Friday, July 02, 2010

Red, White, & Blargh

By now you've chosen sides in the Wonder Woman Pants Debate. It's not a complicated subject; you're either for the pants or against them. You like her with cape and thighs...

-or you prefer your favorite Amazon looking like she's ready to slalom race against evil and never go to the bathroom again.
It's like being asked if you favor ketchup or mustard on a Greek salad. I'll take neither. Wonder Woman is a great hero and there have been glimmers, not least when Lynda Carter played her on television, that the character would finally get her due. Pants a hero do not make, not least they make you look like Wanda Jackson's worst nightmare.

Illustrator Darwyn Cooke has captured my ideal Wonder Woman, a kick-ass princess who smashes bullets with her bracelets and looks like Xena's big sister.

All the hullabaloo surrounding Princess Diana this week is connected to the publication of an anniversary issue of her comic. Lynda Carter wrote the intro, which bears repeating in its entirety. Unless you go out and buy the comic, you'll miss out on what is a wonderful essay on the meaning of the female superhero archetype -and why Wonder Woman's roots go back to Greek mythology. Read on...

“Did you bring your Lasso of Truth?” people ask me, and I have to laugh.

But it’s true—Wonder Woman accessorizes. She is, after all, a very savvy woman. But as we all know, form follows function. Everything she wears has a purpose: Her golden bracelets deflect bullets, her Venus Girdle endows her with superhuman strength, her tiara boomerangs and her lasso holds others to the truth that she, herself, lives by. And that’s just what we can see. Wonder Woman’s intellect is her real power. She’s honest and disarming, and she kicks butt.

I was like every other little girl who loved to read Wonder Woman comics. At the time, there weren’t many strong female role models. There was Archie’s Betty and Veronica, and then there was Wonder Woman. And they actually offered to pay me to play her on television. Imagine that! I would have done it for free. I’d been in Hollywood studying acting and was a fresh-faced innocent in that town. I was just 24, and putting on that costume—the American flag high-cut bathing suit—was the thrill of a lifetime.

That said, her costume and accessories don’t define the essence of Wonder Woman. She is the “Secret Self” inside every woman—the beautiful, unafraid, tenacious and powerful woman we know resides within us. She is the antithesis of “victim.” She is the single mother working multiple jobs, the unsung heroine, the supportive sister, the devoted daughter, the loving wife. She is the archetype of the Liberated Feminine, and that part of us is not confined by any societal role.

Wonder Woman stood apart from every woman of her time. She was always looking for—yearning for—a connection to others in this new world. To whom could she turn? Not only was she separated from her family and her roots, but she also had her alias to protect. It’s this need to connect that, in my mind, has always made her a human, likeable and complex character.

I never tried to dumb her down or treat her as a two-dimensional comic book character; I had too much respect for her to do that. I played her for real. She had two faces she showed the world, but she’s one person. Diana Prince is Wonder Woman. They’re different aspects of the same individual.

In truth, I never played “Wonder Woman”—I played Princess Diana (Diana, a.k.a. Artemis, goddess of the hunt and of wild things). She came from an island of women where she wasn’t necessarily the prettiest or the strongest. She wasn’t overly impressed with herself. She was intrigued by Steve Trevor and fought for the chance to be the one to take him home. When she found herself in this other world, the America of the 1940s, her heroic reactions flowed naturally from her values and her powers.

While I am forever indentified with the role, Wonder Woman belongs to us all. She lives inside us. She’s the symbol of the extraordinary possibilities that inhabit us, hidden though they may be—that, I think, is the important gift Wonder Woman offers women. Perhaps our real challenge in the 21st century is to strive to reach our potential while embracing her values. Wonder Woman is fearless. She sees the good in everyone, convinced they are capable of change, compassion and generosity. She’s kindhearted and hopeful, and she has a great sense of humor. These are just some of the important gifts the Adaptable Empowered Feminine has to offer. In an age when femininity is casting off restraints around the world, Wonder Woman remains an important archetype.

I loved Wonder Woman as a kid, I loved Wonder Woman when I played the role, and I love Wonder Woman to this day. She is the goddess within us all.

If Einstein is right, and imagination is more important than knowledge, then maybe what we need is to “wonder”…to open our minds and our hearts, to believe in what we cannot see.

Who knows? Maybe Wonder Woman can save the world.

Fourth of July bonus pic: in Wonder Woman's tv series they gave her a little sister, Drusilla, who was played by the then-unknown actress, Debra Winger. I'd completely forgotten this factoid until stumbling across this pic. She looks like a real spitfire, don't she?


Lin said...

I love that intro that she wrote, but why did they have to dress her up in that ridiculous outfit that emphasizes her tiny waist?? It just seems so contradictory.

Jen said...

Isn't that funny? I forgot all about "Juniorette" too. Fun post - thanks for the trip down memory lane :o)

FishHawk said...

Considering the fact that Lynda Carter is still drop-dead gorgeous, there just might something to the character.

The Fitness Diva said...

That is quite the camel toe she's sporting in that blue skin suit get up! And she's not looking too pleased to have to be encased in that thing, either! lol
The ways one must suffer for beauty! Well, more for your viewing audience, I guess.. :)

James MacAdam said...

Lin, I always thought that cinching belt looked uncomfortable. The character does have history of S&M, so perhaps Lynda Carter was being sensitive to that.

Jen, I'm there with you -this brings back a lot of fun memories!

FishHawk, I respect that she is not only beautiful but smart, in character and out.

Diva, you have sharp eyes! I didn't want to point out what looks like the most painful part of that costume, but there it is.

Kimmy said...

No joke, between Linda Carter and Judy Blume in the 1970s, I do not think my life would be the same. They empowered women to "choose their battles", as they were not out to rule the world, except they did want to carve out a piece of it that they owned!

James MacAdam said...

Kimmy, I think the beauty of their contribution is being realized all over the place. Too bad that they had to carve out a spot that should have been theirs to start with, but what Lynda Carter and so many other women of her generation have done is admirable.

Michelle said...

So cool being reminded of Drucilla. Wonder Woman (Lynda Carter) was and still is so beautiful. I just saw a photo of her at 58 and she's still gorgeous!

RW said...

cool woman