By Gabriela Santamaria
Female superheroes have it harder. They’re fewer, not as famous or popular (thanks Superman) and they have to do their job in the most uncomfortable outfit ever (God knows why). But it’s undeniable to see that DC Comics have won the battle with Wonder Woman. Beautiful, smart, a warrior princess capable of taking on the world wearing a corset. Her impact, or that of her costume, hasn’t swayed over the years. The world hasn’t been the same since Lynda Carter took on the role in the seventies TV series. Thousands of women have dressed like her in the hopes of emulating a bit of her assertiveness and undeniable charm.
(Lynda Carter as the iconic Wonder Woman in the seventies)
Don’t get me wrong Marvel has a lot of powerful and complex female characters likePeggy Carter and Black Widow who have recently taken the mainstream media by a thunderstorm. Actually compared to their competitors they even have an upper hand in terms of representation, in their midst they have a female Thor (who has made an amazing revenue) and a black and latino Spiderman, just to mention two. In the meantime DC is currently in a rocky transition from their once traditional and sometimes outright misogynistic comics to a more feminist and modern take, most notably with the new retelling of Batgirl. They seem to be making a true effort to appeal to a new and powerful audience of potential female, LGBTQ and other minority consumers. And it was about goddamn time.
But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, because both of the graphic novels powerhouses share one problem: Where the hell are their movies with a female protagonist?
According to press releases in 2018 Marvel will release Captain Marvel, the story of Carol Denvers also known as Ms. Marvel. Huge progress. And finally wising up, DC will release the movie for Wonder Woman in 2017. I’m ecstatic to say the least, but it’s kind of depressing when you think about it. Marvel announced the future release of TWELVE major motion pictures, but only one of which is exclusively about a woman. And of the ten films that DC announced for the future, also only one has a female protagonist. Which is ridiculous because they OWN Wonder Woman. Why hasn’t this come sooner? Why hasn’t this been a priority? Why is this still not a reality?
The trajectory of Princess Diana of Themyscira since she appeared on 1941 has been groundbreaking. Despite their best efforts, it’s hard to argue that any of the female superheroes Marvel has created is as iconic as Wonder Woman. At least in terms of pop culture and sales of iconography. So because I love her dearly and because I want everyone to know why it matters I’m going to share a little overview of her history.
Psychologist William Marston began working in 1940 with National Periodicals and All-American Publications (which would eventually merge together to become DC Comics) developing a new hero. Now Marston was a very progressive academic for his time: he believed women were superior to men, was a supporter of free love (he had two wives and the three of them lived together) and he struggled with the rigid academic world of universities during his entire career, being exiled from plenty of research teams because of his radical ideas about gender and psychology. Gaining inspiration from Elizabeth and Olive, his wives, he created the idea of Wonder Woman, a superhero who would triumph throughout love instead of firepower, who would wield a lasso capable of extracting the truth from anybody (he was inspired by his work perfecting the lie detector) and who would inspire other women to be powerful and lead society into a better future. Many think that his work was the one the first mainstream feminists propaganda.
(Me wearing my Wonder Woman costume last Halloween. I felt like I could beat up The Rock.)
I think that part of the reason that Wonder Woman has maintained her popularity has to do with the context of her first publication. The ideals the comic defends in many ways aligned with the birth control activists that were being persecuted in the United States (which was no coincidence, Marston was connected to the founders of Planned Parenthood) and that transgression has continued through the different revival stories. The struggle for a more feminist society isn’t over and Wonder Woman knows that.
Even something that might seem inconsequential, her outfit, is a big deal. More to the point during her career DC has attempted to change her outfit numerous times just to return to the original design sooner or later. In Wonder Woman #600 she ditched the tiny corset for some leggings and a jacket, pretty reasonable for a superhero who wants comfort whilst fighting. But after that in The New 52, Princess Diana was back in her old style.
(Wonder Woman #600 (2010))
And even though she was recently redesigned for the new Wonder Woman #41 issue with a pretty kickass warrior gear, for the film Gal Gadot who is playing Diana will be wearing a pretty traditional version of her costume. Heels included, which to me is just absurd. For some reason the new outfits don’t usually get a positive feedback from the audience, who prefer a more “Lynda-Carter-style”. To me this is sometimes a struggle. On the one hand I’m really happy when women feel confident and able to wear whatever makes them happy. And I know firsthand that her costume can make you feel powerful. But it’s still troubling that heroines only get to wear tight or revealing clothes to do their jobs, they don’t need to lure an enemy, they need to beat him up. It also doesn’t help that most female superheroes have the same perfect body-type, some diversity would be nice. Let’s be real, Princess Diana was an Amazon and if we’re technical about it she should be missing one of her breasts.
(Wonder Woman #41 (2015))
In any case, one thing is clear: Wonder Woman has won all her battles and the least DC could do is amplify her representation. Till this day Diana hasn’t had one live action film (they did try to make it a TV show in 2011 but it failed MISERABLY) and although I know she has a role in the Superman vs. Batman film and her own movie is good news, it has taken too much time. Audiences are ready for this, they are ready for a strong, independent and strategic female lead. Hopefully she will beat her rivals at the box office as she has in the pages of comics.
(Gal Gadot in the outfit for the movie.)
Ps.: Actual evidence that I am Wonder Woman. Maybe. I don’t know:
If you want to know more about the creation of Wonder Woman I will leave a couple of reading suggestions here:
–The last Amazon
–Wonder Woman Was Created by a Feminist Bondage Fetishist Who Wanted a Matriarchal Utopia