white with greasepaint and daubed with the fixed grin of a lunatic criminal. This half of his body is swathed in a flamboyant purple and orange costume. The other side lurks for the most part under (half a) bat cape. This cross-breed is half Batman, half Joker.


Vleermuis zwarte Batjoker electrocuteert Sexrelated Vertigo -

Through its splitting into two halves the creature is reminiscent of another of Batman’s enemies: Two-Face. But Two-Face is a simple figure whose face is torn between the two extremes of his character. One side of his face is contorted by evil into a cruel grimace while the other half is governed by the unctuous look of all that is good in him. By contrast, the hybrid in Prince’s clip is composed out of two different characters. Yet he is not the result of fusion. Rather die opposite: Batman and the Joker are fragments of this hybrid creature. This creature is also the first thing that appears in the clip.

But before that we see Prince, lost in thought and surrounded by equipment. Longish hair hanging loose, black clothes, a guitar shoved round onto his back. No finery. The pop singer is concentrating (waiting for inspiration?). Silence. Suddenly the Batman sign appears high in the studio space. No, in fact it is an inversion of the Batman sign: the background of the bat logo is black and in that black frame you see a monitor screen with snow. This image of electronic disturbance lasts a fraction of a second and makes way for the hybrid creature that cheekily peeps into the studio. Immediately Prince connects up his equipment, as if that’s the only way of maintaining contact with the creature. The music enables it to enter the studio and on landing the two halves have apparently been immediately cloned because he is followed by five Batmen and equal number of Jokers.

The Electric Chair

The Batmen and Jokers begin to fight each other in a dance, egged on by the hybrid. One moment he sides with the Batmen, flapping his half cape enthusiastically, the next he dances along with the Jokers. Not because he is assailed by doubt but simply because he wishes to spur on the combative spirit. Don’t stop dancin’! It is the struggle between the dark vigilante and the brightly-coloured and dangerous psycho, between slow' braw'n and witty' nimbleness, between the American Dream and the American nightmare. And this hybrid creature is the explosive fulcrum of the struggle (his hair standing on end seems to be in a state of shock because of the constant collisions between the two body halves).

Of course the creature is played by Prince himself because time and time again he has been the one to try' to prove that something exists midway between white and black, sex and love, male and female, violence and tenderness, not through offering some weedy compromise but by pusJiing the extremes as close together as possible to create friction. By playing the hybrid himself he shows that he is both Batman and the Joker, that the creature is a reflection of his own inner conflicts. After all, wasn’t he the one that conjured up the creature in the first place? The fact that Prince is dabbling in a dangerous game seems to be indicated by the escalating fight between the Batmen and the Jokers. The struggle seems to centre on the electric chair, the symbol of American justice and injustice. The Jokers want to kill, the Batmen don’t, and the closer the hybrid comes to the chair the more he is to be weighed down with dilemma and tension.

Suddenly he releases his pent- up energy' and takes it out on the studio equipment. He swears and screams. Turn the music back oil!, and blow's a tape recorder to smithereens. He turns back to the electric chair, presses a button and makes the chair explode. The clip ends when the pop singer Prince intervenes and the song ends with a w arning shout of Stop!

Insoluble Dilemma

In this clip Prince does not simply depict his own inner conflicts but also those of the videoclip. For every clip is spawned out of the insoluble dilemma between studio recording and the suggestion that everything is live. Most pop groups stick to showing the physical work that the musician must perform but the clip must also appeal to the imagination. Hence y'ou see die band play'ing in a café which is also the setting for a fictional romance, or there is a story w ith group members play'ing the main roles that is interspliced with images of the studio recording.

In Batdance Prince shows that he is the source of all imagination (Anything U’ve ever dreamed of, I’m willing 2 be, he sings on the Batman LP). The dance of the Batmen and the Jokers takes place in his studio, and it is rather gawky. No spectacular film images, no exotic locations or special effects. Straightforw ard studio equipment, a couple of dancers, a bit of smoke and the dizzying twin presence of Prince. Oh, I got a live 1 here is the very first line of Batdance. With this sentence the hybrid Batman/Joker announces his visitation to Prince, as if he is the last living soul on Earth. And hence Prince simultaneously exposes the hybrid character of the videoclip - the staged recording of an explosion of energy and inspiration that once took place ‘live’.

translation Annie Wright