In the spirit of not having my life together, I decided to do a bit a of a review on my new (well new-ish) favorite superhero movie Wonder Woman starring Gal Gadot. Why you ask? One, I get to gush over my girl crush, Gal Gadot. Two, it was an amazing movie (and I will tell you why). Three, because I can and want to. Forewarning: this will be a pretty long post.
The History of Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman has a very interesting history that not a lot of people know about. Mostly because it was kept a secret from the world by the creator and his family. Why did they do this? Well, let me introduce you to the characters behind Wonder Woman.
If you do not know who Margaret Sanger is then you need to go look her up and see what she has done in her life to contribute to the women’s and feminist movements in the USA, not to mention the rest of the world. Here’s a highlight for you:
- She coined the term “birth control”.
- She fought to educate women on means of birth control and what it could do for married women who did not want anymore children.
- 1916: Opened a birth control center with her sister, Ethel Byrne. The clinic was raided nine days after it was opened and both were arrested and thrown in jail.
- 1921: Sanger established the American Birth Control League, a precursor to today’s Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
- 1923: She opened the first legal birth control clinic in America.
- Started up multiple journals on the subject of birth control.
- Gregory Pincus, the guy known for creating the first birth control pill, worked with her on creating the pill.
- She was the idea behind Wonder Woman, in part.
Seriously, check her out. She did have some controversial ideas in regards to birth control, such as engaging in eugenics (FYI: not an excuse, but this was a predominate and accepted idea at the time).
So, the two lovely ladies above are also part of the Wonder Woman tale. Ethel Byrne gets an honorable mention for she is the mother of Olive Byrne and our Wonder Woman’s creator’s lover. Olive Byrne, lived in the same house as Marston and his wife. She did give birth to two of Marston’s four children. She spent most of her time taking care of all four children while Marston and his wife worked. Olive Byrne was the inspiration behind Wonder Woman’s bracelets. Olive wore two bracelets like Wonder Woman’s everyday.
Also, check out the lovely Ethel as she is a big advocate for birth control along with her sister, Margaret Sanger, though she is less known. When both Margaret and Ethel were arrested for opening a birth control clinic, Ethel was the one known to have starved herself in protest while in jail; not her sister Margaret – though Margaret did down play Ethel’s role in order to protect her.
Wife of William Moulton Marston and one of the muses that her husband used in the creation of Wonder Woman. She was an accomplished lawyer and psychologist. She helped her husband create the lie detector test, that was the precursor to the polygraph test of today. She was the bread winner of the house, her husband was often out of work and she remained the breadwinner after his death. She lived in the same house as her husband and his lover.
Max Gaines comes into the picture when he asks William Moulton Marston to come work for him as a way to prove that comic books can be good for the public and to introduce comic books as a way to educate the public on matters more than just patriotism and violence. He’s also one of the founders of what would become the DC comic company.
This is the man behind Wonder Woman. He was a psychologist by trade. He got his PhD in psychology from Harvard in 1921. He then went to teach at American University in Washington, D.C. but was later fired. He then took a post at Tufts University where he met Olive Byrne and subsequently fell in love with her. He asked her to move in with him and his wife. They kept their living arrangements a secret – even to their four children. Right before the big stock market crash that started the Great Depression, Marston moved his family to California in 1929 to start his own independent film company – surprise, surprise, it folded.
Marston is credited with designing and implementing the first lie detector machine, though his wife helped with its implementation. His obsession with people telling the truth and figuring out who was more truthful or telling the truth, translated into Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth. He did a lot of other studies, which were considered quite controversial at the time.
As for his time writing Wonder Woman? Well, he was asked by Max Gaines to be a panelist to assure his nay-sayers that his comics were not corrupting the youth of the time and that comics were actually a good thing. Marston said this about comics at the time, “the comics’ worst offense was their blood-curdling masculinity. The best way to fend off critics would be to create a female superhero.” Gaines agreed, but with one condition; Marston had to write the comic.
