[Marxism] Fwd: Wonder Woman’s Secret Past

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Sep 15 06:40:39 MDT 2014


The Last Amazon
Wonder Woman returns.

BY JILL LEPORE

The Wonder Woman Family Museum occupies a one-room bunker beneath a 
two-story house on a hilly street in Bethel, Connecticut. It contains 
more than four thousand objects. Their arrangement is higgledy-piggledy. 
There are Wonder Woman lunchboxes, face masks, coffee mugs, a Frisbee, 
napkins, record-players, T-shirts, bookends, a trailer-hitch cover, 
plates and cups, pencils, kites, and, near the floor, a pressed-aluminum 
cake mold, her breasts like cupcakes. A cardboard stand holds Pez 
dispensers, red, topped with Wonder Woman’s head. Wonder Woman backpacks 
hang from hooks; sleeping bags are rolled up on a shelf. On a 
ten-foot-wide stage whose backdrop depicts ancient Greece—the Parthenon 
atop the Acropolis—Hippolyte, queen of the Amazons, a life-size 
mannequin wearing sandals and a toga, sits on a throne. To her left 
stands her daughter, Princess Diana, a mannequin dressed as Wonder 
Woman: a golden tiara on top of a black wig; a red bustier embossed with 
an American eagle, its wings spread to form the letters “WW”; a blue 
miniskirt with white stars; bracelets that can stop bullets; a golden 
lasso strapped to her belt; and, on her feet, super-kinky knee-high red 
boots. Nearby, a Wonder Woman telephone rests on a glass shelf. The 
telephone is unplugged.

Superman débuted in 1938, Batman in 1939, Wonder Woman in 1941. She was 
created by William Moulton Marston, a psychologist with a Ph.D. from 
Harvard. A press release explained, “ ‘Wonder Woman’ was conceived by 
Dr. Marston to set up a standard among children and young people of 
strong, free, courageous womanhood; to combat the idea that women are 
inferior to men, and to inspire girls to self-confidence and achievement 
in athletics, occupations and professions monopolized by men” because 
“the only hope for civilization is the greater freedom, development and 
equality of women in all fields of human activity.” Marston put it this 
way: “Frankly, Wonder Woman is psychological propaganda for the new type 
of woman who should, I believe, rule the world.”

The house in Bethel belongs to Marston’s oldest son, Moulton Marston. 
He’s eighty-six. Everyone calls him Pete. “I started it six or seven 
years ago when I had so much Wonder Woman stuff lying around,” he says. 
A particular strength of the collection is its assortment of Wonder 
Woman dolls, action figures, and statuary. They come in every size, in 
ceramic, paper, rubber, plastic, and cloth; jointed, inflatable, and 
bobble-headed. Most are posed standing, legs astride, arms akimbo, fists 
clenched, half sassy, half badass. In a corner, blue eye-shadowed, 
pouty-lipped Wonder Woman Barbie dolls, tiaras missing, hair unkempt, 
have been crammed into a Wonder Woman wastebasket.

Many of the objects in the Wonder Woman Family Museum date to the 
nineteen-seventies, when DC Comics, which owns Superman, Batman, and 
Wonder Woman, was newly affiliated with Warner Bros. Between 1975 and 
1979, Warner Bros. produced a Wonder Woman TV series, starring Lynda 
Carter, a former beauty queen. Since 1978, Warner Bros. has made six 
Superman films and eight Batman films, but, to the consternation of 
Wonder Woman fans, there has never been a Wonder Woman film. This is 
about to change. Last December, Warner Bros. announced that Wonder Woman 
would have a role in an upcoming Superman-and-Batman film, and that, in 
a three-movie deal, Gal Gadot, a lithe Israeli model, had signed on to 
play the part. There followed a flurry of comments about her anatomical 
insufficiency for the role.

“It’s been said that you’re too skinny,” an interviewer told Gadot on 
Israeli television. “Wonder Woman is large-breasted.”

“Wonder Woman is Amazonian,” Gadot said, smiling coyly. “And 
historically accurate Amazonian women actually had only one breast.” 
(They cut off the other one, the better to wield a bow.)

The film, being shot this summer and fall in Detroit and Chicago, is a 
sequel to last year’s “Man of Steel,” directed by Zack Snyder, with 
Henry Cavill as Superman. For the new film, Ben Affleck was cast as 
Batman. One critic tweeted this suggestion for a title: “BATMAN VS. 
SUPERMAN WITH ALSO SOME WONDER WOMAN IN THERE SO SIT DOWN LADIES WE’RE 
TREATING YOU FINE: THE MOVIE.” Warner Bros. has yet to dispel this 
impression. In May, the company announced that the film would be called 
“Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.”

