Featured Article: A League Of Her Own: The Rise Of Wonder Woman

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When Warner Brothers began principle photography for Wonder Woman in November of 2015 they really had no idea how the political landscape would change in 2017. With the theatrical release now just months away, the character has suddenly surged in popularity. With the recent Women’s March on Washington, and the related sister marches in cities across America, Wonder Woman is once again being used as a symbol of female strength. With many rights woman have fought for now being threatened, there has been a sudden awaking in the feminist movement, lead by a new generation of “nasty” women. 

Wonder Woman was created by William Moulton Marston in 1941. With help from his wife, Elizabeth Halloway Marston, the two psychologists created a character that went beyond fighting with fists and super strength. Inspired by the modern liberated woman, Wonder Woman was the answer to the stereotypical helpless damsel in distress depicted in comics. Wonder Woman was a strong feminine character who could save herself. Marston is also credited for building the polygraph machine. His research in creating the lie detector was the inspiration for Wonder Woman’s lasso of truth. The character debuted in All Star Comics #8, which was released in December 1941; the same month as the attack on Pearl Harbor. With a star spangled skirt, and a sleeveless top featuring a decorative golden eagle, Wonder Woman entered the world of man to help the allied forces defeat the Nazis. In a unique parallel, the war enabled many women to rise above the shadow of the stereotypical housewife. While men were sent overseas, women went to work in steel mills and manufacturing plants, keeping soldiers supplied with ammunition and aircrafts. Their contributions to the war effort were so great, they would inspire their own feminist icon: Rosie the Riveter.

Wonder Woman’s popularity reached new heights in 1975 when Linda Carter played the heroine on a live action television series. The role often called for her to portray Wonder Woman’s true identity Diana Prince. The show would run for 4 seasons, delighting fans old and new. During the television run Fruit of the Loom introduced its Wonder Woman Underoos - a decorative top and bottom underwear set for children. The undergarments were a huge hit with girls, giving them a much needed alternative to dressing up like Barbie. The commercial even featured a girl performing Linda Carter’s famous spin transformation, emerging with her arms outstretched and wearing her Wonder Woman themed Underoos! After the TV series ended Wonder Woman’s popularity declined, and DC briefly stopped producing the title comic in 1986. While she remained a constant in DC’s animated series Super Friends and The Justice League, only Superman and Batman were adapted into motion pictures. 

It wasn’t until her 75th anniversary that Wonder Woman would make her first live action debut in 2016’s Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice. Portrayed by Gal Gadot, her appearance in the film was a welcome one. Seven months later Wonder Woman was controversially named an Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls by the United Nations. The announcement ceremony was attended by Lynda Carter and Gal Gadot. Unfortunately two months later Wonder Woman was removed after the UN received a petition protesting the use of a character that had been overly sexualized by popular culture. The petition pointed a powerful finger at the comic industry. What would have been an empowering opportunity was tarnished by their constant sexualization of female characters. This was grotesquely displayed 5 years earlier when NBC attempted to produce a new modernized Wonder Woman series. Starring Adrianne Palicki as the Amazonian icon, the pilot was poorly received, and production was criticized for it over a sexualized wonder woman suit. With skin tight pants and a low cut corset style top, the actress’s “assets” looked like they were ready to pop out in every scene. It was a far cry from the Marston’s original vision.

In a more positive representation, stunt woman Jessie Graff wore a Wonder Woman costume while competing on the NBC show American Ninja Warrior in the summer of 2016. Competing alongside men on the show’s strength and endurance obstacle course, Graff marveled all as she made her way to the finals in Las Vegas where she place 4th overall. It was an impressive feat that earned her legions of fans, many of them young girls who immediately took a liking to her super hero costumes. On her website Graff has said that she has spent years trying to break gender stereotypes, and considers it an honor to be a positive female role model. She also states “being feminine shouldn’t mean you can’t be athletic, strong, and confident.” Beyond the pages of a comic book, she has given girls a real life Wonder Woman to look up to.

Wonder Woman was intended to be set up movie to DC’s multi hero film The Justice League, but it has the potential to be so much more. The fact that she has finally been deemed worthy enough for her own feature film after 76 years is an accomplishment in itself. On a cinematic scale it is certainly something that should be celebrated. Yet it also highlights that there is still a great divide. The absence of solo female comic films isn’t just a DC issue. Marvel has been just as guilty, but to their credit have recently release two television series starring characters Agent Carter and Jessica Jones. Yet in light of all the male dominated films Marvel has released in the past two decades, there is certainly room for improvement. While woman with extraordinary abilities have been fighting alongside men in The Avengers and The X-Men, little has been done to explore these characters outside of those alliances. Wonder Woman crushed the stereotypes of women during the ‘40s. With strength, intelligence, and pride, she broke through several gender barriers and helped inspire a new generation of women. Today, she gives girls a positive influence that encourages independence in a society obsessed with popularity. A lasso that compels people to tell the truth would come in pretty handy nowadays too. Watch her break through another barrier on June 2nd at theaters nationwide. 

Lee L. Lind