RIP Yvonne Craig, Batgirl

Batgirl Photobooth by David Zellaby on Flickr

Batgirl Photobooth by David Zellaby on Flickr

Well, god DAMN.

We lost an icon, people.

I meet women today who tell me that they grew up viewing Batgirl as an important role model. If they choose to know me in that context, well, I’ll take it.
Yvonne Craig

Yvonne Craig, the petite ex-ballerina who will always be remembered for playing librarian Barbara Gordon and her BAMF alter ego Batgirl in the 60’s tv series Batman, has died at the age of 78 after a two year battle with breast cancer.

In addition to television immortality, she also had a semi-successful movie career, appearing in two Elvis films, the camp classic Mars Needs Women, and In Like Flint, among others. IMDB gossips that she got parts in the Elvis movies by dating Elvis, but anyone who thinks that’s the easy way to get ahead in Hollywood needs to read up on what it was actually like to, you know, date Elvis.

She moved to television work in the early 60’s, and completely stole the show as the green space lass Marta on Star Trek’s iconic episode “Whom the Gods Destroy.” It’s not easy to upstage William Shatner by quoting Shakespeare while wearing green body paint, but she did it.

Her role on Batman made her a star; in fact, it made her the 7th sexiest woman in television history, according to Wizard magazine. In what could have been a very also-ran role, she kicked ass and took names, although her signature move was the very elegant, balletic kick to the face of whatever baddie she happened to have the pleasure of destroying that episode. BAM! POW!

Her signature plot move was to come in late and save the hapless Batman and Robin, who nonetheless went on to get all the credit. Script writers used her to make serious points about equal pay for equal work, and equal credit as well,  but were also realists enough to ensure that Batgirl never truly achieved equal status with the boys. The world just wouldn’t let her.

Heck, she couldn’t even tell her dad.

As the Guardian reported,

Australian author Tara Moss was one of many to describe her as a “pioneer of female superheroes”, for her dual role as studious librarian Barbara Gordon turned fearless Batgirl, who was often called upon to rescue Batman and Robin, at the last minute and without breaking a sweat.

Behind the scenes, Craig was just as fearless, convincing producers to allow her to perform all her own stunts, unlike her co-stars Adam West (Batman) and Burt Ward (Robin).

The actor said: “I meet young women who say Batgirl was their role model. They say it’s because it was the first time they ever felt girls could do the same things guys could do, and sometimes better. I think that’s lovely.”

Batgirl was “take-charge and quick to assess a situation and take action on it. And she wasn’t violent – she was wily and quick-witted.’”

The character was perfectly cast. When DC comics turned Batgirl from badass hero to victim by having her shot and paralyzed in the 1988 comic book The Killing Joke, Craig let her displeasure be known all the way to the Hall of Justice.

And she had her favourites among the rest of the cast. “My absolute favorite villain would have to be Egghead, because I loved Vincent Price! I found him to be a fascinating man—bright, witty, urbane, nice-looking and just wonderful! I also ran him over with my Batcycle, and he wasn’t even mad about it,” she told Pat Jankiewicz of YvonneCraig.com.

But how could he be? She was awesome (even if her theme song sucked).

In her final years she’d done what many prosperous, social LA women do and gone into real estate. She was married twice, and leaves behind a husband Kenneth Aldrich.

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Categories: Activism, Bigotry, Crime, Feminism, Media, News, Obituary, Police, Sexism, Television

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