Monday, July 25, 2011

Why Walker, Texas Ranger is Exactly the Same as Batman

Some of you might know that I have something of an affinity for the Chuck Norris Phenomenon that kind of died a death in 2006. Unlike most, however, I still get regular, nigh-daily pleasure out of this Internet wonder and his supposed omnipotence, rumoured hyper-fertility and his back-catalogue of hilariously cheesy action movies.

However, the Bearded One's biggest claim to fame was Walker, Texas Ranger; a stupendously distilled version of the Chuck Norris Experience. The show had a suspiciously similar premise to Chuck Norris' coup de grace 'Lone Wolf McQuade' (a.k.a. 'The Funniest Film Ever Made') in that it starred Chuck Norris as a member of the elite law enforcement agency The Texas Rangers who was always adverse to fighting alongside a partner until his superiors forced one on him. The show combined typical detective-show elements with martial arts that just seemed to get more and more insane(ly awesome) as the years went on. And Chuck Norris himself sang the fucking theme tune.

For eight mighty years, families across the world were graced once a week with a 45-minute television experience of sublime, action-packed badness. Because it was the 1990s, there was almost a mandate that the show get more and more outlandish, with weirder episodes showing Walker going up against ghosts and having the ability to communicate with animals. The strangely watchable show is unmissable, brainless hangover television.

But the best thing about it is that it's pretty much exactly the same as Batman. 

Most of the main characters in the show have a direct correlation to the main characters in most Batman stories. In some cases, this is just a minor coincidence owing to the fact that most action/detective stories generally have the same group of stereotypes (the cypher, the sage, the love interest and the comic relief), but then there's completely WTF stuff that is either flat-out plagiarised or an hilarious coincidence).

Let's take a look at the cast of supporting characters and who they compare to,

James 'Jimmy' Trivette = Robin, The Boy Wonder

Trivette is Walker's partner and often joins Walker for the climactic fight scenes. Alas, he's not quite as tough as Walker and often leads to the bad guys getting away. This is quite similar to what happens with Robin in a lot of Batman stories. Trivette is also really good at doing some Computer Work! to help in a given case, as Robin is often known to do, especially in stories from the last thirty-odd years. Similar to Dick Grayson's past as a circus-acrobat, before Trivette was a crime-fighting Texan, he played football for the Dallas Cowboys. And when it comes to crime-fighting, Trivette is often shown to be something of a novice compared to the infinitely experienced Walker, who knows everything and can do everything, much like the difference between Robin and Batman. Trivette's greatest ability is his ability to answer phones and make phonecalls, which he is seen doing at least five times per episode. Sometimes, he doesn't even leave the office, because he's so busy making phonecalls, so in a way, you could also compare him to Oracle who can be excused for doing this, because she's in a wheelchair.

C.D. Jones = Alfred and Commissioner Gordon

Imagine if you somehow rolled Alfred Pennyworth and Commisioner Gordon and removed all of their wit, steely determination and seriousness and replaced all of this with Kentucky Fried Chicken. The resulting character would be C.D. Jones, the lovably ridiculous comic relief character who appeared in the first five years of Walker. C.D. Much like Jim Gordon, C.D. spent many years on the force (although Gordon was never a Texas Ranger) and despite his old age, he still has a lot of fight in him. Like Alfred, he always has a glib remark or a comment to make (although unlike Alfred, they're never witty; just retarded) and he's an adventurous cook whose culinary experiments are often too intense and foul-smelling for the other characters to appreciate. C.D. tragically died in one of the later seasons, as Alfred and Jim Gordon are sometimes known to do in various retconned stories. 

Alex Cahill = Rachel Dawes

Alex is tricky, because up until the Christopher Nolan movies, Batman never really had a Lois Lane; a character who was very much on the side of justice and also wanted to have tickle-fights with him. Nevertheless, Alex pretty much is the precursor to Rachel Dawes in that she is a "Single-White-Female-Lawyer District Attorney". She initially scolds Walker for his harsh methods, only to change her tune when his manliness melts her cold heart. Much like Rachel Dawes, Alex Cahill is played by a terrible actress. 

