Check out the introduction for background on this series of posts!
Check out part 1: Green Lantern. Check out part 2: Captain America.Check out part 3: Wolverine. Check out part 4: Power Girl. Check out part 5: Aquaman. Check out part 6: Luke Cage. Check out part 7: Iron Man. Check out part 8: Spider-Man.
Wonder Woman! She is like the default female superhero for everyone, right? Is her recepetion as problematic as Powergirl’s? Kinda, but context matters. DC’s premiere leading lady, muse for Linda Carter and icon of throngs of girls who grew up in the 70’s. Greek powerhouse and all around feminist, Wonder Woman!
Who is Wonder Woman?
Wonder Woman, Diana, was originally thought to have been created by her Amazonian mother, Hippolyta, out of clay, and given life by the Greek Gods. Recently, is has been revealed that she is indeed yet another demi-god, given life by the loins of Zeus… with her mother Hippolyta. Regardless, she, along with all of the other Amazons on Themyscira (or Paradise Island, if you please), were forbidden from interacting with “man’s world,” untill Steve Trevor crash lands on the island on an unrelated mission for the US of A. Diana nurses him back to health and eventually is allowed to accompany him back to America, partly for love, partly to act as an Ambassador of peace to the outside world on behalf of the Amazons.
Is this character heroic? Yes. Very much so. She is actually a very “classically” heroic figure. That is, while she does have her moments of self-sacrifice, she is more often known by her heroic deeds, powers, position, and what she represents. She literally fights the good fight, on behalf of the good, against the evil, and wins. Thus, she is heroic. Right? (1 point)
Does this character represent the “powers” or fight against them? Depends on which powers, I suppose. She is an outsider as far as America goes, and yet, she has often worked for the American government or even for the military. She Fights against evil gods, but often represents the “good” ones (Greek gods rarely stay in those lines, though, lets be honest). She is a joiner, and usually joins the authority du jour, while at the same time subverting some major interests thereof. (.5 points)
Does this character kill? Yes. In fact, if there is one thing about Wonder Woman which sets her apart from her immediate contemporaries in the Justice League, it is the fact that, while she may not wish to be put in those situations, she has little to no compunction about killing when necessary. Let me be clear, she is not the Punisher. She has a very strong “just war theory” attitude, and only kills as a last resort, but at a certain point, she simply no longer cares to be patient or creative, and takes the literal sword to the bad guys. (0 points)
Does this character have a spirituality? Yeah. She kinda can’t help it. The Greek pantheon of Gods are literally in every issue of her comics. She alternates between a being created out of clay by a god, to a child of a god, to a god herself. She interacts with mythical creatures, visits holy sites, and unholy ones, and magic and spiritual things permeate her being. She is often praying to Hera, and uttering other prayers to the gods, all the while fighting them at the same time. Complicated spirituality, sure, but a very strong spirituality nonetheless. (1 point)
Does this character have an interesting (and sustainable) story to inhabit? I would have said not really just a few years ago. Wonder Woman’s story is hard to get right. In fact, it is all about setting. Wonder Woman as a character foil for “man’s world” simply doesn’t work. She does work, and how, when she is allowed to thrive in her native environment, as a continuation of Greek mythology. When she is judging the gods, fighting them, and interacting with their Machiavellian schemes for humanity, she is brilliant. When she is simply the female Justice League member, hypocritical ambassador of peace, or Outcast Amazon, she really falls flat. Fortunately, she is in a Greek phase right now. (1 point)
Does this character have a supporting cast that isn’t just around to make them look good? Yes. Her supporting cast is building rapidly. She has brothers and sisters who are also demi-gods who are making regular appearances in her book as fully fleshed out characters in their own right, she interacts with the gods, who play second fiddle to no one, and she is playing protector for a powerless young mother and her child, who, despite no powers and no useful function, bring a human side to the story dominated by larger than life gods. (1 point)
Does this character have a T-shirt I can buy in size XL? Probably not in a men’s XL.. (0 bonus points)
Does this character represent, in broad terms, an outlook on life that I can support? Not really. She is militaristic. She gets her way through force. Still, she is a prophetic voice in many instances for women’s rights… but I think her proclivity for interacting with the powers and working top-down is not my style. (0 Points)
Are this characters powers (or lack thereof) interesting? Yeah. Although, I think more and more, writers are trying to make her the power equivalent of Superman, as if physical strength is what defines a character’s worth. The stronger she gets, the less interesting she becomes. Still, she can fly as well, deflect bullets with her magical armbands, and she can cajole the truth from anyone with her lasso of truth. Pretty cool.(1 point)
Note about Wonder Womans’ real-world origin and history: Wonder Woman was created by William Moulton Marston, who was a self-proclaimed feminist, psychologist, and inventor. Marston modeled Wonder Woman after his wife and their poly-amorous relation, Olive Byrne, a student of his. That is problematic enough at some point, but Marston’s idea of breaking out of traditional gender roles was obscured by his fetish with female bondage, which of course, he saw as liberation for women. As such, Wonder Woman was originally dressed in something between an American flag, a WW2 soldier’s pinup, and a bondage outfit. In addition, the bondage themes that ran throughout Wonder Woman’s early years were incredibly offensive, and even became part of the character’s makeup in that she lost all of her substantial powers when she was tied up by a man (see example above). Regardless of the point he was trying to make with that, what ended up being the case was that Wonder Woman was tied up, bondage-style, with breasts heaving, nearly every issue. Now, she is usually dressed in something akin to a swimsuit with traces of metal, and although women should be allowed to wear what they want, she certainly doesn’t represent most of the feminists I know, who would encourage champions of feminism away from exploiting their bodies as the artists of Wonder Woman seem to do. Still, let us not allow Wonder Woman’s sordid past to derail us from enjoying the evolution of the character and what she CAN represent going forward.
Verdict: 5.5 out of 8 points
Tune in next time for a discussion of John Constantine…