Where in the World is Wonder Woman?

Curator's Note

This post was co-authored by Deborah Tudor & Eileen Meehan

We are looking  beyond our case study of Star Trek and National Amusements toward another segment of U.S movie production, the superhero movie. Here again we have media operations that are sometimes referred to as if they were independent — DC Comic and Warner Bros Studio, both owned by Time Warner — and a female executive — DC’s president Diane Nelson.

One consistently popular DC character that seems doomed to development hell is Wonder Woman. Despite the various WW projects announced in the past few years, the only one to be produced was a 2009 DC Animations/Warner Bros. film that went straight to Blu-Ray. We ask why?

DC Comics President Diane Nelson said  that Wonder Woman is “tricky’, too “iconic” and lacking a single, clear origin story, which is incorrect, as any reader of DC comics knows. Nelson  cites her “mythological” origin, an Amazon princess,  as an obstacle for viewers. That didn’t stop the producers of the Thor movies. The fact that she is identified with fighting the Nazis during WWII means she’s too historically-bound. That didn’t stop Captain America from getting a franchise.

Studios consider women superhero films risky and tricky. Media commentators point to “reasonable” fears by studios that female-centered super hero films will fail, remembering Supergirl (1984) and Catwoman (2004). The current success of Hunger Games hasn’t punctured that belief. Yet failed male superhero films are not considered a barrier to further production. Remember Green Lantern?

If not movies, what about TV? David E. Kelley’s recent attempt to jump start a Wonder Woman series failed to get picked up. In the absence of Wonder Woman on the big screen or television, fans have filled the gap with productions. Currently, one of the most popular is Rainfall TV’s short trailer. It shows Wonder Woman fighting bad guys in our world and battling monsters with her sisters on Paradise Island.

Studio personnel’s arguments  point to an enduring cultural phenomenon: women are considered difficult to represent as autonomous characters. This stems from ideological notions that women are enigmas, and a tradition of . “What do women want?”, “Men are From Mars, Women Are From Venus”, and countless “I don’t understand women today” blogs and articles online. The biggest obstacle to a Wonder Woman film is the inability of our culture to see women clearly.

Comments

William Proctor's picture

Where is Wonder Woman?

Thanks for your post. The rumour is that Wonder Woman will feature in the sequel to Man of Steel. Internet sites point towards Jamie Alexander as a possibility. There has been a TV script doing the rounds at Time Warner for a year or so tentatively called ‘Amazon.’ I think that it becomes necessary for DC to treat this character with respect. The pilot for the TV reboot that did not get picked up is abysmal. I am currently beginning a research project which looks into the Wonder Woman character by doing audience research & giving both fans and creators to speak about this contentious and frequently abused creation. I am interested in reading Grant Morrison’s forthcoming ‘Wonder Woman: The Trial of Diana Prince’. In interviews, Morrison has stated that he has researched the history of feminism for this publication and, in my opinion, he could do the character justice. Although there is no Wonder Woman film as yet, Wonder Woman has been in constant publication for almost seventy-five years. But many fans believe that she is ‘not’ Wonder Woman - which Talking Comics’ Mara Wood says about the latest DC Comics’ version written by Brian Azzarello as more of a horror comic. In general, recent runs by Greg Rucka and Gail Simone have been touted as seminal for treating the character right.

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