I have no memory of the first time I saw Wonder Woman, although I’d assume it wasn’t the comic but the live action 70s TV version with Linda Carter. Recollections of those shows were certainly something that stuck with me as they sparked something in my prepubescent state that would certainly lead to a grander appreciation of the female form as I grew up. Remember, this was circa 1975-1979, so I was only a max of 8 years old when watching them and yet the name Linda Carter still quickens my heart rate to this day. Something about that just isn’t right… or I guess in the case of DC Comics bottom line is exactly right.
Perhaps that reaction today isn’t such a good thing, as my wife is wont to remind me, but the ability of the American propaganda and marketing machine was certainly gearing up to a fevered pitch in that glamorous disco-tropic decade concerning how women should look and what they should wear.
Wonder Woman, for all her powerful beginnings, finds herself cast in the role of sex object just as 95% of all other super heroines, and that is a tragedy.
Silly side note here, my mother has always watched The Young and the Restless, and therefore I’ve always watched The Young and the Restless. It humors me greatly that the twenty odd characters in the show must always get together, break up, and then get together with someone else again and again and again. After several decades, relationship trees become so convoluted that I get great joy at having a running dialogue as I watch the show detailing just how inherently creepy each new relationship has become when I get to count how many people in each scene have slept together. In essence, comic books are the same beast, and with only a very limited number of super heroines to go around, I’ve always been intrigued by covers depicting them in the arms of an iconic super hero, my favorite being those with Wonder Woman and Superman thusly portrayed. I mean seriously, if you put in the words ‘Wonder Woman Kissing’ into Google, the first four default options are Nightwing, Superman, Batman, and Jean Grey [wowza!].
Now I’m not going to get into a full on attack on super vixens, or villainesses, and what they wear [or don’t] and who they hook up with; that is too easy a bone to chew, but I would like to take a look at Diana of Themyscira as a character.
First created in 1941 and depicted as assisting Allied forces against the Axis powers during World War II, Diana quickly captured hearts with her star-spangled skirt and impressive red and gold corset. William Moulton Marston, her creator, gave her the rather lofty back-story of being an Amazonian princess, come to the world of man to somehow assist it in such a troubled time.
Now first and foremost, let’s take a deeper look at the legend of Amazonia. Typically thought of as a Greek myth, the legends of Amazons are not only old but prevalent all through Asia Minor from before the time of Troy all the way up to Rome and even Late Antiquity. This society of women warriors were a tough group thought to have lived anywhere from Lybia to the Ukraine, participated in dozens of myths, and even had children sired by Alexander the Great.
They have been said to remove their left breast by either cutting or burning it off to better handle a bow or throw a spear. To continue their society, they would travel once a year to a settlement where they would mate with men and then return to their lands to have children, the boys either returned to their fathers, killed, or left in the wilderness to succumb to the elements. I found this last story particularly interesting because of the shared cycle principle, being that on female dorms the young women would begin to align in menstrual cycles if they remained together long enough. How impressive would it be if an Amazonian tribal elder tracked these cycles and thus could ensure the best day that all women in the city could conceive?
In Marston’s choosing of his character’s origins, he tapped into something inherently grounded in the male subconscious, that being a fear of the inability to control women. Even Diana’s choice of weapon, a truth telling lasso, is pure genius as a psychological weapon against those of the Y chromosome. I mean, it can first bind you, taking your power, and then force you to tell nothing but the truth, a purpose that is both destructive and damning to both genders [because no woman would ever truly want to know what is going on in a man’s mind, trust me!].
Wonder Woman, therefore, is the great foil to the male dominated West, and yet we love her all the more for it. It is at her very core to hate any male-dominated society, and yet she chooses to forgo her own culture and help ours. That self-sacrifice humanizes her, and probably most importantly, gives common men a ‘shot’ at perhaps winning her heart.
The cheapening of her through this fashion is an unfortunate window dressing to a very intriguing and powerful character. Certainly, sex sells, and if your audience is teenage males, then showing off more skin than any woman warrior should care to is a must.
I forgive Diana this fact simply for the failures of my own society. As a man, I must say, the romance of a Frederick’s of Hollywood style super-suit [I didn’t use Victoria’s Secret here because that brand unbelievably has too much class for Wonder Woman’s outfit to be a part of] does make me take notice.
This outfit, which first appeared as a ruffled skirt, later evolved into a bathing suit, and finally has now transformed into a pair of pants, nonetheless has never lost its ability to show off Diana’s breasts like a dress from a bad Steampunk convention.
Does such a thing irrevocably detract from Diana’s prime mission statement of being a “distinctly feminist role model whose mission was to bring the Amazon ideals of love, peace, and sexual equality to a world torn by the hatred of men”?
It’s tough to say, because being both sexy and respected is nearly too sharp a razor’s edge to walk, especially if you cheapen yourself with streetwalker clothing. So is Wonder Woman an Iconic Female because she ranked 20th in Empire Magazine’s “Greatest Comic Book Characters” or because she got 5th in Comic Buyer’s Guide’s “100 Sexiest Women in Comics”? I’ll let you be the judge, but whatever the case, you’d be hard pressed to find someone in the U.S. who hasn’t heard of her, and for that she’s making this collection.
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