Tuesday, August 3, 2010

You're a Wonder, Wonder Woman!

Linda Carter as Wonder Woman*sigh* She IS wonderful, is she not?

Ever since I grew up as a favored child of the 70’s with such great shows as The Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man, The Six Million Dollar Man and Wonder Woman, and Superman: The Movie, there has been a very strange disconnect in the world of comics attempting verisimilitude that was a white elephant in the basement so to speak.

Fans of the Amazonian princess already know it but don’t say it. It is blasphemy. You might as well tell a Muslim that Jesus was the son of God and that He died on the cross, not Judas. It won’t be heard, much less conscienced.

Oh and when Batman came to film later, it just opened the believability gap even further. The first attempt at our dark knight was weird, but admirable. He was dark again, not campy. The second re-boot made his origin utterly believable – well, as believable as a multi-millionaire walking down a dark alley with his wife and kid ALONE in a crime-ridden city can be. Kudos for Christopher Nolan for all his hard work.

So what is this white elephant that I speak of?

Wonder Woman’s origin. It beggars belief.

Before you begin ranting and reaching for your back button on your browser, hear me out, Amazonian Allies.

She is a beautiful character. She is iconic and shall remain so. I eagerly looked forward in chaste worship every week to see Linda Carter portray the princess from Paradise Island. Linda Carter had a wholesome beauty and sex appeal and warmth that still to this day takes my breath away. She’s up there with Donna Reed, IMHO for having just an amazing femininity and internal beauty that WOULD ‘launch a thousand ships.’ In fact, that is the problem.

She could sell ice to Eskimos, coals to Newcastle, and sand to Arabs.

But that is from her personal charm, not from the power of the myth that is Wonder Woman.

Now I have read the books and know all about her origin – esp. that she was created by the same guy who developed the Lie Detector – he gave her a Lasso of Truth and Bracelets that could deflect bullets.

But like the original Green Lantern, she is SO steeped in myth that we rationalists find it hard to believe her motive or her origin. In fact, since comics were for so many decades written by men, drawn by men, directed by men, the world-famous Amazon often languished in her male-dominated world.

But you cannot simply blame the men. Just as several super-powered characters of the 1940’s got a science-based upgrade in their origin, the princess of Themyscira should have as well – but she didn’t.

Think about the change in the origins of Green Lantern, the Flash, the Atom – they've wonderfully re-vamped, and still are being re-vamped today. And, to be fair, SOME of the elements of Wonder Woman’s powers have changed - she is no longer powerless when bound by a man, for instance – but her MYTHIC ORIGIN never changed.

Right now you may be asking “So – what is WRONG with her origin?”

There is NOTHING heroic about it. She’s Pinocchio – or a Golem, take your pick.

She is an object that came alive. And I think that's the LAST thing a female archetype needs to be known as - an object.

Now you can make the origin appear beautiful, like Adam Hughes has done here, but it still has that core problem: our heroine is a former statue.

You know the story of Pinocchio? A wooden boy made alive by magic who later becomes a ‘real boy?’ It is a great fairy tale, revealing how we all must move from mere appearances to being real – and this is by growing up, telling the truth and self-denial.

But it ain’t a good origin story for a superheroine who is perfect from the moment she is crafted/made/born. Unlike Superman who learned temperance and love from a kindly elderly couple though he’s a strong as any ancient god, after surviving the death of his parents and their world, Diana is a crafted doll brought to life.

In Jewish myth, a golem was a protector made out of clay or stone that would animate to protect God’s chosen people. Sort of a robot protector called at need. And Diana herself is a protector - remember those bullet-bouncing bracelets? - made originally out of clay.

But therein lays the problem of making Wonder Woman human, accessible and believable.

She isn’t human. She’s not even mortal, technically.

She is not accessible – she is an icon of beauty, grace and nobility – but like the comedic fantasies Weird Science and Mannequin, she is merely formed and crafted out of inanimate materials. She was not born of parents. She was given life at the request of her mother, the queen.

She also grew up on an island with no one of the opposite sex. Now, that may sound like paradise to the abused or those who are attracted to their own sex, but for the rest – some 90% of the population - that would be hell.

[BTW, laying the charge that only MEN can get – ‘lonely’ – is too broad of a lie to be addressed here. Women in groups may do lots of things non-male oriented, I agree. But at the end of the day…]

If I flipped the tables and said Superman grew up on a world of all men, no women, what would your next question be?

Yeah. Same here. Who made the babies? And what is so WRONG about women anyway?

So you have a character that is so aloof, it is said she did not NEED a father, just a mother and she grew up in a BEAUTIFUL place where there were no MEN to ruin it. They are forbidden: “No man may set foot on Paradise Island!”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why almost no one is going to see a live-action Wonder Woman film anytime soon. You start off calling men the bad, ugly enemy. You also start off with a heroine who is NOT human, never WILL BE human and was NOT EVER human.

You end up with - I’m sad to say – the same emotional depth as a supermodel or pin-up girl. Lovely to look at, sure – and yes, good writers can make good words come out of her mouth. But those words are NOT based on an origin that garners empathy. A Sanctimonious Swimsuit-wearing Supermodel comes running in to tell us how to live our lives – but hey, don’t come to MY house, O.K.? Men aren’t allowed.

Man, that is not cool. Talk about a busy-body.

Now that’s the rant I had to make. I think we COULD do an origin story, keeping about 80% of the original aspects of the Wonder Woman myth and yet upgrade her for the 21st century.

‘Cause there are a lot of single moms with no men in their household who need role-models – or at least their daughters do. They need to know that when men don’t act like men – taking on their responsibilities and protecting their families – that there is hope. They can stand and make it.

Wonder Woman could show them that. But she has to be MORE human, not less, to do so.

And alienation is NOT part of the solution.

And if you will bear with me, next post I’ll present a way that could be done – and possibly NOT offend every male on the planet.


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