June 2, 2017 saw a boost in the revolution led by a former Israeli soldier turned model and actor in the iconic role of Wonder Woman, a role that has been around for over 76 years. The movie has shattered projections of first weekend profits as well as the notion that no female directed, female super hero movie could bring in as much as its male counterparts. This movie has created a fervor of positive female representation on the big screen and more importantly a resurgence for continuing the fight against oppression, racism, and sexism.
Wonder Woman was created by psychologist William Moulton Marston, his wife Elizabeth Marston, and their companion Olive Byrne (It is only in recent years that Elizabeth and Olive’s contributions have been acknowledged.) She first appeared in the All-Star Comic #8, released in October 1941. Her first cover and solo feature was released January 1942. Wonder Woman, her superhero name, was born Diana, Princess of Themyscira, Daughter of Hippolyta. Her original storyline was that she was made of clay by Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons and given life by the breath of Aphrodite. Later versions credits Zeus her emergence. Her many different appearances and storylines have seen lots of different alterations but there are certain mainstays to her storyline. She is bisexual, considered holding the spirit of truth (embodied in her having the Lasso of Truth), extremely intelligent, and indestructible. Marston and her other writers deem her as “powerful, strong-willed, who does not back down from a fight or challenge…but is a lover of peace.”
Wonder Woman in the comic book world gained popularity. Ms. Magazine debuted her on their cover in 1971.
She then graced the small screen when Linda Carter portrayed her in the tv Series from 1975-1979.
Wonder Woman has continued to develop and change with every new generation. Her newest evolution can be most definitely influenced by that of the television icon Xena, Warrior Princess and trying to be more ‘accurate’ to her Amazonian heritage.
This can also be seen in the casting of Gal Gadot, an Israeli, who display much more of the olive complexation an Amazon woman would have had. She becomes the first non-American to play Wonder Woman.
A full-length movie has been developing since 1996. They finally started to shoot in November of 2015. Since its premiere, the movie has grossed over $466 million worldwide. On its opening weekend, it grossed $103.3 million. This marks the first female directed, female led comic film to achieve such success. The only other female directed movie to hold rank was that of Fifty Shades of Grey, grossing $83 million. Patty Jenkins has also become the first female director of a studio superhero movie.
This iconic figure and recent movie are not without their flaws or their controversies. In anticipation of the upcoming presence of Wonder Woman in the Superhero movies, the United Nations named Wonder Woman the 2016 honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls. This appointment was met by a large amount of backlash and even generated a petition to see her removed, which she was two months later. The large amount of backlash, which I initially supported was that it felt like a cop out to appoint a fictional character when there were thousands of real life women who could lead and inspire. Yet with this movie, we can start to see how representation and a film icon can be extremely inspiring and motivating.
Not everyone is keen on celebrating Wonder Woman. The film is banned in Lebanon due to Gal Gadot’s Israeli army service and her support of the 2014 War in Gaza. Interestingly enough, none of Gal’s other ten mainstream films were banned. Select theaters in Austin, Texas started to arrange “women only” screenings of Wonder Woman. A large, unexpected outcry from men stating it was gender based discrimination. The theater held up to the scrutiny and massive amounts of trolling, and even added more “women only” screenings when the selected few sold out.
And the film itself is not fully perfect, still maintaining and perpetuating certain ideals and troupes which can be harmful. The most palatable one being the ever-constant battle between the Princess and the Witch, the harlot and the pious – one of the main villains in the movie is that of Dr. Isabel Maru, also known as Dr. Poison. This is especially detrimental as there are only truly four female talking roles and Etta Candy, Wonder Woman’s best friend and fellow fighter in the comics, is reduced to playing the secretary sidekick to Steve Trevor.
Yet, there is so much that this movie gets right, it is a fantastic building block for future, girl/ woman positive film. First and foremost, the movie starts and ends with Diana’s voice, with her vision. (Earlier scripts had the movie being narrated by Steve Trevor, Diana’s first love) There is no and I mean no shot of a naked Diana or naked Amazons (which if you have ever googled images of Wonder Woman you would see the amount of hypersexualized images of her).
Steve, while somewhat protective of Diana (mainly when she first encounters the world of men), is not of the overly masculinized, dominating stance or jealous of attention given to Diana from the public or even their makeshift band of companions. She is strong, she is smart, and she is compassionate. And yes, there is a scene where the love interest must remind Diana, what truly matters – Love. But in the same scene, Steve tells Diana, “I can save today, you can save the world” stating that Wonder Woman is the ultimate hero, the answer to a world that is lost and full of injustice and hate.
This movie entertained me, it made me laugh, cry, and recharged. Recharged to once again bring about justice, peace, and love in the here and now.
Anjeanette LeBoeuf is a Ph.D Candidate in Women Studies in Religion at Claremont Graduate University. She is the Queer Advocate for the Western Region of the American Academy of Religion. Her focuses are divided between South Asian religions and religion and popular culture. She has become focused on exploring the representations of women in all forms of popular culture and how religion plays into them.She is an avid supporter of both soccer and hockey. She is also a television and movie buff which probably takes way too much of her time, but she enjoys every minute of it. Anjeanette has had a love affair with books from a very young age and always finds time in her demanding academic career to crack open a new book.