“You can talk all you want about other superhero movies, but it’s Batman 
and Superman, let’s just be honest,” Snyder said in an interview with 
USA Today in July. “I don’t know how you get bigger than that.”

The much cited difficulties regarding putting Wonder Woman on 
film—Wonder Woman isn’t big enough, and neither are Gal Gadot’s 
breasts—aren’t chiefly about Wonder Woman, or comic books, or 
superheroes, or movies. They’re about politics. Superman owes a debt to 
science fiction, Batman to the hardboiled detective. Wonder Woman’s debt 
is to feminism. She’s the missing link in a chain of events that begins 
with the woman-suffrage campaigns of the nineteen-tens and ends with the 
troubled place of feminism a century later. Wonder Woman is so hard to 
put on film because the fight for women’s rights has gone so badly.

“In the days of ancient Greece, many centuries ago, we Amazons were the 
foremost nation in the world,” Hippolyte explains to her daughter in 
“Introducing Wonder Woman,” the character’s début, in a 1941 issue of 
All-Star Comics. “In Amazonia, women ruled and all was well.” Alas, that 
didn’t last: men conquered and made women slaves. The Amazons escaped, 
sailing across the ocean to an uncharted island where they lived in 
peace for centuries until, one day, Captain Steve Trevor, a U.S. Army 
officer, crashed his plane there. “A man!” Princess Diana cries when she 
finds him. “A man on Paradise Island!” After rescuing him, she flies him 
in her invisible plane to “America, the last citadel of democracy, and 
of equal rights for women!”

Wonder Woman’s origin story comes straight out of feminist utopian 
fiction. In the nineteenth century, suffragists, following the work of 
anthropologists, believed that something like the Amazons of Greek myth 
had once existed, a matriarchy that predated the rise of patriarchy. 
“The period of woman’s supremacy lasted through many centuries,” 
Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote in 1891. In the nineteen-tens, this idea 
became a staple of feminist thought. The word “feminism,” hardly ever 
used in the United States before 1910, was everywhere by 1913. The 
suffrage movement had been founded on a set of ideas about women’s 
supposed moral superiority. Feminism rested on the principle of 
equality. Suffrage was a single, elusive political goal. Feminism’s 
demand for equality was far broader. “All feminists are suffragists, but 
not all suffragists are feminists,” as one feminist explained. They 
shared an obsession with Amazons.

In 1913, Max Eastman, a founder of the New York Men’s League for Woman 
Suffrage and the editor of The Masses, published “Child of the Amazons 
and Other Poems.” In the title poem, an Amazonian girl falls in love 
with a man but can’t marry him until “the far age when men shall cease/ 
Their tyranny, Amazons their revolt.” The next year, Inez Haynes 
Gillmore, who, like Mary Woolley, the president of Mount Holyoke 
College, had helped found college suffrage leagues, published a novel 
called “Angel Island,” in which five American men are shipwrecked on a 
desert island that turns out to be inhabited by “super-humanly 
beautiful” women with wings, who, by the end of the novel, walk “with 
the splendid, swinging gait of an Amazon.”

Gillmore and Max Eastman’s sister Crystal were members of Heterodoxy, a 
group of Greenwich Village feminists. So was Charlotte Perkins Gilman. 
In 1915, Gilman published “Herland,” in which women live free from men, 
bearing only daughters, by parthenogenesis. (On Paradise Island, Queen 
Hippolyte carves her daughter out of clay.) In these stories’ stock 
plots, men are allowed to live with women only on terms of equality, 
and, for that to happen, there has to be a way for the men and women to 
have sex without the women getting pregnant all the time. The women in 
Gilman’s utopia practice what was called “voluntary motherhood.” “You 
see, they were Mothers, not in our sense of helpless involuntary 
fecundity,” Gilman wrote, “but in the sense of Conscious Makers of 
People.” At the time, contraception was illegal. In 1914, Margaret 
Sanger, another Greenwich Village feminist who attended meetings of 
Heterodoxy, started a magazine called The Woman Rebel, in which she 
coined the phrase “birth control” and insisted that “the right to be a 
mother regardless of church or state” was the “basis of Feminism.”

full: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/09/22/last-amazon



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