The Wonder Woman Enigma

Here’s the article on Entertainment Weekly that inspired this post.

I’m not going to waste time digging into the Ally McBeal-inspired take on Wonder Woman that ABC passed on.

The writer adapting Wonder Woman to the big screen shouldn’t be watching Ally McBeal, nor Sex in the City and not even Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Heaven help you if your idea of feminist script-writing is the work of Joss Whedon.  And I like Whedon but when he tries to tackle any kind of issues that deal with class, race or gender he face-plants and plants hard.

They should be reading Homer, delving into the Greek pantheon and checking out George Perez’s run on the title, not thinking to adapt that particular run directly to the big screen but for some inspiration and ideas, along with Alex Ross’ great depictions of her on the wall where the writing will take place and how about Gail Simone for some solid comic book consulting.

From the above linked article:

She is meant to be an inspiring feminist icon, but she represents a vast array of things that feminism despises. By which I mean, she dresses like a stripper.

Let’s not heap this problem on feminists and lets put the problem right in the laps of those who deserve it: male writers.  It is telling that the writing of a sexy, strong, powerful woman represents such a huge problem.  While Thor is slamming the box office with thunder and lightning his Greek cousin over at DC comics hasn’t been seen on television (other than DC’s solid cartoon efforts) in years.

If you can’t think of a season of TV or a feature film (or three) for the Themiscrayan Diplomat to the Man’s World who can push press a tank and out-wrestle Hercules, whose enemies are not only iconic super villains (Cheetah, Silver Swan, Dr. Psycho) but all manner of demons and deities from Greek myth, then maybe you shouldn’t be writing Wonder Woman.

If the words powerful, strong, woman and feminist occurring in the same sentence intimidates you then maybe you shouldn’t be writing Wonder Woman.

Maybe just maybe, and I say this as a man who’d love to write Wonder Woman (DC…call me!), maybe this is a property that should be written by men at all.  I’m not saying that women don’t struggle with those same issues nor am I saying that women aren’t capable of being sexist.  But from the above article and from what passes as feminism on television, it’d be nice to see what women have to say about the Man’s World while speaking through the most iconic super-heroic avatar comic books have produced so far.

This isn’t all about big issues.  I’m a simple geek.  I want to see Wonder Woman on the big screen, in Homeric armor, in front of the U.N. Headquarters, punching Ares in the face.

Is that so much to ask?

20 thoughts on “The Wonder Woman Enigma

  1. There’s a reason the writers are taking their cues from Ally, SitC, and Buffy, rather than any of the sources you mentioned. The former made their owners a lot of money, and the latter are either read by nerds or studied in grade school.

    But I suspect you know that.

    As for her dressing like a stripper (or probably more accurately, a bondage queen), well, yes. Male writers and artists seeking the teenage boy demographic are to blame for that. Although one could argue that feminism should not be concerned with whether or not she dresses like a stripper and more with why it matters how she dresses in the first place, if you ask me (which nobody did, but everyone is entitled to my opinion).

    Bottom line, what I’ve seen so far re: the new show, it looks terrible, the actress looks terrible, the outfit looks terrible, it’s all thoroughly blech.

    • Yeah, I wanted to move past the now-dead show fast when writing about this because I could have spent a monstrously long blog post criticizing what I’ve read about it. I’m glad its gone but only wish the character had been written well.

  2. Man, I’m so much with this post. I want my WW stories to be a mix of:

    a) WW from Kingdom Come – hard and pragmatic, the world’s police woman who’s seen a lot and knows how to pick her battles
    b) Epic WW from Gail Simone’s stories, where she’s leading an army of Amazons against resurrected Greek Heroes.

    I mean, you could totally have a “300 invades modern world” kind of story that would be completely worth watching.

  3. I was going to say (above beat me to it) that using Kingdom Come for inspiration would work. Even for the stripper issue, if they use her kickass armor. A little less iconic I suppose.

  4. My favorite thing WW ever did was when she would get the status of people or things in men’s world totally wrong. Fast food workers sell hungry people food, so therefore they’re important. Lawyers talk on the phone and move papers around, therefore they’re not as important. This happened like 4 times but I loved every time. Oh well. If you get a gig writing WW, do that, or call me and we’ll split the gig.

    • Gunn’s entire arc, the way the Buffy/Spike relationship was handled (rough sex – teh bad!), the almost entirely white Californian in Angel and Buffy (but more noticeable in Angel, that was supposed to take place in Alternate Universe White L.A.), are the first few that come to mind.

      • 1) What was wrong with Gunn’s arc? (I’m not contradicting you, I just don’t remember)

        2) What’s wrong with rough sex? If I was highly damage resistant and had super strength, I would totally knock some shit down while gettin’ it on.

