Wonder Woman may be recognizable and a positive female role-model, but ultimately, the average person knows nothing about her.
Kelley is known mostly for legal comedy/dramas like Ally McBeal, The Practice, and Boston Legal. He is developing a Wonder Woman series for NBC and as you can see if you clicked the link, it looks bad.
Obviously, the full script isn’t readily available, so one can only speculate as to its contents, but the story from Bleeding Cool has got me thinking about what makes a positive female role-model. Essentially, how does one strike a balance between power and femininity? Before going into that balance, its probably best to look at the elements of Wonder Woman. First, an experiment and a story.
EXPERIMENT: Poll a group of people about the origins of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. Compare the accuracy of the origins.
Last year in my American Novels class and we read a book called Sharpshooter Blues by Lewis Nordan. In that book, a character tells a story about how a man was struck by lightning and turned into Wonder Woman, to which my teacher asked if that was really her origin. When I informed the class that this was not her actual origin story, they asked me what it was. I tried to explain, “Well, she is from an island of women and she was molded from clay there. She left the island to come to the world of man in order to spread of message of hope and peace. Also, there are Greek gods in there somewhere.”
The truth is that her origin is a bit complex compared to other icons in the DCU and this contributes to a public disinterest (or Hollywood being unable to really get at the core of the character).
So, what exactly defines Wonder Woman?
Mythology – Made of clay on the hidden island of Themyscira, Diana was blessed with the powers of the gods themselves.
Demeter (goddess of agriculture and fertility) blessed Diana with great strength.
Aphrodite (goddess of love) gave her great beauty and a loving heart.
Artemis (goddess of wisdom and war) granted Diana great wisdom, intelligence, and military prowess.
Hestia (goddess of hearth and home) granted Diana “sisterhood with fire, that it might open men’s hearts to her.” This is apparently where her lasso of truth comes from which forces people to tell her the truth when bound by it.
Finally, the only male deity to grant Diana with anything was Hermes (the messenger god of speed) who granted Diana superhuman speed and the ability to fly.
While Superman’s roots are based in science fiction and Batman’s are in crime noir, Wonder Woman is based on mythology and this is just one of the elements that makes her special and sets her apart from other heroes.
Also, consider the implications of the mythological aspect of her character. In Greek mythology, many of the goddesses were as powerful as gods. Hera, for instance, challenged her husband Zeus on many occasions. Diana’s mythological roots are directly connected to her identity as being equal to the male heroes of the DC Universe.
Peace Ambassador – Diana’s mission to the world of man is one of peace. She wishes to show the world that peace is the answer. Maybe this can be found in a television show about a businesswoman, but I somehow doubt this will be a recurring theme.
Then again, given the divisive nature of the political climate, how else could Wonder Woman save the world but to be a corporate agent for peace? It might be interesting to see Diana run a philanthropic corporation, but I doubt this will be the case.
Warrior Spirit – In addition to being an agent for peace, Diana is the strongest military mind in the DCU. This seems to be a bit of a contradiction given that her mission is peaceful, but it could be interpreted as the dual nature of the modern woman. While society would prefer her to be kind and gentle, she must unleash her aggressive side at times.
The Outfit – While her costume has been updated in an effort to decrease her overt sexuality, the main elements are still there; the bracelets, the lasso, and the tiara. Its doubtful that all of these elements will make it into the main show (the bracelets are confirmed, but the lasso is unlikely), and one has to assess how essential they really are. On the one hand, they are merely cosmetic accessories, but on the other hand, what would she be without them? Would she be just another hero?
From what the Bleeding Cool article suggests, the show has stripped most of the key elements described here and has reimagined Wonder Woman for today. The result is a Wonder Woman that loves dancing to pop music and says, “You go, girl.” It just echoes of late 90′s girl power that seemed campy even then.
Despite my earlier assessment that Wonder Woman is redundant, I feel as if she could be made relevant. What makes her so special and wonderful is that she has the potential to be more than just a superhero and more along the lines of an unrelenting force of peace. Look at her role in Blackest Night where Diana loves the world so much that is made an honorary Star Sapphire. No one loves the people of Earth as much as Diana does, and this should be emphasized more.
In the balance between power and femininity, the comics tend to portray Diana with aggressive and almost male tendencies, while the new television show seems to be leaning towards the brand of femininity that has made Julia Roberts popular. Rather than celebrating her womanhood and using that as a point of power, its as if the barometer either swings wildly in one way or the other.