originally published May 17, 2012

Here’s a little soupcon of insight into how an article is born. Today I happened upon the topic of Batman. For the briefest of schoolboy in-breaths I thought I’d struck gold with my second Dark Knight-themed article. Then I looked closer.

Batman is a city.

A city in Turkey, to be precise. Okay, I thought. I’m sure the locals have embraced the name and opened a bunch of Batman-themed stores and restaurants, right? Actually, no.

Batman is an oil-boom town, having sprung to vibrancy post-1950 upon the discovery of that same bubblin’ crude that turned my own hometown from a fur-trading frigid cold northern gateway into an oil-rich frigid cold northern gateway. Batman’s Wikipedia article is long and detailed, and contains no mention of Gotham’s Caped Crusader.

Well, almost no mention. There is one tiny anecdote that jostled its way through the door and crouched within the ‘In Media’ section. It seems in 2008, Batman mayor Hüseyin Kalkan announced that he wanted to sue Warner Brothers and director Christopher Nolan for using the name ‘Batman’ without prior permission from the city.

I didn’t make that up. To one reporter, Kalkan claimed he was flattered that Warner Brothers was doing their part to make the Batman name famous, but he felt that he couldn’t in good conscience allow them to do so without having asked permission. Another article presents his assessment of damages: the Batman films are allegedly responsible for a number of unsolved murders and a high female suicide rate in the city of Batman. Holy misplaced Batarang! Bruce Wayne is killing innocent civilians!

I’m wondering if there are parts of turkey in which political office is determined by who can spout off the most crazy in a single press conference.

Again, a little history: a village called Iluh happened to be near the Batman River. Oil was discovered nearby, and in 1957 the bursting city adopted the name ‘Batman’. As a fictional character, Batman debuted in 1939. The real question here might be why Kalkan didn’t go after DC Comics, or even after Tim Burton for having turned the character into a box office success almost 20 years before Kalkan announced his intent to sue. Or maybe the question is why did anybody take this guy seriously, ever?

One local businessman who supports the lawsuit is still happy that his city is gaining notoriety because of it. “Don’t people go to Morocco because of the movie Casablanca?” Well yes, probably, but that film took place in Casablanca. Nobody’s flying to Turkey, thinking they’ll be landing at Gotham International and catching the late-afternoon tourist bus that cruises past Wayne Manor. (Alfred will chase you with a broom)

The lawsuit was never filed, and apart from a smattering of can-you-believe-this-shit articles that dotted the internet landscape in late 2008, nothing was ever spoken about this madness again. Kalkan is no longer mayor, and he hasn’t been very vocal since his 10-month sentence for having promoted terrorism. It seems he praised Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan. Specifically, Kalkan mentioned to an LA Times reporter that Ocalan’s organization was not a terrorist group, and that its members should be allowed to enter into politics.

This is a region that is so overcome with ethnic fighting and violent hostilities that a mayor is thrown in prison for suggesting an opinion that a certain group of people are not terrorists. And the reason for all the murder and suicide in his town is because of a couple of American movies? Right.

If Batman suing Batman was a frivolous and thankfully unprocessed gesture, then the Lesbians suing the lesbians is an outright kafuffle.

Meet Dimitris Lambrou. Dimitris is a magazine editor on the Greek island of Lesbos, one-time home of Aristotle and current hotbed of Ouzo production. Dimitris has nothing against the gay community, but in early 2008 he filed an injunction that would ban the Homosexual and Lesbian Community of Greece from using the word ‘Lesbian’ to describe a female homosexual.

In Dimitris’ mind, a ‘Lesbian’ is a resident of Lesbos. People made signs and flags in support of this cause. For whatever reason, 2008 was the breaking point for the Lesbians.

The Greek court system threw out the injunction, stating that the word ‘lesbian’ in its non-nationalistic context poses no threat to the individual, collective or human rights of the inhabitants of the island. “Get over it, and bring us something important next time,” appears to be the message from the bench.

The etymology of the word ‘lesbian’ does in fact come from the island. The term comes from the female poet Sappho, who was born in Lesbos. She wrote love poems about men and women way back in 600 BC, and as the first great voice in woman-woman love (or, to put it in guy terms, girl-on-girl action), her birthplace was honored with the accepted term.

But according to Dimitris, this infringes on his national identity. He claims Lesbians are disgraced around the world because of the word. He claims it causes ‘daily problems’ to residents’ social lives. I’m not convinced this is true, but I can see how it can make things confusing on an online dating site’s profile. (online dating)

Dimitris even offers as evidence some new research that suggests that Sappho killed herself because of her love for a man, so she wasn’t a lesbian and let’s drop the term already.

Frivolous lawsuits are not strictly an American phenomenon it seems. I’m glad the courts in Greece refused to be taken in by this weirdness, and chose to send Dimitris on his way (after insisting he pay the 366 Euros in court costs). He had the option to appeal the verdict of course, but I can’t find any indication that he did so. It seems as though the Lesbian vs. lesbian scandal circled the drain of history in 2008.

This makes me wonder what’s next for ridiculous place-based courtroom madness. Will Intercourse, Pennsylvania file an injunction to stop people from using the word to describe coitus? Maybe Fannie Bay in northern Australia will seek to have people stop referring to one’s rear end as a ‘fannie’. (this would be a little late though – I don’t think anyone uses that term anymore)

You know, now that I think of it, it’s possible that Dimitris’ case was simply thrown out because his ‘new research’ regarding Sappho’s suicide was deemed bogus. Maybe she didn’t commit suicide because of a man. Maybe, like so many modern Turks, she committed suicide because of Batman.

Dimitris should contact his lawyer immediately – he might have a new case here.

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