Geek Inspirations: Barbara Gordon
Written by Corrina Lawson.
It’s impossible to overestimate the impact of Barbara Gordon on my life.
I was either five or six–old enough to be in school but too young to read. I know this because I used to watch reruns of the 1960s Batman TV show and when the credit for Burt Ward came up, I could only read the “B” and the “W.” Naturally, I translated it as Boy Wonder. (Sorry, Burt.)
I loved the show, and memorized most of the taglines. especially, “Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.” But it was full of boys: Batman, Robin, Alfred, Commissioner Gordon, Chief O’Hara, the majority of the villains, the majority of the henchmen. Oh, Catwoman showed up every now and then and some of the villains had girlfriends, but slowly the idea sunk in that this awesome incredible world was not for me.
Until… Barbara Gordon.
I watched the episode that introduced Batgirl with my jaw hanging open. At first, I was just happy to see a smart girl in the show, one who wasn’t a villain, and one who had a real job besides wife or girlfriend. (What did Aunt Harriet do anyway?)
And then her wall pivoted to reveal her Batgirl costume and my worldview was upended. Barbara was a superhero. She had a secret lair, like the Batcave. She had an awesome motorcycle.
She even had her own theme song.
She could fight as well as the men, though apparently she was forbidden from actually punching anyone and thus had to resort to kicks and thrown chairs. I never noticed this. I did notice that she was smart, funny, sly, and courageous. Alfred respected her, and their scenes together were some of my favorites, as he not only protected her identity from Batman but seemed to view her as the Caped Crusader’s equal.
What a revelation. It was nothing I could put into words at the time, just a deep-seated conviction that this was proof that girls could do whatever boys could. If Batgirl could be as good as Batman, then I could do whatever I wanted to do and be whoever I wanted to be.
Was the path of my life all due to Barbara Gordon and those who made her come alive? Maybe. Perhaps I would have found another role model along the way. I was already eager to do a lot of things, whether they were what I was expected to do as a girl or not.
But Barbara Gordon was the first to show me the way.