A few weeks ago, Megan Fox said in an interview that she wasn’t interested in playing Wonder Woman because she thought Wonder Woman was “lame”. This prompted DC editors and creators at Heroes World Convention later to attempt damage control by proclaiming that this wasn’t true, Wonder Woman IS NOT LAME, really, honestly, everybody, please don’t listen to the movie star, she’s only the hottest actress in the world who has more fans than any DC comic right now.
And the bad news is, Fox, in her early 20s, is representative of the teens-twenties demographic sweet-spot that DC and the movie studios are trying to attract. This might prove once and for all that kids do not give a toss about Wonder Woman. They’re reading manga and watching anime. They think Wonder Woman is naff, a superhero only their aging aunties care about.
Wonder Woman is lame.
Put another way: at best, Wonder Woman is lame. At worst, Wonder Woman is really weird in ways that are not suitable for children.
Let’s start with her costume. It’s a swimsuit that started out with a dress and only got skimpier and skimpier as the decades passed, to the point where artists have been drawing the bottom so thin and tight that it’s amazing it doesn’t give her a hysterectomy if she just took two steps. The costume always sexualized her from day one. It makes no sense for a woman to run around wearing that in public unless she’s promoting a corporate product. G4TV’s comics reviewer Blair Butler had a brilliant quote about why a Wonder Woman movie might be a long time coming: “No woman is going to fight crime without pants!” So the ultimate woman is supposed to wear a halter bustier, slave bracelets, a thong and high heels? Why not give her a slave collar while you’re at it? Oh wait, that tiara comes pretty close. Back in the early 1970s, a failed TV pilot was filmed and broadcast long before the Lynda Carter series. It starred blonde Cathy Lee Crosby. She was offended by the original costume from the comics and refused to wear it, so they gave her a blue full-body spandex jumpsuit that looked like a 40s superheroine’s costume or a circus performer’s not unlike the type Evel Knievel wore for his stunts.
But enough cheap shots. Let’s go a little deeper. Yes, Gloria Steinem and Trina Robbins have declared Wonder Woman a feminist icon, and her original creator William Moulton Marston intended her to be a positive figure representing all that was good in womankind. Marston was a psychologist who invented the polygraph and saw comics as a tool for educating children. He wanted to create a role model for children who wasn’t about beating people up but out to spread a message of Love. Thus Wonder Woman was born, with her magic lasso that impelled people to tell the truth.
Blogger Noah Berlatsky has been selflessly (and perhaps masochistically) reading through the original 1940s run of Wonder Woman, where she was written by her creator, and thus the depiction could be considered the most “pure”. What Berlatsky found was very odd mixed messages and what was clearly a fetish for non-sexual bondage.
In short, Marston’s Wonder Woman was a slightly snooty princess warrior who brings the baddies to bear by tying them up, and who rather likes being tied up herself. She spent at least as much time being tied up as she does doing the tying up. Marston may have been sincere and well-intentioned, in an age before irony was born, but he was a very strange man indeed. It’s not even subtext. It’s all there for everyone to see. That’s the beauty of fully-drawn comics panels.
So for more than half a century, DC Comics has been marketing a scantily-clad dominatrix to children. She’s a heroic dominatrix, and she does it for free, so I guess that’s all right.
In the decades following Marston, writers have kept well away from the strange brand of bondage he depicted, though by the 1970s, there were numerous covers showing Wonder Woman and/or another woman tied up in an obvious ploy to stimulate sales. I say obvious because more often than not, no one got tied up in the stories themselves. Since the 1980s, creators have tried to be more politically correct and depicted her as dignified, selfless and noble. As dignified as you can be in a skimpy swimsuit, anyway. Greg Rucka has played up the political angle of Wonder Woman as an ambassador and activist for Women’s Rights. All very proper, but the problem is without the heat of Marston’s fetish, the character became generic, anodyne, dull. She can also get overbearing, like a pedantic schoolteacher who doles out lectures and punishment. That might explain why children don’t warm to her. Frank Miller found some spark recently by depicting her as a ball-busting bitch who secretly wants to be taken, preferably by Superman (since he’s the only one strong enough to be able to beat her up), in comics not intended for children, which just proves the point yet again. Trust Miller to see the core of her character, stripped of the social conscience as her justification. She’s not a children’s character, despite the intentions of her originator. She only does two things: hit people or tie people up. Hitting people seems to be rather more socially acceptable in American pop culture than tying people up.
So how the hell are you supposed to write a viable script for a movie that should be rated PG-13 and sell toys to kids?
I suppose if you want to teach girls that there’s nothing wrong with wanting to tie people up, then that’s okay. There are lots of rich people who would pay to be tied up, and in these tough economic times, it doesn’t hurt to keep some career options open.
Parking my virtual car at firstname.lastname@example.org etc etc.
words © copyright Adisakdi Tantimedh
image © Jim Steranko, Wonder Woman © DC Comics
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