Yvonne Craig as Batgirl: A Gay Boy’s First Favorite Superhero

August 21, 2015 | By Brent Almond | MAKING MEMORIES, POP CULTURE

Actress Yvonne Craig passed away Wednesday at the age of 78. She was most well-known for portraying Batgirl on the über-campy Batman TV show… and she was my first* favorite superhero.

Batgirl Yvonne Craig

Like many superhero-loving adults of a certain age, Batman was my favorite show growing up (just to be clear, it was already in reruns). I didn’t get most of the jokes or recognize the rogues gallery of guest stars, but it was awesome because it was “real people” (not cartoons), and oh so bright and colorful.

Sure, I thought Batman was cool — especially compared to his whiny sidekick. And I imagined how fun it would be to live in Wayne Manor, especially the secret panel hiding the Bat-Poles that Bruce and Dick slid down, magically donning their costumes and hopping in their sweet, turbo-charged ride. Of course I loved the song. Arguably the best-known TV theme of all time… and in hindsight, possibly the most annoying.

But my favorite part of the show, the song, the whole shebang, was when Batgirl zoomed in at the end of the opening credits on her purple-hued hog. It meant this was going to be an extra special (and sparkly) episode.

Why Batgirl?

And isn’t that kind of on the nose for a gay dude? Maybe. Lots of superheroes are gay icons, and few are as across the board iconic to all branches of the LGBT family tree. Gay boys want to be her BFF; lesbians want to date her (and ride her motorcycle); and in recent Batgirl comics, her alter-ego Barbara Gordon has had both bisexual and transgender roommates. However, I wasn’t aware of her Gay Icon status (at least not consciously) for quite a while after coming out. And certainly not when I was 5 and 6. All I know is that I liked Batgirl because she was different.

First off, she was a girl. It would be a few more years before Lynda Carter dazzled me with her thundering twirls, so seeing a crime-fighting female was a thrilling oddity. The budding artist in me was drawn to Babs’ second distinction — her color palette. She wore a sparkly (okay, it may have been the sparkles, too) purple costume, while all the other heroes I knew wore red, blue or gold. Being a redhead also set her apart from the barrage of black, brown and blonde-haired heroes.

Thirdly — and perhaps most importantly — Ms. Craig’s Batgirl had some depth to her personality. She was smart (a librarian by day), independent (lived on her own, not mooching off a billionaire), and a team player (always there to back the boys up). And while Batman, Robin, Superman and the rest hid their identities from the world, Batgirl also had to keep her secret from her own father. As the daughter of Gotham’s Commissioner Gordon, their paths crossed often when she was in full-on Bat-mode, yet she maintained her two identities, in order to protect them both.

My first memories of being attracted to other boys was to occur just a couple of years later. Maybe seeing Batgirl maintain her strength and smarts — all while being different — gave me some inner strength of my own, allowing me to be proud of my differences. Maybe seeing her hide part of herself from her family showed me how to survive the next couple of decades as I juggled my own dual identities. All I know for sure is that whenever she swung onto the screen, she never failed to light up my afternoon. So to Batgirl, Barbara, Yvonne — I say thank you.

This being a parenting blog and all, how do I tie my love of Batgirl to raising a son?

Easy. Below is Thursday’s lunch note, reminding my very boyish 5-year-old that girl superheroes are not, in fact, boring; loving and appreciating them is nothing to be ashamed of; and they will always have plenty to contribute to the team.

Batgirl Yvonne Craig, my First Favorite Superhero

Bat-Epilogue:

Not long after coming out, I traveled to New York City for work with my (also gay) boss. I had been to New York before, but was still closeted — and also with my family. So, Tourist. But this time I was getting the NYC Gay Experience — a right of passage for every newbie homosexual. We watched the Pride parade on 5th Avenue; had a drink at Stonewall… and a few more at Monster; and spent an afternoon window shopping in Chelsea and Greenwich Village. Other than some salt-and-pepper shakers bought atop the World Trade Center, my only other souvenir from that historic trip was a t-shirt** of Yvonne Craig as Batgirl.

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*If you’ve read this blog for any length of time — or have known me in person for very long — you may be wondering about Aquaman. Yes, he’s still my all-time favorite superhero. However, I had a good 2-3 years of Batman reruns before Super Friends debuted, which then got me hooked on the Sea King.

**Want your own Batgirl tee? I found one similar to mine on Etsy. Tell ’em Designer Daddy sent you. 🙂

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2 responses to “Yvonne Craig as Batgirl: A Gay Boy’s First Favorite Superhero”

  1. Shaun says:

    Oh Brent, what trip down memory lane! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thoroughly entertaining post. Totally remember this show and how cool she was. Love that you found that old picture. Also love how you tied this into parenting. Nicely done!

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