I always wanted that to happen – for Jaime Sommers and Lee Majors to marry. And just to be sure it never happened (in the television series, anyway), I checked. No marriage until a 1994 movie that was a flop.
When I first encountered Lee Majors (at the tender age of five), I thought he was a bad guy. Why? Well, the opening of the show had him in a red jumpsuit, running, and his facial expression was a mix of what appeared to be constipation and a determination I mistook for anger. However, after a few episodes I gathered my first impression was incorrect, as Lee Majors fought the bad guys. The spinoff, The Bionic Woman, was even better. Jaime Sommers/Lindsay Wagner became a positive female role model. She was independent, smart, and had overcome a major accident. I know the negative connotations around Barbie dolls, but I have to say my dolls were crucial to my introverted self, and my favorite (and oh how I wished I’d kept it) was the Bionic Woman doll that my parents so kindly gave me one year for Christmas.
The Bionic Woman doll came not only with her own outfit (complete with purse and shoes), but as a gorgeous replication of the gorgeous real-life Lindsay (I’ve always been drawn to women who are both masculine and feminine in appearance – think Lauren Bacall). I also owned the bionic recharging unit, which was unfortunately marketed as a Beauty Salon. While brushing Jaime’s hair was okay, charging her bionics was the real deal. I’d recline Jaime in her salon chair, then roll up her “flesh” (which was made out of rubber band material) to expose her bionics and recharge her. Her head even clicked when you moved it back and forth to mimic her bionic ear. While I liked Bewitched quite a bit (how I tried to wrinkle my nose!), Jaime was much more the modern woman that I wanted to be like, even if she never married.
But wait. Maybe this is why the show worked so well for as long as it did – the narrative didn’t give into all the social norms. Jaime was single; Jaime was bionic; Jaime was smart. Jaime allowed her body to be part of a science experiment! In fact, if you watch shows like 60 minutes, you’ll see that we are so, so close to merging technology and human body in real life. I was amazed to learn of Cathy Hutchinson who has had a sensor placed in her brain that allows her to move a robotic arm that is separate from her body. She was scared, but saw the opportunity as too big to pass up, as it would not only help her, but so many who will follow her.
Were Jaime’s bionics not similar in nature? Her parachute injury led to her to be a guinea pig for bionics – just as Hutchinson’s stroke left her willing to allow a sensor to be attached to her brain in order to regain quality of life and the ability to do basic things. While we still have progress to be made, it may one day be possible for those who’ve suffered injuries that have left them paralyzed to once again move. Beyond amazing.
I like to think that art, in this instance a television series, allows us to dream and create before knowing the specifics of how. While at the age of five my fantasy may have been to marry off the bionic man and woman, it has since evolved into one that involves merging the human body and technology to something fantastical. In the meantime, I’ve asked for a Bionic Woman for my next birthday….