Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Woman Woman!

That's what my nephew thought they were singing in the theme song for the 1970's "Wonder Woman" TV series. He'd run around in a circle in my sister's living room yelling "Woman woman!" whenever an episode came on the local UHF station. What does this have to do with anything, you ask? Well, I needed a lighthearted introduction to my imminent treatise on the stalled film adaptation of Wonder Woman. Didja enjoy it? No? Really?

As a former owner of Wonder Woman Underoos and as a current fan of Joss Whedon's, I was disappointed to learn that he'd cut ties from the forthcoming picture. The relationship was apparently sacrificed to the god of Creative Differences, which could mean anything from...well, anything. Wonder Woman's pretty much the only female superhero who can go toe-to-toe with any of the DC pantheon of male superheroes (this includes Superman and Batman, yo). So I care about what happens to her and how she's portrayed on the silver screen. Color me geeky, but I do.

So, where does a girl go to get info on movies if she doesn't have a subscription to Variety? Well, the Internet Movie Database, of course. Fine, there are like a billion movie biz websites out there, but this is where I go because I like the comments feature. And, man alive, I had me a laugh at the Wonder Woman comments section. It's fascinating that the vast, vast majority of ordinary folks out there are pleading with the producers to cast this or that Hollywood twiglet as the mythic Amazon. The pin thin (and vertically challenged) candidates don't exactly fit the comic book character's 6', 165 lb. build, so I'm guessing they aren't making the short list. Har har.

Here's the thing, though...

While I respect the desire to see someone appropriate play the part, I'm more curious about the plot, the setting, the villain, and all of that blah-dee-blah-blah. So what gives with the dearth of narrative curiosity from other Wonder Woman fans?

Mainly, I think Wonder Woman's biggest appeal to the masses is that she looks pretty hot whilst kicking villainous azz. Face it, the iconic image of Wonder Woman revolves around a pretty fetishized get-up. What do I mean by fetishized? Well, let's see... Bustier + Bloomers* + Knee high boots = Dominatrix. Honestly, if Wonder Woman's articles of, ahem, clothing were black instead of their customary red, white and blue glory, she'd look more like a denizen of an S&M club than a Princess. To wit:
That's a shot of Angelina Jolie playing a hitwoman who's gone undercover as a dominatrix in 2005's "Mr. and Mrs. Smith." Tell me her wardrobe for that scene doesn't bear a striking (again, har har) resemblance to Diana Prince's workout gear. Go on, I dare ya! If you read up on creator William Moulton Marston, you'll find that he was a feminist who believed that women's notion of freedom "leads to an ideal state of submission to loving authority." No great surprise, then, that he looked to bondage gear as inspiration for his Feminine Ideal's every-day-wear.

Wow, huge digression. Sorry. All of this blather is a chunk of ineloquent scaffolding for this point: the Wonder Woman screenplay could be the most elegantly designed tale since Homer waxed poetic, and the public, including women, would mostly be interested in the physical appeal of the actress.

But is that the only reason that people aren't caring about the story? Nah. Wonder Woman is s'posed to be perfect, and boy howdy, nothing kills a dramatic arc like a lack of dynamism in a character. If your character's already perfect, where do you go from there? Very, very few places. There was an interesting spin in Greg Rucka's run in which Wonder Woman breaks the thou-shalt-not-kill coda of the DC hero universe, but it was for a Good Reason. She did it to prevent a master of mind control from using Superman as a devastating and unstoppable puppet. (Wow, did I ever just overdraft on my cool kid cred.)

But is Machiavellian moral relativism a good hook for a popcorn flick? Methinks not. You could go the route of the 1978 Superman and show the origin story, plus one of the first encounters with a big bad guy. Even that wouldn't really work, though. Superman's origin is rife with tragedy (hello, orphaned scion of a destroyed planet!), and humble beginnings (hello, America's breadbasket!). And there's the whole parallel drawn between Superman and Christ. Nope, you just can't go wrong with a good savior angle. Ooh, and everyone knows that Superman's arch enemy is Lex Luthor, and seeing those two battle wits and weapons satisfies the gooey pop culture part of our souls.

Wonder Woman, on the other hand, can go home to her island utopia any old time she wants to and hang out with her Mom. Oh, and she's a princess. With a polytheistic bent. And she doesn't have an iconic enemy that really gets under her skin. Hmph.

She's actually a lot like a girl I knew in college who was incredibly attractive, bright, gifted, and kind, who would vacay with her wealthy parents when she was a little stressed. Which wasn't often, because you know...she's was also incredibly competent, patient, and capable. Which superhero do you think your average American relates to best? A loner farmer? Or a princess with a wide network of support?

My guess is that the film will ultimately have to be one of those "Heavy is the head that wears the crown" deals. With lots of smashing. And Victoria's Secret product placements.

*You could call them panties, but I think she's pretty athletic so I'm going to go with what I had to wear under my field hockey uniform in high school.

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