Wonder Woman vs. Feminism
Full disclosure, I have an extreme bias for Wonder Woman. She, in the body of Lynda Carter, set me on the path towards being an actress. Wonder Woman made me think, “Yes I can” long before Obama uttered the phrase. Yes, I am extremely biased as far as Wonder Woman is concerned. How-some-ever....
Girls Don't Like Comics
For a long while, DC and Marvel Comics were producing (mostly) amazing movies where superheroes kicked all manners of ass. And in all that ass kicking, we’d get the female secondary characters of Storm or Jean or Rogue from Marvel, and the bad girl characters of Poison Ivy or Catwoman from DC ( bonus points for Storm being a superhero of color). And Hollywood would have great debates surrounding female superheroes not having enough pull at the box office to justify funding a female feature film because “boys don’t care, and there aren’t enough girls who do care”.
And while there were many issues of gender equality and yes, at times, misogyny, in the lands of DC and Marvel comics, the superhero genre is not of this world. The genre insists upon a suspension of disbelief in order to buy into the idea of flying men and women, or genetically modified plant people, or irradiated scientists who turn into great green hulking monsters. You kind of have to go with it. So to equate the very real issues of gender misrepresentation, inequality, oppression in our society today with characters who were inspired by Greek Mythology and pin up models...well that is a little like comparing apples to asparagus. And that is what many women who claim to be card carrying feminists are doing. There has been a steady stream of articles vilifying Wonder Woman for not being a “feminist” film. I say to them, “Yes Uh-huh!”
The Real Wonder Woman Origin Story
William Moulton Marston is the creator of the character of Wonder Woman. Marston was an inventor, psychologist, essayist, and husband who was born in the late 1800’s and died before 1950. Marston created the systolic pressure test which became the predecessor to the polygraph machine. It was the close relationships with his wife Elizabeth and research assistant Olive, combined with his questioning scientific mind that inspired him to investigate the correlation to an emotional response and blood pressure. It was also Elizabeth who inspired him to create Diana Prince and Olive influenced his vision of her.
Marston lived during a time in American history where women not only didn’t have the right to vote, but their greatest aspirations were to become a wife. All comic books, prior to Marston, were of male superheroes full of male dominated mindsets and aggression. Marston wanted to investigate what a superhero looked like when they fought with love vs. fist and firepower. Elizabeth let him know, he was talking about a woman.
In a 1943 issue of The American Scholar, Marston wrote: "Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength, and power...Women's strong qualities have become despised.... The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman." This is forward thinking for 1943.
Feminism Does Not Live in a Box
Wonder Woman was created with a feministic point of view from the very beginning. 1940’s feminism, for sure, but breaking the stereotypes of the times is the point. Is it not?
As times changed, so did Wonder Woman...within the superhero realm. And the supposition that the reality of our world should be imposed on to the DC Comics world is the height of ignorance and maybe arrogance. I read a post on Facebook where a woman stated, “...They set her up to be the brunt of the joke, her fighting skills are diminished by the men in the film who basically can only focus on how hot she is and we she finally defeated her enemy it's only because she has found strength once again through remembering her love for a man. Vomit...”
I read this and thought, she must not be a fan, she must not get the genre because she does not get it. If you look at any of the male superhero movies, there are all kinds of tropes that can make you gag. How many bad boy rich man characters are there that experience great tragedy and becomes a dark vigilante. How many nerdy, underappreciated scientists are there out there, show through some twist of scientific fate, become super awesome and save the world. How many times does the world need to be saved? These gag worthy moments are everywhere in the comic world. The idea that love is a powerful motivator, is not a new one. And while there may have been some clunky moments that really could have been edited out, (the entire boat scene being one) Diana did come from a sheltered life with a very focused training and if there had been no gaffes at all, I would have called foul. And really, the assumption that her “fighting skills were diminished somehow because a few men found her hot”….I don’t think the sniper in the tower is any less dead because Sameer drooled a little.
What’s The Big Deal?
The big deal about this Wonder Woman movie is that at last, the comic superhero movie lets one of its MANY comic super women, shine. My god man, she lifts a tank! And not to save a trapped baby, but because she is Pissed!
She holds onto her truth and follows her training despite everyone telling her she couldn’t or was naively mistaken. Through her actions, she inspired men to be more than they thought they could be. The character of Wonder Woman says you can be beautiful, sexy and strong and it is not about pleasing a man. Let’s face it, Steve Trevor loved Diana far more than she loved him. He wasn’t the priority. Killing Ares was. Being sexually attractive is not a sin, nor does it diminish a woman’s seriousness or gravitas. And to assume otherwise is as limiting as the misogyny we experience.