Now, Wonder Woman, if you’ve read all of the comics, is strongly associated with the feminist movement – until Robert Kanigher took over the comic strip.
Kanigher made Wonder Woman a babysitter, a fashion model, and a movie star. She gave advice to the lovelorn, as the author of a lonely-hearts newspaper advice column. Her new writer also abandoned a regular feature, “The Wonder Women of History”—a four-page centerfold in every issue, containing a biography of a woman of achievement. He replaced it with a series about weddings, called “Marriage à la Mode.”
~ The New Yorker
Thankfully, as time went by and she was revamped again and again. She has returned slightly to her roots in feminism, but not to the degree they used to be.
That’s how she was created. The rest is what we call history.
The Smithsonian has a fantastic article that outlines all of this in a lot better and more detailed way than I have here. Just click on the link and check it out for yourself. Also, you can check out The New Yorker’s article on the history of Wonder Woman as well – it was also well done and explores more of the history of everyone in the photos above.
The Critique of the Movie
I literally, just said a paragraph and a bit ago, that Wonder Woman has lost a bit of her feminist edge over the years, which is true in a lot of ways. However, she is still sporting that feminist principle.
This movie literally moves me, and a lot of other people to tears (yes, literal tears), because it’s a first for a lot of different reasons:
- THIS IS THE FIRST SUCCESSFUL FEMALE SUPERHERO MOVIE EVER MADE.
- THIS IS THE FIRST FEMALE SUPERHERO MOVIE PERIOD. Catwoman (2004) and Elektra (2005) are literally the only two other female superhero movies that have been produced since the beginning of superheroes and film. So the fact that Wonder Woman was produced and made 1.23 trillion dollars as of September 19, 2017 – so far, which makes this a phenomenal movie. It’s done even better than the Superman vs Batman: Dawn of Justice, which did great opening weekend and then did progressively worse as time went on.
- Patty Jenkins kicked butt with her directing skills.
- She did this thing where she got her costume department to look into functional fighting gear for her Amazonian warriors.
- She cast body builders, fitness gurus and trainers among others to be her Amazonian fighters (real women people!).
- She didn’t just focus on the gratuitous sex appeal to sell her movie. There were no explicit “this is a woman’s chest/butt/thigh isn’t it wonderful, boys?” shots that made sure it would turn a male audience on. If there were body shots framed it was because the focus was on the muscle or the movement that person was doing.
- She allowed women to be women. She told her Amazons to show pain and emotion when they got hurt or a friend died. She reminded them that they weren’t robots and that showing emotion doesn’t make you less fierce, but more so. It’s also about letting women being natural and human – not something to be worshiped one the pages of a magazine, though there are elements of perfectionism in the movie itself.
- Her action shots and scenes are just beautiful to watch.
Those are just some of the wonderful things that happened in this film. The biggest thing that it does is it hits upon the traditions of the Wonder Women before her and it gives future generations of women something to look up to and idealize that isn’t undercut in some way.
Now, I know all movies are not perfect and there are a lot of critics out there that have pointed things out for them not being factually true, etc. One thing we need to keep in mind is that this is still a work of fiction or fantasy. There’s this thing called creative license and directors and writer’s take advantage of it.
One creative license taken within the movie, were the types of guns and artillery used in the war scenes. Yes, they did not have fully automated machine guns at that time. However, most people seeing superhero movies expect to have a certain number of explosions and gun fire in major scenes. Fully automatic makes this a bit more intense.
Also our esteemed false Ares, General Erich Ludendorff, was an actual human being and general in World War I. He was known to be a very good general with an over inflated ego and bad political manners. He got himself kicked out of the German army, after placing the German army into a bind that called for an immediate Armistice and for insulting the Kaiser, in 1918. He did survive World War I. I repeat he did not die in World War I, but he did die in 1937 at the ripe old age of 72. (Yes, he knew Hitler and no, he didn’t like him towards the end of his life.)
