Carter’s Comic Corner XI: Wonder Woman – Wonderous?

 

wonder-woman-movie-gal-gadot-filming-start-dateWarner Bros. decided to start the year off with a bang. With their grand plans for a shared cinematic universe hinging on the success of “Batman V Superman,” the firm rolled out an extended presentation showcasing their future films on the CW. Many of the projects are still in the conceptual phase, and footage was shown for two projects: “Suicide Squad” and “Wonder Woman.”

Yes, after 75 years, the most iconic female superhero is finally getting her own movie! Given that we’ve had to wait so long, it is critical that filmmakers capture what the character represents, and that director Patty Jenkins and her cast acknowledged Wonder Woman’s significance as a feminist figure during their presentation. But Wonder Woman is a character that has been fighting an uphill battle for years, trying to remain the same subversive character she was originally, while DC has gone out of their way to water her down.  And based on the little we’ve seen and heard, it seems like the film will struggle to bridge that gap.

Granted, a lot of this is speculation based on what has been seen, but unless people misspoke, I feel my concerns are fairly valid. Based on what we’ve seen, there has been a bit of an overhaul to her origin. The core concept is still present: in the footage, Wonder Woman is one of many Amazonians who live on Paradise Island, free from men.  But when a pilot from the United States crashes on the island, detailing to its residents the horrors of the ongoing World War II, they send Diana Prince as an ambassador to help fight, taking up the mantel Wonder Woman.

But as described in the presentation, the Amazon women were designed to “protect man’s world,” abandoning it because “[the men] weren’t worth it.” That is a noticeable deviation from Wonder Woman’s original story. Created by psychologist William Marston in 1941, Wonder Woman was Marston’s way of expressing his theories on gender and feminism in a pulpy comic setting. In the comics, the Amazons were captured by Hercules and forced into slavery. After their escape, they isolated themselves from men, forever wearing their cuffs as reminders of their entrapment. Two critical themes of early Wonder Woman were the dangers of hyper-aggressive masculinity and the modern woman breaking the chains that kept them from becoming world leaders. Making Amazons servants of the men they abandoned removes their choice to finally use their power to better the world.

Another area of contention is the action scenes. The handful of scenes prominently featured Wonder Woman fighting with a sword and shield. One of the points of the character is despite being the most powerful heroine in the room, she never resorts to violence. She uses empathy and wit to defeat her opponents, and employed non-lethal takedowns. She could refrain from violence in the film, but there’s a reason why her primary weapon is a lasso — it’s very hard to use a sword in nonlethal way.

And while this is slightly nitpicky, the transition to WWI instead of WWII is disappointing. Granted, I love the First World War as a setting, but WWII made sense for Wonder Woman because the Nazis served as a symbol for the violent, destructive hyper-masculinity she fights against, and the era of Rosie the Riveter and home appliances simplifying traditional housekeeping represented women finally having the freedom to prove themselves.

Still, I hold out hope that this film will be phenomenal. The enthusiasm the cast and crew show is immensely reassuring, and they clearly understand the significance of getting this character right. While they may make a powerful, interesting character, I fear that Warner Bros. and DC will let her history disappear:  history that made her not only a feminist icon, but a revolutionary one. One that argued even the weakest woman is as powerful as any man, that empathy defeats hatred and is the key to equality, and by breaking the chains put on them by a male run society,  woman can save the world. After 75 years, the character deserves something that wonderful.

Carter Glace is a columnist for the Highlighter. Email him at hnuthals@nyunews.com

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