Holy flashbacks, Batman! I was raised on Adam West and Burt Ward’s Batman TV series. Every time we visited my grandparents’, my grandpa produced a new video tape of episodes he’d been taping since our last visit.
The 1960s show — in all its unapologetically campy and cheesy brilliance — is one of the earliest shows I remember watching regularly.
I grew up Batman reruns, and Yvonne Craig’s Batgirl was my favorite character. I love superheroes, and Batgirl was the first female superhero I saw on screen. The episodes of Batman she guest starred in were always my favorite.
It’s been years since I last saw an episode of the show, and I’m curious: does my perception of Batgirl still hold up? Just because she seemed perfect when I was in elementary school doesn’t mean she was actually a strong role model. What stereotypes, over-sexualization, or less-than-empowering moments may have gone completely over my head?
Here’s a look at my favorite episode, her character’s debut in 1967’s “Enter Batgirl, Exit Penguin” rewatched now in 2018.
• Batman asking Robin to be his wingman on his date with Barbara Gordon (to the opera! with her dad!) is perfect. As is Robin’s total cluelessness to what’s happening.
• Barbara!! I thought it was so cool she worked in a library. It clearly meant she was both pretty and smart. Her hair looks so classy swept up like that. And 11/10 would wear that bright orange coat. So stylish.
• Ah, I’d forgotten this was supposed to take place soon after she graduated from college. Wait, so how old is Bruce Wayne supposed to be? Late 20s? She can’t be more than 23.
• Oh, she’s being kidnapped by the Penguin now. Ugh, but where can I get a yellow sundress like the one she’s wearing? I know: danger. Frightening. Her hair is suddenly very messy and out of place. But c’mon, guys — it’s Barbara Gordon — she can take care of herself.
• Cue Batman intro music, aka the soundtrack of my childhood. Cartoon Batman and Robin running in place. SOCK! POW! BONG!
WAP! BIFF! OOOOF! Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na…BATMAN
This song is so cheesy and so iconic.
• Get this: Commissioner Gordon and Chief O’Hara know Barbara is missing because there’s a newspaper on her doorstep and “the afternoon paper was delivered hours ago.”
I miss newspapers.
• Penguin’s henchmen wearing black shirts that say “henchman” fits this show to a t.
• Why isn’t Dick Grayson wearing a bow tie? Every other man in the room is going to the opera in a bow tie. Even the Penguin is wearing a bow tie! 10/10 would wear that purple bow tie. (Possibly with Barbara’s orange jacket. If this turns into a Batman-inspired fashion blog don’t @ me.)
• Ew, I totally forgot Penguin’s whole plot was to kidnap Barbara in order to marry her. She’s only like 23! And he’s at least as old as her father. Did 23 seem like as young of an age to get married in the 60s?
• If Penguin already bought a wedding gown for her, how does he know it will fit? And how did her hair get back to being so perfectly in place? Then again, realism was never this show’s strong suit.
• I love that Batman had GPS way before anyone else had GPS. It says BATRADARSCOPE in huge letters just in case they ever forget which one of their fancy and slightly nonsensical machines does what.
• See? Barbara has already dressed a mannequin in the wedding dress, posed her faced away in the corner of the room, and snuck out all the window. I told you she’s got this. Who even needs Batman?
• Oh, very convenient that her apartment is literally next door. I don’t feel like the Penguin is doing a very good job with this whole kidnapping thing.
• Question: Who outfitted her apartment with the revolving wall to store her Batgirl suit? Was that written into her lease? Is she going to be able to get her damage deposit back?
• Also, at the risk of being a bit repetitive, I elementary school me thought she was SO FREAKING COOL.
• Eh, go away Batman. You aren’t even needed here.
• Ah, her batsuit. I’m pretty sure this is the entire reason that purple was my favorite color. And her strawberry blonde wig! I definitely tried to dye my hair that color multiple times in my early 20s. It never looked right longer than a week.
From the perspective of objectification, her batsuit is very tight, but I don’t think it over-sexualizes her to the extent that it could. So that’s good?
ZAP! WHACK! WHAP! BIFF!! POW!
• I also appreciate that she’s doing everything the men are doing but in ridiculously impractical heels.
I like how Batman and Robin are teaming up on things but Batgirl can handle her end all on her own.
• Oh, and now she’s downplaying her role in the win by smiling and insisting Batman and Robin could have totally handled it all on their own. Succeeding as a skilled woman in a male-dominated field of work 101.
• Batman: It’s been wonderful talking with you, miss, but now it’s time for the Boy Wonder and I to go rescue a fair damsel in distress.
Batgirl: Sorry, I’ll let you get back to doing your very important job.
Batman goes over to pick the lock and rescue Barbara. To Robin: “Of course, we could always borrow a hair pin from Ba- gasp! She’s gone!”
Batman still absorbed in the business of lock-picking/damsel-freeing. Penguin regains consciousnesses, gasses Batman and Robin, stuffs them, Alfred, and the wedding dress mannequin/“Barbara” into giant purple body bags, and makes off with them and all his henchmen.
Really?! I left you alone for like 30 seconds! —Batgirl, probably
• I’m sorry, did that henchman just stuff the bride mannequin in a bag and not even notice there was not a living human person inside of it like she was supposed to be?
• Ah! The Batgirl cycle! In a secret freight elevator — also in her apartment! Um, where in NYC is her building and do they have any units available?
• Meh, if I didn’t have any loans to pay off after college, I probably would have bought myself a sparkly purple motorcycle, too, tbh.
• Barbara literally saved the day — freed Batman, Robin, and Alfred — and now she has to go change into that wedding dress and pretend she was a damsel who needed Batman’s saving all along.
Barbara: “What happened, Batman? Is that horrible man gone?”
And … that’s it. Since I just started grad school, my posts will be fewer and farther between. But I might just re-watch another episode soon.
Tune in next time: same BAT-time, same BAT-channel.