        3) It did seem like the only nonwhite people were Gunn’s gang members, and they mostly only appeared in the beginning…

      • 1) Gunn’s arc = I’m a gangster! Then Powerful White Men changed my brain so that I could be a lawyer! Then, when I start to come into my own, my new brain starts to short out, and I’m so desperate to keep it that I start doing shifty things that end up killing the most adored member of my team (who is also the cute little white woman I used to be in love with.)

        2) I don’t think Judd’s implying that rough sex is bad, I think it’s quite the opposite. One theme that runs heavily through the Buffy/Spike romance arc Buffy’s self-destructiveness during that time, and therefore equates her romance with Spike (rough sex) with being unhealthy or abnormal. As opposed to the happy-snuggly boring sex she was having with Angel.

        Did I get it about right Judd?

      • Hm. Yeah, that’s not an uninteresting arc, but does seem like a disservice to the character on some level. I don’t think I ever saw the whole W&H arc in order, but I was always confused by that whole White Room Transformation thing… I was under the impression that Gunn was always smart and they just gave him the opportunity to change his focus, to learn the stuff he never had to time to because he was too busy protecting his people.

        I never liked or cared about Buffy. Or Angel, really. Both of the main characters were just there to hold an interesting supporting cast together.

      • In my mind, it’s not that it’s just a disservice to the character – the point is that Gunn’s the only character of color in the entire series, and THAT is what they do with him. (And seriously, people…the character is a former gangster named GUNN.) They give him smarts and “class” that he didn’t previously have and then when those smarts get threatened, he not only betrays the group to keep them, but a member of the group dies as a consequence. I do realize that technically they frame it so that they “chose him to receive the smarts because he had the most potential” – but quite honestly, those are the kind of technical little “see we’re not racist” details that get put in when there are overarching themes that either don’t represent people of color at all or represent them poorly.

        All that being said, though, being able to look at Whedon’s work critically doesn’t at all mean that I dislike it! I enjoyed Buffy a lot, despite some serious issues around representations of sex and monochromatic casting. I think Angel just took those issues and magnified them to a point that was just ridiculous, and there wasn’t enough substance there for me to see past it.

        I think Whedon was juuuust starting to hit his stride with Firefly…ah well.

  5. @Janaki I get #1, but not sure I agree with #2. There is lots of playful kink alluded to in Xander and Anya’s relationship. Buffy and Spike’s relationship is about self-loathing, emotional abuse, and Buffy making bad choices that affect everyone around her. Writing it of as “Rough sex bad!” is doing a disservice to the arc.

    • Hunh. That’s interesting. I guess I see playful kink and intense, rough sex as two very different things – especially within the context of the two separate relationships, and how they are used to frame scenes and communicate themes. In my mind, references to Anya and Xander’s sex life were usually used as comic relief, whereas Buffy and Spike’s sex life was used to compound the themes of emotional abuse and bad choices you referred to above.

      Again, as I said in my comment above – being able to view that arc critically doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy it. I thought it was good that we got to see a darker side of Buffy. But I also think that sometimes a darker side is OK, and it doesn’t have to be coupled with treating people like crap.

      • I think the only thing keeping Buffy remotely grounded was her deep, abiding desire to just be normal and accepted. I just don’t believe that someone with superpowers doesn’t stray to the dark side once in a while, if not wholly. People just aren’t that altruistic.

        The thing where they awaken all the Slayer potentials? WORST. IDEA. EVAR.

        So, now we have hundreds of superhuman young women running around all over the world, with no training or guidance?? And this is better than demons running amok HOW, exactly?

        Really, it was just flabbergastingly irresponsible.

      • Yeah, I hear what you’re saying re: there needing to be darkness there. I am glad that Buffy as a character wasn’t all love and fluff and bunnies, but I guess I was straying from my original point, which was my frustration with sex as a manifestation/representation of that darkness. As in, the only time we see crazy enjoyable rough sex is during this messed up relationship with Spike.

        I thought the slayer potential thing was awesome. An army of slayers? With Buffy as their general? Hell yes. Yeah, it brought on a whole new slew of issues – but in a world where vampires and demons exist, why not? It would’ve been lame to me if there hadn’t been any internal conflict, or any rogue slayers, or anything complicating the idea. But I thought it was fun, and a good way to end the TV series. And (don’t know if you’ve read it) it continues pretty successfully in the book.

      • Granted, they did explore the darkness a bit with Faith, so it’s not like it didn’t come up.

        I see what you’re saying about the rough sex only being portrayed as coming from a dark place… although to be perfectly honest, all the rough sex I’ve ever had has definitely had at least a little vitriol behind it- but that was part of the hotness. Maybe that’s just me.

        I haven’t kept up with the comic, I’ve heard mixed reviews, and honestly I can barely afford to follow the books I already read. This economy is still kicking my ass =\

      • Yeah, I’ve been fortunate enough to be in places with pretty excellent public libraries that carry graphic novels. The comic wasn’t anything too great, so you weren’t really missing anything – it was just kinda brain candy fun.

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