Saving Tomorrow: Wonder Woman and Her Elevated Role in Shaping Our World by Anjeanette LeBoeuf


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.

 

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Categories: Popular Culture, Women and the Media, Women's Voices

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23 replies

  1. I have not seen the movie, but here is an email I received as part of an online discussion of it:

    “My daughter and grand daughter hated the Wise Woman movie.
    Way too violent for them.
    My daughter said she counted over 100 individual murders not counting the thousands killed in collapsing buildings and bomb strikes.
    My grand daughter said she spent most of the movies with her eyes closed and her fingers in her ears. Given this I will not be seeing the movie but will spend time with my happy memories of Wonder Woman, the first feminist I ever knew.
    I love her and refuse to allow this new violent incarnation any room in my psyche. Alas”

    If this is true, the deep message of this film is not a feminism I can believe in. What do you think about this, Anjeanette?

    .

    Like

    • Anjeanette,Love this Wonder Woman post! This is the first movie I have went to the theater to see in years. I wonder if people count the murders in batman or superman? I think Wonder Woman is a perfect role model for young womyn today.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Teresa,

        Thanks so much. I agree with how powerful this new Wonder Woman can be for girls and boys. To see a movie where gender did not play a role, that it was up to each person to make a decision of what they believe, and what is worth fighting for.

        I also loved the fact that they represented Diana as wanting and needing to save ALL people, that she was intent on saving both sides that were fighting the war. This is such a powerful statement in our current climate.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Carol Christ:

      How would you characterize the feminism of the movie, as seen through your daughter and granddaughter eyes? What, then, is Wonder Woman’s role as a feminist? And, within that role, how would she rid the world of evil?

      I thought the film violent as well even within the context of what was to be accomplished. However, that wasn’t premise as far as i was concerned. I understand its mythology. My granddaughter and I enjoyed it immensely; she’s 11.

      Kitt

      Liked by 1 person

      • Barbara Ardinger has written of the original Wonder Woman: “Today there are other female superheroes in comics, on TV, and in the movies, but Wonder Woman was the first and the best. She didn’t kill the villains, and she was honorable in all of her dealings in our flawed world.”

        To me dividing the world into good and evil is itself problematic, because few of us are all good or all evil, most of us are mixture of both. This error is compounded when we believe that we can “rid the world of evil” by violent means.

        Jacques Maritan said, “The means are the end in the process of becoming.” By this he meant to call attention to the fact that the means shape the end. The perceived goal may be to rid the world of evil, but in fact, war compounds it. The perceived goal may be to show that girls can be superheroes. But do we really want anyone–male or female–to learn as a child that the way to be powerful is to kill the “other”?

        I do not. We need to change the paradigm. This apparently was what the original author of Wonder Woman set out to do. However, we will not change the world unless we also stop calling super-men or regular men who kill our “heroes.”

        This is what feminism means to me.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Carol,

      You highlight the number one flaw that I had with this movie…regarding violence. I struggled with the fact that even on the protected island of Themyscria, the Amazons were continuing training in preparation for upcoming battles and war. It didn’t sit well with me that yet again we are turning towards battle, towards violence to ‘fix’ the problem. But the movie kinda of won me over in how they built up Diana – She decides to answer the call, to take up the sword because she hears that millions of people – especially the innocent are being killed. She even tells her mother that if she stayed on the island, knowing that the innocent are being hurt and dying, a part of her would be damaged. And her ultimate goal is to stop the war, to bring humans back to their true potential – that of being passionate and creative.

      She states that she doesn’t believe in War – that she believes in Love, and that is what will save the day, save the world, and save the souls of humanity. “It’s about what you believe. And I believe in love. Only love will truly save the world.”
      But the movie also states – which is where I stand – that the world, that humans are complicated; that we each have the capacity for good and for evil. And yes, there will be those that choose evil – and we must stand up when we see that evil. That when we see injustice we must do something. And there is something powerful in hearing this very dominate icon of Wonder Woman – stating that she stands for all innocence, that she believes in Love.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I’ve always been a big fan of Wonder Woman and especially liked the TV show starring Lynda Carter. But I have not seen the new movie and don’t want to. Every clip I’ve seen on TV and every review I’ve read shows me that the movie is way too violent to be the real Woman Woman. It seems as if the guys captured this hera (female hero) and turned her into one of themselves. She is not a killing machine.

    This is why I wrote my blog about Woman Woman on May 7.

