“No, I want to be Batgirl!”, Jason lunged at me, knocking my hulking 3 foot 10, 45 pound figure to the floor. The runt, nearly an inch shorter, was making a case with his scrappy pugilistic ability, thrashing me about the goldenrod carpet. My mother managed to intercede before he managed to tumble me into the rug burn inducing bare patch our orange tabby, Punkin, had been systematically enlarging.
We had been watching The Electric Company on the old black and white set with rabbit ears and the severely underfunded live action Spiderman segment came on. It’s a sad thing, by the way, when the tens of dollars spent on production are so misused as to have even a four year old questioning whether that is the real Spiderman or not. The cartoon version came across more plausible. Straining to hear over the CRTs hum that exceeded that of the fridge, we remained captivated through the 45 second “story”, watching a doofus in something akin to a boxed Halloween costume net a bad guy through the thick snow on the screen. I think it was essential to be five and under to have enjoyed TV back in the mid 70’s.
When the commercial break came on and I ascertained it was not my favorite, the one that ended with, “Ancient Chinese secret, eh?” we were compelled to continue the theme of superhero adventures. Instead of a commercial it was PBS’s own Mike and Goldie imploring us to donate to the cause, so we had some time to play. At that age the last sensory input of even marginal interest becomes the prime directive in determining the theme of follow on fantasy reenactments. Spiderman was no good being of solitary nature and would require one of us to play the dipshit bad guy who managed to get defeated by that clown. The Batman Family offered more possibilities.
It doesn’t take much imagination to understand that no one in their right mind wants to be Robin. The only two logical choices of course were Batman and Batgirl; poor Alfred not even a blip on the radar due to his decrepit age and penchant for tea drinking. Ordinarily this would prove to be a point of conflict for two little boys, and it did, just not in the way anyone would have expected. To me it was a foregone conclusion that I would of course be Batgirl. I mean, why wouldn’t I be? Jason apparently had the same rational. He often was mistaken as a girl to begin with, so I would think he would have jumped at the opportunity to take the more masculine character.
My mother separated us and explained patiently that we were boys and so we didn’t want to be Batgirl. Either Jason understood the rational or was cowed enough by foreign parenting that he capitulated immediately. I was not so convinced. This boy/ girl stuff was not very clear to me to begin with, and I was dead sure I did in fact want to be Batgirl. My stance was met with the typical gender imprinting looks and words of disapproval, so I reluctantly dropped my case.
By the time this little eye opening revelation was over, so was the interlude. Apparently Goldie’s impassioned pleas balanced by Mike’s good natured charm convinced enough disrupted parents to pay up and get the kids back to their stories. Jennifer of the Jungle was now on and I happened to find her nutty escapades with the big gorilla pretty captivating. It didn’t hurt that she made the unlikely combination of pith helmet, Tarzan dress and pantyhose really come together and work, even while waving around that giant net.
I wish I could report that the next time the PBS mafia came on another fight broke out about who got to be Jennifer and who got stuck being the gorilla, but even then I was a quick study. I “got” it.