“Not such a wonder now that I’ve bound you with your magic lasso …”Posted: January 28, 2009
As this blog’s (extremely poor surrogate for an) anti-feminist and Devil’s advocate for male chauvinism, I feel it is my duty to bring up something I read as my coverage of the Final Crisis event comes to a close. I really, really, really don’t like the way the series treated Wonder Woman, but I also have a problem with the character of Wonder Woman as an icon for feminist values in comics: I feel like she is not up to the task of representing women. There. Fooled you. This is actually going to be an article sort of in defense of feminism, and unpacking the flaws of the male-dominated depiction of women in comics.
I guess only Nixon could go to China.
I have yet to read Final Crisis 7 – although I stopped by the local comic shop last night and skimmed the beginning and end with one Mike Imboden, comic retailer to the stars – but I was interested by something I read in Newsarama’s exit interview with Grant Morrison here http://www.newsarama.com/comics/010928-Grant-Final-Crisis.html :
“NRAMA: Regarding the big legends of the DCU: Superman got his mini-event, Batman took on Darkseid, Flash tries to outrun death, Green Lantern overcomes granny . . . but Wonder Woman turns out to be Anti-Life Patient Zero and spends the bulk of the series as a disfigured thrall. Why does Wonder Woman not have a comparable moment in that context?
GM: I wondered about that myself. I love what Gail Simone (especially) and other writers have done to empower the Wonder Woman concept but I must admit I’ve always sensed something slightly bogus and troubling at its heart. When I dug into the roots of the character I found an uneasy melange of girl power, bondage and disturbed sexuality that has never been adequately dealt with or fully processed out to my mind. I’ve always felt there was something oddly artificial about Wonder Woman, something not like a woman at all.
Having said that, I became quite fascinated by these contradictions and problems and tried to resolve them for what turned into a different project entirely. Partly because I didn’t want to use any of that new material in Final Crisis, I relegated Wonder Woman to a role that best summed up my original negative feelings about the character. My apologies to her fans and I promise to be a little more constructive next time around.
Wonder Woman gets a ‘moment’ in Final Crisis #7 but by that time, Mandrakk has sucked all the life out of the story!”
This got me thinking. If Wonder Woman is supposed to be the poster person for women in comics – and indeed many feminists I know who have never cracked open a comic claim to be “Wonder Women” or own some piece of Wondy paraphernalia – then this is indeed a disturbing universe.
Wonder Woman is a screwed up character, especially for what she says about female sexuality. Wonder Woman is all too often written in the typical “girl with bigger guns” manner, which creators seem to think is a great way to reverse gender roles. While I have no problems with the idea of tough, warrior women, this is not the 1970s. Surely we have moved beyond the need to have Red Sonja to balance Conan’s masculinity, or Valkyrie as a counterpoint to Thor.
Then there are the creators who feel the need to descend into camp when depicting her. The post-One Year Later relaunch of her character as “Diana Prince, Secret Agent” was fucking laughable, a nod to the bizarre, Carnaby Street Wonder Woman of the late 60s-70s. Wonder Woman as a fashion-forward, claws-out Mary Sue for male readers eager to explore their feminine side still doesn’t ring true as a feminist icon.
Even when she is written with maternal, sisterly strength, pointing the way toward peace and enlightenment (the Wonder Woman I like) I still cringe at her genesis as a means for William Moulton Marsden to explore his BDSM fantasies on the printed page – something George Perez fucking ran with.
Her role as “patient zero” in Final Crisis also pissed me off. Every potentially strong female character in that show was either possessed, dumbed-down, or had no speaking parts, with the possible exception of Rene Montoya.
GRANTed (get the pun!?!?) I have logged my disappointment about Morrison’s use of the female characters in Final Crisis in an earlier post, but how could he abuse Wonder Woman so?
I agree with Morrison, however, that Wonder Woman’s completely inconsistent portrayal over the years does deserve an unpacking. Perhaps we should have a mini-crisis devoted solely to her? But until we address all those aspects of her character, I don’t think she is a worthy example of women in comics, merely eye candy in an armoured bathing suit (complete with a freshly re-designed bustier that incorporates the original eagle motif with the “WW” of the eighties. Give me a fucking break) that occasionally spouts pseudo-feminist rhetoric.
Diana is no Promethea, by any means.
I’ll post again after reading Final Crisis 7.