    Like

    • Barbara, Diana is not “a killing machine.” She is divine (a god/dess) and every divinity in every culture across time carries both the creative and destructive force. Her character is very clear about wanting only to destroy the source of evil (in this case, Ares). She believes that he alone poisons the minds and hearts of humans. If he can be killed, humans will be good again. Except that she finally realizes humans are more complicated than that, and even after this painful realization, she chooses to believe in love, she chooses to fight on behalf of humans and not destroy them.
      Several times in the film men say things like, “We can’t save everyone,” or “Soldiers are meant to die.” Diana will have none of that. She calls the men out when they say these things. She believes EVERY life is valuable. She fights to protect life, not to kill.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Just read Carol Christ’s reply and have to note, one of the great things about this film is that it does NOT divide the world into good and evil. Even from early on, Steve Trevor -the British spy pilot that Diana saves- is clear that while he is one of the good guys, he too has contributed to the bad. He notes that we are all responsible in some way. The decision to help humans, to help each other, is not based on whether or not one deserves or is worthy of help (redemption, salvation), but rather on what you believe. In the end, do you believe in love as the greatest force in the world or not?

        Like

    • Barbara,

      I understand your standpoint, and did read your blog post. As someone who came to the Wonder Woman mythos after watching Xena, Warrior Princess – I couldn’t jive with the TV show as I found her way to sexualized and objectified for me. This movie displays more of a dialogue of what must one do when faced with the reality that innocence and lives are being lost, and you can do something about it. It gives voice and agency to a different dialogue, and yes it has to be started with ending the war, by taking up the sword and playing the violence game.

      Like

    • Barbara,
      What is the url for your blog? From my view, your last entry is mid-April.

      Kitt

      Like

  3. Thank you, Anjeannette, you answered a number of questions I had about the original WW comics and mythology.

    As for the violence, I applaud anyone who completely eschews all modern media. Though I find it hard to believe that anyone does, unless you live off-grid, in which case you would not be reading on online blog. And if that is not you, than this is not a film to avoid due to its content.

    This film is far and away less violent than the news coverage of Vietnam 45 years ago. It is even less violent than what we see on today’s news. I am extremely sensitive to what is typically shown in movies today: the visual and audio assault is over-stimulating and leaves me unnerved for many weeks. I need to be extremely careful about what I watch. That being said, I have seen this movie 4 times now.

    The film is set during the WWI – of course there will be death. But the deaths shown are clean, almost unrealistic as there is no blood, no guts. You cannot speak of war and not acknowledge death. There is absolutely nothing graphic about the violence. One character, in fact, is a sharpshooter, who shoots his victims at a distance. Diana tells him there is no honor in that. And sure enough, when the time comes, he is unable to shoot.

    The message of the movie actually speaks to this concern: “It’s about what you believe.” Diana stands for love, she believes in love. She recognizes that humans – each and every one of us- contain both light and darkness. We mess up a lot. A LOT. And, still, we are worthy of love. Her response to the violence is a response of love. As she says in the beginning about the Amazons but might rightly be said for any awakened person, “We are the bridge to a greater understanding for all men. It is our sacred duty to defend the world.”

    I HIGHLY recommend the film. We cannot escape violence, death, and darkness in this life. But we CAN support those that show it w/out gore and gratuity and in the context of something much more important: the power of love.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. As regards her elevated role. The Women’s March recently opened the minds of both men and women and truly it felt like the woman’s role had been elevated. I saw a photo from the march of a middle aged man with a smile, and he was holding up a sign that said: NASTY WOMEN KEEP FIGHTING.

    Like

  5. One last comment: I hope those that are concerned about violence are equally concerned about the sexualizing of women. Personally, while I loved LInda Carter, I always found her outfit to be far too skimpy. For heavens sake, she was wearing underwear, that’s all. And the comic book illustrations? cover your eyes!

    This Wonder Woman, under the direction of Patty Jenkins, a female director, is never sexualized. She is always in control of her own body as a woman in full control of herself and without any body image issues that all of us have today. Hers is an innocence and a purity. Like Aphrodite, she is not embarrassed by her body – b/c she has no reason for shame, she has no concept of what shame is, she has never been sexualized. Her value has never been determined by her beauty but solely by her strength and character. When convinced she must wear London clothes, she refuses to settle for anything that does not allow her full movement – both physical and psychological, yes? This is a message that all women, especially young women, need to see and hear.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Janpeppler,

      You brought up one of the my favorite things regarding this movie. The fact that Wonder Woman, who has a history in comics, TV, and society to be hypersexualized -the movie did not fall into that trap. That even when her and Steve have a moment, they are both clothed, the camera stays on their faces, and they do not show a sex scene. That Diana’s body isn’t talked about, that her abilities speak more then what she wears or not wears.
      Even more that they merely alluded to the fact that Diana and the rest of the Amazons are either bisexual or lesbians, that they did not show any explicit, non necessary scenes of that nature, and that it was enough to see the grief when Menalippe saw that Antiope dies, to know that they were together.

      Liked by 1 person

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