Can Wonder Woman live up to all the hype?
Here's why Jane Fae has mixed feelings about the hotly anticipated new superhero film.
I am so not looking forward to the release of Wonder Woman this week.
Don't get me wrong. It's wonderful: at last a film that centres one of the most iconic images of fictional womanhood ever. And if early critical hints prove accurate, it is on course to be mega: a smash hit that, finally, will help Warner redress the almighty balance banked by Marvel.
No: this is more not-looking-forward, the way I don't look forward to Christmas. Because the best thing about Christmas is that it lies in the future: the sum of all our expectations. Whereas, like even the bestest most mind-shattering orgasm, Christmas, once come, leaves little to look forward to. Likewise, the weight of expectation heaped on this film by my circle – by geekgirls and feminists, queers and lesbians - is starting to feel impossible.
It can't tick all the boxes. Better, perhaps, it stay forever in a state of schrodinger's cattiness: a film of infinite possibility, forever not quite actualised.
Since we can do nothing now, except wait for Thursday and the grand preview, let's open some boxes and manage expectations just a teensy bit.
Let's start with the most obvious. Wonder Woman is – shock! horror! - a woman, and a pretty kick-ass woman to boot. As such, she joins a short but growing list of kick-ass women from Elsa (Frozen) to Harley Quinn (Suicide Squad) and even, to a lesser extent, Carina (Pirates of the Caribbean 5) turning the simpering damsel in distress cliché very firmly on its head.
Of course, role reversal, on its own, does not a feminist film make. But there is a particular and interesting subversion associated with Wonder Woman that I hope to see repeated on Thursday. Just rewind to her incredible arrival in Batman vs Superman. That film, apart from being overlong and less than sparkling, is mostly a pissing contest. The two superlads spend most of the movie thumping one another, while Lex Luthor gets on with his evil plan for world domination.
It is only a reference to the significant woman in each of their lives – Superman's stepmum, and Batman's actual mother - that persuades them to bury their differences and join forces to face the real enemy. Yet, even together, they are not up to the task and it is just as they are at their lowest, facing imminent destruction, that Wonder Woman makes her iconic entrance, jumping in in front of them, and raising her shield to fend off their enemy.
At that moment I joined thousands of other geekgirls across the world, melting to hot puddle on my cinema seat.
For the resistance, as we have been learning, is female: from Women's March USA to czarnyprotest Poland and nonunadimeno in Italy; and this moment sealed it. Wonder Woman is a grown up, unlike blonde imposter supergirl, and unlike the squabbling boys. That moment is now especially poignant as it turns out that the other shield-bearing icon, Captain America, may have turned decisively to the alt-dark.
Box two. Wonder Woman already features highly in slashfic as Lesbian/queer lust object, and pre-publicity marketing toys artfully with that demographic by hinting at her less-than-straightness. In respect of the comic version of her character, writer Greg Rucka has confirmed that she has had relations with other women: is canonically queer.
The response from Gal Gadot, who plays Wonder Woman in the movie, is interesting. Elaborating on the Rucka interview, she said: "It’s not something we’ve explored. It never came to the table, but when you talk theoretically about all the women on Themyscira [a female-only island] and how many years she was there, then what he said makes sense.
"In this movie she does not experience any bisexual relationships. But it’s not about that. She’s a woman who loves people for who they are. She can be bisexual. She loves people for their hearts."
Translation: you can imagine her any way you like, but like Xena Warrior Princess, with whom she has much in common, we're not actually going there. Because this is mainstream: and we're after box office hit. And just look what happened when Disney stuck two seconds of gay flirtation in Beauty and the Beast.
Besides, Chris Pine is already written in as the love interest, and last time we looked, he was definitely a guy!
Last up and cannot be ignored, is Wonder Woman's prominent position in kink literature.
Because like it or not, that association has been there from the start. The charge became official when crusading psychiatrist Fredric Wertham testified to a Congressional inquiry on the depraving effect of comics. Batman and Robin had a homoerotic sub-text: while Wonder Woman not only gave young girls the wrong idea about their status in the world, but could turn them lesbian. Horrors!
Dire warnings were issued, too, of a bdsm sub-text.
How we all laughed – especially when it was discovered he had invented much of the research on which these conclusions were based. Then, irony of ironies, it turned out that Wonder Woman's creator, William Marston, believed the world could only be saved if women took charge and men became more like women.
Marston was also a fan of bondage and believer in female supremacy, which might explain why Wonder Woman's primary weapon is a magic gold lariat she uses to compel others to obey her, not to mention a great deal of gratuitous spanking in early stories.
But as sexual orientation, so sex. There may be kink, subtle sub-text for those who look closely: yet, again, this is mainstream and it would never do to frighten the kiddies.
Or, indeed, the menz. Because – here's a thought! – some venues in the US are putting on women-only showings, where female fans can go and watch their hero kick ass without the inevitable mansplaining likely to follow in a mixed space.
Last word to @sapphicgeek from twitter (otherwise, Mary, manager of a comic shop somewhere in Indiana, and perhaps the only person I know more eagerly anticipating this week's release than I). She tweets: suffering Sappho , I can't freaking wait anymore.
I second that emotion.
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