The Importance of Representation
I’m just gonna lay this out here immediately: superheroes are awesome, and I have never met any person who does not like at least one famous superhero, whether that be Iron Man, Black Widow, Superman, or Batgirl, or any of the literally hundreds of other superheroes out there.
You know what else is awesome? Representation. Being able to relate to characters in books or at the movies creates a strong connection between you and that character, and it isn’t necessary to see a copy of yourself on-screen or in other media in order to relate.
When you combine these two things, and get heroes that are representative of the audience reading or watching their stories, there is a magical effect. The company producing those works gets a wider audience that is excited to support it, and the audience gets stories about heroes that look like them, sound like them, live similar lives, and have similar problems and responsibilities. And that is one of the coolest things ever.
That’s why Wonder Woman’s debut in the 1940’s was so important. Women got a female superhero with all the best attributes of the Greek gods fighting for them! I’m trying to imagine living in that time period and I think I’d just be outrageously excited about a woman fighting for my rights as a woman.
And since Wonder Woman is, as Dr. Ganyard said, the longest-running female superhero comic, and excuse my language here, it just goes to show how just how damned awesome people thought (and continue to think) she is. So when a writer like Gardner Fox shoves her to the side in favor of writing what all the male superheroes must do as he does in the All-Star Comics, it’s really discouraging for women to feel important.
As I’m sure most of you have figured out by now, I’m a feminist, which means I care a whole freaking lot about women feeling important. So, as both a superhero enthusiast and an equality enthusiast, I’m a pretty big fan of Wonder Woman. However, I realize that the comics she first appears in are not nearly as progressive as they could or should be–but we must take into account that we’re looking at the past from our present viewpoints, as has been said so many times in class discussion before.
I think that the way Wonder Woman is represented (when she’s not being written out of the story by writers like Gardner Fox) in the early comics we’ve been reading which feature her is fantastic. Someone made the comment about how she’s not sexualized (and by that I mean objectified), and apart from her first introduction to Washington, I don’t think she is, either. I think that’s really quite forward-thinking of Marston to have created a woman who isn’t the center of attention because she’s sexy, and that she has creative powers like superspeed and super strength instead of just being some kind of sex object who happens to get her way because of it. She is more than her looks, because she is beautiful, as we’re told constantly in the comics, just as the women she fights for are far more than just pretty faces meant to sit around and do housework while their husbands play the role of the breadwinner.
Wonder Woman isn’t a “cheap hero,” either. She is more than a hack-‘n-slash robot who just goes around beating up bad guys for the fun of it. She has her godly attributes and her lasso of truth and bracelets. Personally, I think of Wonder Woman as a sort of Greek hero whose patron god is Athena, the wise warrior goddess. I view her fighting style as defensive–meaning that she fights in order to protect others; she doesn’t seek conflict for the sake of conflict. I think this is really important because it shows that Wonder Woman wants to protect, not attack, which is essentially what feminists want as well (to protect and defend and encourage gender equality, not attack men).
She’s fiercely protective of girls (in the sense that she wants them to be equal to boys), especially, as seen here, when she teaches a young girl how to “sword fight”:
Sources: Wonder Woman comics (All-Star Comics, Sensation Comics)
BRND MYR. “Unleash Hell, little one.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 20 Sep. 2010. Web. 16 Apr. 2015.