Let’s face it. Most female superheroes are tired ciphers for male desire and fantasy. That’s why it’s of paramount importance that studio execs putting together the new series for Earth’s most reputable female superhero get their heads in the new century. I truth-lassoed a brutally honest analysis for Wired, and put together related Wonder Woman coverage for Morphizm loyalists.
10 Mandates for a Kick-Ass Wonder Woman TV Show
Wonder Woman is the ultimate female warrior. Please don’t give her a stupid desk job and lame friends.
After decades off the air, Wonder Woman is reportedly heading back to television in the 21st century. But comics’ most heroic female must avoid tired cliches and lame story arcs if she’s going to blaze serious trails for TV programming – and for other heroic females.
According to Deadline Hollywood, the Wonder Woman pilot nabbed by NBC would be a “reinvention of the iconic DC comic in which Wonder Woman – aka Diana Prince – is a vigilante crime fighter in L.A. but also a successful corporate executive and a modern woman trying to balance all of the elements of her extraordinary life.”
Written by law- and medical-drama machine David E. Kelley (Ally McBeal, Boston Legal), the pilot pickup was reportedly ordered by new NBC Entertainment president Bob Greenblatt, who helped shepherd female-led shows like The L Word and Nurse Jackie into being at Showtime.
Greenblatt’s record might be encouraging, but Kelley’s assertion that his Wonder Woman would be “a real complex woman and not just a superhero” is not.
Wonder Woman is pop culture’s ultimate woman warrior. She shouldn’t be treated as anything less. Here are 10 ways Princess Diana of Paradise Island (or Themyscira, depending on your preferred retconning) can outrun television convention.
10. Make her a serious badass. Wonder Woman is a “feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman,” said the character’s creator, William Moulton Marston. In other words, she’s not Ally McBeal or even Lynda Carter, who complained of being labeled a sex object when she starred in the popular ’70s Wonder Woman TV series. You could argue that being labelled a sex object is part and parcel of the job. There are always going to be videos on TubeV (see page) where women are dressed up as Wonder Woman. There will always be sexy Wonder Woman costumes for Halloween and such. Neither predecessor is going to cut it when crafting a next-gen Amazon goddess. Moreover, as this article from the Lovegasm website explains, audiences want so much more from characters in TV shows and films than unadulterated sex appeal. Wonder Woman must, therefore, own her sexuality in a way that feels authentic. She doesn’t have to be like April Mae woring as an escort, but putting some effort into it is important.
9. Make her eternal. Above all else, Wonder Woman is an immortal, not a puny human. Giving her a day job as a corporate executive who moonlights as a vigilante, as Kelley proposes, could be part of the picture. But if it’s the whole picture, we’re looking at a comics fiasco on the level of the late-60s Wonder Woman, who was stripped of her powers and turned into a mod with a boutique shop.
8. Create serious supervillains from the fringes of science and time. Actress Lynda Carter fought street punks and military enemies in the ’70s version of Wonder Woman. But the 21st century’s Wonder Woman needs a more ambitious, challenging workout. She shouldn’t be fighting flaccid wannabes who are doing time as god fodder.
7. Don’t pick a short, scrawny actress. Whoever plays Wonder Woman must be built like a warrior, but still hot enough to ensnare drooling fanboys, who can’t abide a female superhero who isn’t a sex object. Think Xena plus Alias, and you’re partly there. As Gina Torres, who starred in Firefly and Alias, infamously explained, “There are no skinny bitches in superhero land.” (Torres would be great for the role, by the way.)
Wonder Woman Plays the Sex Card
Directed with skill by Laura Montgomery and starring Keri Russell (Felicity) as the voice of bad-ass Princess Diana, Wonder Woman leans heavily on dizzying action and sexual tension to bridge the gaps between the character’s various incarnations over the past seven decades.
This makes great sense: Wonder Woman was created by American psychologist William Moulton Marston, who lived openly in a polyamourous relationship with his wife, Elizabeth, and his mistress, Olive Byrne. It was Elizabeth’s idea that Marston turn his hero of love into a female; to this day, Wonder Woman remains one of feminism’s most culturally accessible woman warriors.
But war is just part of her myth, as we see in the early moments of Wonder Woman, when Diana’s mother, Hippolyta (an excellent Virginia Madsen) beheads her own son Thraxx in front of his father, Ares (the always reliable Alfred Molina), during a horrific battle between the Amazons and the god of war’s minions.