I was giving some thought to Wonder Woman last night. I’ve been rereading DC’s Crisis stuff lately, starting with Identity Crisis and moving on through the Infinite Crisis. I’ll start in on reading 52 again sometime soon. I’m still grappling with whether I liked the ending of Final Crisis, and I thought it might be useful to reread from the beginning. It’s quite a bit – we’re talking several year’s worth of stories here, stories that have reshaped the DC Universe. Wonder Woman features pretty prominently in the early portions of the Crisis series.
It’s hard not to love Wonder Woman. She’s mind-staggeringly beautiful, powerful, and noble. She’s regal. When she tells someone she believes in them, you can’t help but believe in them, too. She exudes infectious confidence. And she’s got a bit of a dark streak in her; you know she’ll do what’s necessary to triumph, which occasionally brings her into conflict with other heroes and gets her into trouble. When Darkseid corrupts her at the beginning of Final Crisis, you know the world is in for some rocky times.
She’s kind of a difficult character to get a handle on. A lot of people only know her from the old television series. I think if you told them that her rogues gallery was full of gods and mythical monsters rather than mobsters, and that she could fly and is one of the few people who could stand up to (okay, slow down for a few seconds) Superman, they’d probably think you were crazy. I’m guessing she’s quite difficult to write, too, as there are hardly any definitive Wonder Woman stories laying around. Most of what I’ve read of her involves the Justice League.
What I find most fascinating about Diana is the disconnect between her and the rest of the world. She comes from a paradise full of women. She has only a vague concept of the effect she has on the men around her. She has little more than her training, her mission, and her innate sense of justice (justice that doesn’t necessarily match up with our own) to get through her adventures in man’s world.
So I guess this is where I hit a snag. What makes her interesting to me is probably what undermines her as a feminist icon. Ultimately, who the hell is she to tell women they need to stand up and fight for what’s right? What has she experienced that the common woman can identify with? Sure, she can give some great tips on how to wear a brass bra, but is she the person you go to when you find out your boss has been stingy with your pay raises for the past 20 years? Has anyone ever sneered at her for gaining five pounds? Has some jackass threatened her if she wants to cut her hair? Not likely.
Don’t get me wrong, I think she’s something fantastic to aspire to. She seems like a great end result. But what does it mean if to get there you can’t have gone through all the shit that real women have to go through? Or is it enough to simply have something to look up to, regardless of the potential for the common person to achieve that greatness?
[I should note that I’ve kind of always had more of a thing for her sister and former Wonder Girl, Donna Troy. Le sigh.]