Sydney & Gage = Batgirl & Nightwing

In the later seasons, Chuck Norris was well into his sixties and his character was firmly established as being the toughest, most unstoppable sumbitch on television and he already had a serious girlfriend in Alex, so there really wasn't an awful lot they could do with him as a character anymore. But the show was successful enough that it had to go on, so it was decided to bring in two younger Texas Rangers, Sydney Cooke and Francis Gage who unsurprisingly engage in a tortuous back-and-forth exchange of "Will they, won't they?" for the entirety of their two years on the show. This is much the same as Batgirl/Oracle and Nightwing both on the animated series and in the comic book series of Batman. Similar to Walker, lazy writers often don't bother trying to write about Batman himself because "Everything has already happened to him!!" (or rather, Warner Bros. don't want one of their most cherished brands tampered with too much) so instead they just develop and explore his sidekicks, to the point of giving them new costumes, new superhero identities and even to the point of introducing entirely new sidekicks. Also, just like Batgirl and Nightwing, Sydney and Gage never were shown truly embracing a romantic relationship, which is why the good people of the Internet have used them for hundreds of raunchy Slash Fan-Fiction stories. 

Now that we've explored the supporting cast, let's look at the big man himself:

Cordell Walker = Batman

Throughout the series, Walker is a sullen, brooding character who is rarely shown taking a break from crime-fighting. For some reason, he never needs a warrant to search anywhere (admittedly I'm not up on how much paperwork the Texas Rangers have to do) and he is often seen throwing the first punch. Walker rarely resorts to lethal force (although that's not to say he never kills anyone, which unlike Batman, he does fairly often) and usually only uses his gun to stun or disarm his enemies, similar to the way Batman uses his batarang. 

Like Batman, Walker's 'look' is iconic and while he does wear different clothes all the time, they're usually a variation of the same shirt/jeans/cowboy hat combo just as Batman's different costumes all usually rely on the same symbols and features. Just like Batman, women find Walker incredibly sexy, even though he looks completely ridiculous. Similar to the Bat-symbol, Walker is never seen without his Texas Ranger badge except when he's off-duty. Speaking of off-duty, much like Batman has a secret identity, Walker regards his status as a Texas Ranger as need-to-know and in the rare occasions where he's off-duty and amongst people he doesn't already know, he keeps his occupation a secret. 

When most people think of Batman, they think of him using his fists to fight crime. Unsurprisingly, this is what an awful lot of people think of when they think of Chuck Norris and Walker, Texas Ranger. In every single episode of Walker, Texas Ranger, there is an insanely awesome fight sequence of epic proportions, often with completely ridiculous 'sonic boom' sound effects.

Unfortunately, in spite of how well-known Batman's abilities as a martial artist are, practically none of his other-media appearances have done this justice with most Batman movies showing Batman awkwardly shuffling around, unable to turn his head or (in the case of the Nolan movies) picking off his enemies stealthily so fast and finishing them off  faster than the camera can keep track. However, the sublime videogame Batman: Arkham Asylum is so similar to Walker, Texas Ranger that it's actually frustrating that you can't unlock Chuck Norris as a playable character.

Now, most of you are probably saying "Most of these similarities are just coincidental and in keeping with the tropes of any action story". Here's where the real shocker comes in. 

When Walker was just a young boy, he watched as his parents were ruthlessly killed in front of him. The crime went unsolved for years. This trauma was what inspired him to become a Texas Ranger. In the third season episode 'Final Justice', Walker comes face-to-face with his parents killer, and this happens:

Look familiar? That's because an almost identical scene takes place in Batman 1989, although in that film, Jack Napier plunges into a vat of chemicals instead of being rescued. Hmm...

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