Growing up, I loved watching the Justice League animated series with my cousins. That was also my introduction to Wonder Woman, and her origin story from being an Amazon princess to becoming a superhero.
Diana Prince isn’t just a female hero who was created to look pretty next to Superman or Batman. She was always a symbol of feminism, challenging the comic industry’s strong masculine premise at the time. With the premiere of Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman tomorrow, we’d like to look back on how she became the icon that she is today. She is, after all, still a relevant figure especially in our misogyny-filled world right now.
During World War II, Harvard psychologist William Moulton Marston saw that comic books’ “bloodcurdling masculinity” had a violent effect on soldiers. This prompted him to suggest a female superhero which fought evil with strength and love. Dr. Marston also emphasized in the Smithsonian Magazine that he wanted Wonder Woman to break the stereotype that a female is always the damsel in distress. “When a lovely heroine is bound to the stake, comics followers are sure that the rescue will arrive in the nick of time. The reader’s wish is to save the girl, not to see her suffer.”
If Superman’s weakness was Kryptonite, Wonder Woman’s is when a man restrains her. It sounds like a silly weakness at first, but Dr. Marston wanted to highlight the societal injustices against women; that they are deemed powerless in a patriarchal society. This was also inspired by his wife Elizabeth, who wasn’t allowed to enter Harvard because she’s a woman.
Throughout time, Wonder Woman’s comics drew some flak as writers took away the feminist aspect of her character. In All-Stars Comics #13, she was included as an honorary member of the male-dominated superhero group, becoming the first woman to join them. The catch was that she worked as a secretary. However, as The Mary Sue pointed out, this allowed Wonder Woman to bring in more female superheroes in the group.
The ’60s and ’70s were a time when women demanded for equal rights and liberation from sexist standards. When American feminist and journalist Gloria Steinem started Ms. magazine in 1972, an illustration of Wonder Woman graced the first issue’s cover. “As a little girl, Wonder Woman was the only female superhero, so she was irresistible,” Gloria said in an interview. She was literally the only game in town, the only hero that made you feel good about yourself.”
Writer Greg Rucka started a new Wonder Woman arc entitled Year One, which mostly showed Diana’s life as an Amazonian princess in Themyscira. In this arc, Greg confirmed that Diana was queer and had romantic relationships with her sister Amazons. This further expounds on Wonder Woman being a wholly inclusive character. However, it’s still unclear whether the film will touch on her bisexuality.
Yes, a comic book character became an honorary UN member. Wonder Woman was named ambassador for empowerment of women and girls in October 2016. This was done to raise awareness for gender equality in the form of a crime-fighting hero.
Sadly, some UN members protested this and removed her from the position on December 2016 because she was “the epitome of a pin-up girl.” Even Gal Gadot expressed her disappointment over the news: “When people argue that Wonder Woman should ‘cover up,’ I don’t quite get it. They say, ‘If she’s smart and strong, she can’t also be sexy.’ That’s not fair. Why can’t she be all of the above?”
Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.