Movies & TV / Columns

Wonder Woman – The Amazing Amazon

March 31, 2016 | Posted by Aaron Hubbard

My favorite superhero in comic books is Wonder Woman.

Yeah. Not Batman, not Superman, not Spider-Man, not the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, not Spawn or Hellboy or the Incredible Hulk.

Wonder Woman.

Now, when a man says that Wonder Woman is his favorite superhero, I imagine most people will automatically assume that man’s interest in the character is rather shallow, for some obvious reasons. And yes, it doesn’t hurt that Diana is usually (depending on the artist) an extremely attractive, athletic woman with in a star-spangled bathing suit. Or that her most famous weapons is a golden lasso that, combined with Diana’s strength and commanding presence, makes her a rather effective dominatrix archetype.

Neither of those are unintentional, by the way. Diana’s sexuality is a major part of her character, from the initial inception to the current version of the character. But if I were to get into that subject, I would start going on a tangent that I don’t really feel like going on today. The short version is: Wonder Woman’s image and values promote healthy sexuality in all of its forms, which for the most part is actually a good thing.

The thing is, if you’re sitting here wondering if my attraction to Diana is simply because of her physical attributes and inherent sexuality, let me assure you that I’m not the type of person who drools as he reads his comic books.

Er, most of the time…

Like I said, that’s a topic for another day. Today we’re talking about Wonder Woman and why she’s awesome and why she became my favorite. Because, like Diana herself, that answer is a lot more complicated than it may seem at first. And it’s a discussion worth having.

First and foremost is that I do have a couple of biases that make me inclined to enjoy Wonder Woman on a very basic level, more than some other people who may not have these interests.

#1: I am a fan of mythology and fantasy genres. What non-fans may not realize about Diana is that she and her books are often very steeped in Greek mythology, with the war god Ares serving as her primary antagonist and the other Greek gods making significant guest appearances more often than not. So in many ways she is DC’s version of Thor, bringing elements of a rich culture to the DC universe that is primarily science fiction (Superman, The Flash, Green Lantern) and street level crime stories (Batman, Green Arrow). This sort of epic fantasy setting is just fun for me to get lost in, and I enjoy characters like Aquaman and Thor for similar reasons. If you’re a fan of this sort of thing, I highly recommend picking up Wonder Woman comics because you are likely to become a fan. I recommend checking out George Perez’s Gods and Mortals as your starting point for comic reading, or its respectably adapted animated feature film Wonder Woman if that’s more your cup of tea.

#2: I am drawn to strong female characters. And I don’t mean physically strong or “capable” characters, although that definitely plays a factor, especially in the superhero genre. This tendency has made me a fan of everyone from Lois Lane to She-Hulk to Mystique. I would say some of this is just the fact that I do consider myself a feminist, in that I believe women should be treated equally to men and also have equal opportunity and representation. Real life (of a sort) has proven this in the purest sense, as you look to Rhonda Rousey in MMA or Sasha Banks in WWE, or powerhouse actresses like Brie Larson, Scarlet Johanssen, Jennifer Lawrence and others who have great talent and box office appeal. I believe this should be reflected in comic books. So when I see female characters that are really interesting, I tend to gravitate towards them.

I also happen to be an older brother to three wonderful sisters and an uncle to two beautiful nieces. Because of this, I’ve always been inclined to pay attention to how women are portrayed in various media, because it reflects on how the people I love most perceive themselves and what they are able to do in the world. And I’d much rather young women have positive, capable, interesting role models to live up to than, well…

Yeah, I think you get the picture.

And really, it’s that same sort of social awareness that led to Wonder Woman’s creation. Diana has been adopted as a feminist icon for generations, but this isn’t just because a handful of comic reading girls happened to connect with the character. Wonder Woman is a symbol of feminine strength and even superiority because she was intended to be that by her creator William Moulton Marston. Marston was a psychologist with extremely progressive views on women’s roles in society (especially for the time). In addition to Wonder Women, Marston and his wife Elizabeth Hollowell Marston also helped to develop the systolic blood pressure test, a precursor to the polygraph test. Which of course, is a funny little coincidence given Diana’s iconic Lasso of Truth.

The important thing to note is that Wonder Woman was intended to be a positive role model for girls. Marston was even more direct, calling her “propaganda” for the type of woman he believed was destined to rule the world. Again, more on that in a minute. But the important thing to note is that this is what Marston understood about female characters and how they connect with both female and male readers.

“Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength, and power. Not wanting to be girls, they don’t want to be tender, submissive, peace-loving as good women are. Women’s strong qualities have become despised because of their weakness. The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman.”

So, there you have it. Diana is intended to back up the positive values Marston associated with women (love, compassion, peace, patience and intelligence) with the strengths most people associate with men (power, physical strength, athletic ability, authority and competitive drive). It’s this combination of positive traits that makes Diana so appealing, and helps her stand out as a positive role model for young girls.

Marston’s personal belief was that women are more honest, efficient, and suited for leadership than men are. They were destined to take over the world, and for the better. Which is a little too extreme for my personal philosophy, but it is a fascinating subject to me because of how Marston’s politics and ideas informed his creation of the character. That influence can range from mostly tame to some pretty crazy ideas that make you understand why Wonder Woman comics were banned by the Catholic Church at one point. Which I may get into at some point, but isn’t really the focus of this article.

For today, let’s focus on the tame side of things. You probably know that Diana is an Amazon, but if you don’t know anything about the Amazons, then it would probably help to have some context about them. After all, our culture shapes who we are, right?

1. The Amazons were a race of powerful women who trained as warriors but also believe in preserving the “feminine” values of truth and love.
2. They were tricked into serving as Hercules’ slaves, but eventually their leader Hippolyte (or Hippolyta for those who don’t get Greek phonics) managed to overthrow him with the help of goddesses.
3. The Amazons fled Greece and went to Paradise Island, a virtual utopia, but were always supposed to wear their “Bracelets of Submission” as a reminder not to fall victim to men in the future.

Hmm. A race of powerful women overthrowing the bonds of patriarchal oppression and then creating a paradise on earth, proving that women are superior to men? I wonder what Charles Moulton Marston was trying to say? Hmmmm

Okay, so Marston isn’t exactly subtle. But the important thing to get from this is that the Amazons embody a paradox about the nature of war and peace. They are a culture that promotes the art of combat, training the women of Paradise Island to be warriors. But they, and more specifically Diana, have the wisdom and compassion to know that fighting isn’t everything. There’s a time and a place for it, but if a diplomatic, peaceful solution can be found, then that is the better solution.

Wonder Woman is effectively the Greek Goddess Athena, rebranded for a new generation of readers. The core of her character is balancing a love of fighting and competition with a genuine compassion and love for peace.

Effectively, this contradiction makes Diana’s morals and ethics a bit more complex than her peers. While Batman is driven by logic and a somewhat self-righteous sense of honor, and Superman is guided by responsibility and an inherent nobility, Diana is guided primarily by emotional intuition and social awareness. Batman and Superman don’t kill because of how it would affect them personally; Wonder Woman tries to avoid violent solutions because it is socially irresponsible for her to do so unless she has absolutely no choice. Which, for me, hits pretty close to my personal morals and makes her an easy character to relate to. I also tend to believe that if you put Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman together to work on a problem, Diana will work out the best possible solution to that problem.

So, yeah, Marston actually kind of managed to make Wonder Woman superior to her male counterparts. At least in this reader’s opinion. And hopefully I’ve encouraged a few of you to give her a chance to impress you as well.

I’ll see you next week with an official review of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.

article topics :

DC Comics, Wonder Woman, Aaron Hubbard