William Mouton Marsten has a lot to answer for! He created the super heroine Wonder Woman as a “distinctly feminist role model whose mission was to bring the Amazon ideals of love, peace, and sexual equality to a world torn by the hatred of men.” Diana of Themyscira (AKA Paradise Island), as she was known in her Amazonian homeland, first appeared at the end of 1941 in All Star Comics. She quickly got her own cover and has been published ever since. She remains the most famous of all female superheroes, in a universe of strangely few feminine wiles of this formidable calibre.
While the male superhero abounds, bursting with huge muscles and bristling with machismo, the female superhero (I use the word in a unisex fashion as a counterpoint to the inherent sexism rife within this fictional universe) is designed, undeniably, as a sexually attractive creature whose ample bosom and hourglass figure are used as the allure, rather than their practical skills of extreme justice and unflagging heroism.
And herein lies The Warrior Princess Rub. On one hand Wonder Woman is a fearless warrior, and on the other she is a beautiful princess. Can the two co-exist? This short, but concise documentary from 2012, directed by Kristy Guevera-Flanagan, delves into the confusion, the chagrin, the contrasting ideals of the female superhero through the last seventy years, Wonder Woman – in her various forms, Catwoman, Charlie’s Angels, Jamie Sommers (The Bionic Woman), Ellen Ripley (Alien series), Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sarah Conner (Terminator series), and Thelma & Louise, are just some of the characters featured.
Lynda Carter and Lindsay Wagner talk about their own input into the portrayal of Wonder Woman and The Bionic Woman, while Gloria Steinem muses over her influence during the active years of the Women’s Lib, and Kathleen Hanna, creator of Bikini Kill magazine and the original “Girl Power” concept, admits to her frustration when The Spice Girls appropriated the term. Using a constantly shifting collage of comic strip graphics, vintage footage, intercut with classic clips from television and cinema, it’s as rich a visual narrative as it is a paean to Wonder Woman herself, most touchingly when at doco’s end a young fourth grader proudly states that her own parents are her superheroes, especially her mom who works as a paramedic.
Wonder Women! film review by Bryn Tilly of www.cultprojections.com