Like most women and men of my generation, I grew up with Lynda Carter’s “Wonder Woman” television show. It was the late 70’s, the show was already in the constant rotation of syndication, and there simply wasn’t anything else out there that captured my imagination as a little girl. I had friends who were Wonder Woman for Halloween year after year because there were so few options for girls as fantasy heroes.
When I started telling people about this film, men and women had wildly different reactions. Most of the guys admitted that Wonder Woman was their first TV crush. Women reminisced about how they pretended to be her: twirling a rope to capture foes or spinning to transform themselves into superheroes.
Fast-forward some thirty years and I was reading a New York Times article that introduced Gail Simone as Wonder Woman’s first female writer EVER. Here was this incredible feminist symbol who had always been stuck, like a lot of strong female characters, between being created by men and being primarily consumed by boys.
The story stayed with me, and I began looking into Wonder Woman’s origins. Her creator, William Moulton Marston, was a fascinating character who set out to create an empowering role model amid a lot of super-violent male heroes. Of course, he also had some interesting ideas about what a strong female hero should look like. But his creation has endured while so many others have been forgotten.
I loved the idea of looking at something as populist as comics to reveal our cultural obsessions, and in particular, how women’s roles have changed over time. The narratives of our most iconic superheroes, told and re-told over decades, boldly outline our shifting values. That’s one story WONDER WOMEN! tells, but to me, it’s not the most interesting one. I hope the film also conveys the unpredictable ways those icons can shape and even transform us in return. For some it’s Lara Croft, for others it’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but we all need those iconic heroes that tell us we have the power to slay our dragons and don’t have to wait around to be rescued.