Feminist Criticism and Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman. To get a better picture of just who Wonder Woman is, I checked out some of her many websites last night and found a surprisingly rich archive. Wonder Woman, in fact, has a complicated, even schizophrenic, heritage. She’s been portrayed by such diverse actors as the perky Cathy Lee Crosby and Lynda Carter, who endowed her with both a competent, working woman aura and a dose of eroticism (Lynda Carter, I discovered, is the subject of a lot of Wonder Woman fetishist erotica on the Internet these days). An Internet poll about who should play Wonder Woman, if the series were revived today, uncovered equally diverse ideas— people suggested Cher, Lucy Lawless, Angela Bassett, and Demi Moore. Clearly, in our cultural imagination, Wonder Woman is a character with many faces.
Things only get more complicated when you consider the frame narrative that explains Wonder Woman’s existence. She was born as Princess Diana (interestingly paralleling another icon of womanhood) in an Amazon community that seems pretty clearly grounded in lesbianism. Although the women in this harmonious and idyllic Amazon community have gone to great lengths to hide and protect their island from incursions by men, they are nonetheless delighted when a male American army officer inadvertently crash-lands in their utopia. So smitten with him are they, in fact, that they stage a ruthless physical competition to decide who will get to pair off with him. When Diana (later Wonder Woman) wins, she happily abandons her position as a royal ruler of the Amazons to accompany him back to the United States and take a boring desk job as a lowly secretary in the army. She even trades in her cool Amazon garb for a pair of glasses and a meek, submissive manner.
Of course, these good-girl accoutrements can’t hold Wonder Woman’s Amazon nature in check. Faced with evil or danger, she spins herself into a wild tornado and emerges in her glamorous (though seemingly impractical) star-spangled swimsuit and kinky, high-heeled go-go boots. She skillfully pilots an invisible airplane, wields a golden lasso, and fends off bullets with her wristbands made of a mysterious metal called “feminum.” In the name of the “forces of justice and freedom,” Wonder Woman will scrap with just about anyone— originally created to fight Nazis, she actually goes on to replicate their white-supremacist doctrines, killing off Japanese people whom her comic book portrays as demonic, and fighting to the death against her African double, Nubia. In a recent comic book, she completely abandons the apparently socialist tenets of the Amazons and...