I have also heard that a lot of war veterans do not like how Wonder Woman downplays the sacrifices and lives lost by the men that did fight in the World War I trenches. I deeply admire and empathize with what our veterans have gone through. Remember to keep in ind that this is fiction, she does not exist and she never actually went through what our veterans did. She does represent the heroes of our time though. She does what no one thinks can ever happen and there were those people risking life and limb in order to fight what they perceive as right.
She also in this scene represents the women in World War I, and beyond, have done in those wars. It was not just men fighting in those wars, especially during World War II. Those women do deserve to be recognized. Without them, many of the fighters in this war wouldn’t have had the equipment they needed to fight if women didn’t take over in those factories, or sending those memos between generals, or fighting to keep the wounded alive as they assisted doctors in saving the injured.
Ultimately, though, outside the war, this is Wonder Woman becoming the savior that the world needed at that moment. The one wanting to save the human race from its destructive side and believing that she can. This is something many veterans during World War I signed up to do. If you don’t believe me, then go read some Wilfred Owen poems and get back to me on that. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, has the naivety of youth that suggests that she can do anything that she sets out to do and make the world a better place because she has been raised to be good and decent and that others should follow her example.
My own personal gripe with the movie was with the love plot throughout the film.
She is so kick butt in so many different ways and her Achilles heel is her love for Steve Trevor. He’s what makes her want to fight Ares. His love is what makes her go on and finish the mission she set out to do. She kills Ares out of revenge – just a little bit. It is definitely implied that Ares is the reason that World War I started in the first place, so he could finish his mission of eradicating humans from the planet. If Ares hadn’t started the war then Steve would still be alive kind of revenge. On the more altruistic side of things, she also didn’t want him to die in vain either. If she didn’t finish Ares off then his plan would continue until he succeeded.
However, Also doing my research into Marston, this plot line makes a bit of sense. He was very interested in studying the psychology around desire and sex, which is one of the reasons why he got fired from so many university jobs. His research was a lit sensational. Marston also had a lot of feminist influence in his life – being related, kinda, to Margaret Sanger had an affect on him. He, in the comics, used a lot of symbolism that the feminists and suffragettes were using involves chains and being stuck to the patriarchal way of life. She would repeatedly break free of those chains.
The concept behind this was to do so in a love filled way. Not with violence. When Ares has her imprisoned in those tank tread/chain things, a case can be made that this is her breaking free of the patriarchal chains that don’t allow women to fight or have a say and for her to fight for love and the love lost. I believe that it is a homage to the original comics. To reassure a long dead William Moulton Marston that feminism is still being served in new ways within the film.
My final thoughts, it’s a good film without it’s underlying themes, motifs and feminism. It’s even better with those things recognized and poured over. It is a historical moment in recent cinematic history and I really cannot wait for the sequel to come out (Nov 1st, 2019, I am told – EEEEEEE!!!!!). There are some historical inaccuracies within the movie that are, for the most part, forgivable. The only big criticism I can find for the film is the veterans feeling like they’re getting usurped by a fictional character, which they are not. It was still the soldiers that took out the Germans on the other side of those trenches, not Wonder Woman herself – she just held the fire back from them.
Most importantly though, I as a woman, have someone to look up to in a cinematic, superhero universe that I can be unashamedly be proud of. She’s human in so many ways and she’s a real woman, with morals and a kick butt, I can do anything attitude. She has flaws and she does mind them. She’s there to help the human race move forward, hopefully, to a new beginning.
That’s it, that’s all for today. Later this week I do want to touch on ghost writing, then next week I want to touch on freelance writing. After that, I want to take a look at world building or themes – I haven’t decided what order I want that to go.
Great overview of the background. I enjoyed the show as a child, saw the film. The biggest problem for me with the movie was the mixed mythology. Unlike you, I haven’t done the research! Overall, I’m happy to see a female super hero!
Really enjoyed reading it
I didn’t do very much research into the mythology. This post was already very long. So, if you caught something I missed then totally let me know! 🙂
Agreed! It was great seeing a female superhero and seeing her done justice.
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