You’ve probably heard the sad news that Yvonne Craig — the actress who played Batgirl in the third and final season of the 1960s Batman TV series — recently passed away after a two-year battle with breast cancer; she was 78.
She appeared as Batgirl in 1967, a full eight years before actress Lynda Carter stepped forward as Wonder Woman. Not only was Craig one of the first-ever female-superheroes, she was also a dancer who did her own stunts — holy daredevil, Batgirl!
You may also not know that five years after the series ended, Craig reappeared as Batgirl in a public service announcement (PSA) to let women know about the Equal Pay Act of 1963, a federal law that sought to eliminate the gender wage-gap.
In the ad, Batgirl bounds into an abandoned building just in time to save Batman and Robin from a ticking time-bomb. But what’s great is that she pretty much refuses to disarm the bomb unless Batman starts paying her as much as he pays Robin.
There were two versions of the ad: in the 30-second one, she disarms the bomb while telling viewers to report wage-unfairness to the U.S. Department of Labor, but in the one-minute ad, the bomb’s alarm starts ringing — it’s ABOUT TO EXPLODE AND KILL EVERYONE! But she’s like, “Nope, not until you promise equal pay.” The audience is left wondering whether she’s willing to die and take down Batman in the name of fighting sexism — now that’s conviction!
Naturally, Batgirl and the 1963 bill didn’t get rid of gender-inequality in pay. Even though the original 1963 bill has veen reinforced several times — even as recently as the 2009 Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act — women still make on average 78 cents to every man’s dollar, and for lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and women of color it’s even lower. But by 1979, the Equal Pay Act helped raised women’s wages to than 62 cents to every man’s dollar; still abysmal, but better than it being completely legal to pay women peanuts.
We certainly have a long way to go. But Craig still gave viewers of all sorts a hero they could believe in: an iconic one that wouldn’t stand for unfairness, even when it came from Batman himself.
Previously published on August 20, 2015.