Wonder Woman and costumed heroines...briefly

Posted by Tim Posada On 1:15 AM
So I just watched the animated cartoon Wonder Woman that came out on video last week. It was created by the same animators that created Superman: Doomsday, which was rather entertaining. As many know, I'm a huge fan of comics, though the Marvel Universe has my hearts many times more than DC Comics. Still, Wonder Woman was actually quite enjoyable, which makes her terrible costume all the more tragic. There's a reason no one has brought her story to the big screen (though Buffy creator Joss Whedon was actually begged for the job a couples years back), the outfit is dated and far too ridiculous. I was watching this cartoon and enjoying the mythology I was presented with: Amazon woman fight the god of war Aries, and after a great battle Zeus orders their queen to inprison Aries rather than slay him; years later, the Amazons live in isolation from the rest of the world until an Air Force pilot crashes on the island; Aries escapes and brings his warlust to the U.S., influencing all men towards their weaker and more violent sides; Wonder Woman, with an army of Amazon women, take on a god; Wonder Woman then finds her way back into society, finding a man to love--but he's the one waiting up for her, preparing dinner. But as I enjoyed this cartoon that had a generic feminist undertone, I couldn't help but laugh at how the costume undermines the point.

Are we really supposed to take the idea of "girl power" seriously in comics if the woman are still dressed like their dominatrix counterparts so many years ago? Wonder Woman, Catwoman, and so many more desperately need new looks. The latest trend in Hollywood has been to take their cues from the fanboy, an affectionate term for crazed fans who have dedicated years of their lives obsessing over cult phenomenons like Star Trek, Star Wars, and comics. And it should be easy to guess the sex of this cultural movement from the name and the general views of femininity often presented. I know the fanboy wouldn't want to see Wonder Womnan's costume change in any potential film versions of her, but it needs to happen. Sure, leave the red, white, and blue colours, but give her some pants and some bra support. It's been going on long enough, let the male gaze take on a different shape than it's usual sexism.

Since I'm talking about the female costume, it seems appropriate to bring up Watchmen as well. I recently turned in my review on Watchmen, in which I critiqued the film pretty intensely. The editor I send my articles in to at the newspaper emailed me back, telling me she agreed with my criticism of the film but also thought the worst thing about the film was its treatment of women. The treatment of women she's referring to is also in the graphic novel. There's a rape, an execution of a pregnant woman, and general distancing from seeing women as heroes (the Silk Spectre's number one strength in the story is her female role in relation to convincing Dr. Manhattan to save the world--something a man couldn't have done). I often don't know what to do with this part of the story, but I'll have a chance to really get into it when my Biola English class goes through the graphic novel. Writer Alan Moore is a very fatalistic man, and for these negative portrayals of women, he creates many more negative views of men. He's just fatalistic throughout the work (and, based on interviews with the man, his life seems to reflect his narrative negativity).

Comics were created for a male audience, but times are changing--though the demographic hasn't changed that much. But just because men are the primary consumers doesn't mean the adolescent bias should continue. Many are discussing how comics have been moving from low culture to pop culture to high culture. If the medium truly wants to make it to the top, it needs to cloth the females, get rid of the general stereotypes, and start to truly see things differently.

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