Thursday, April 19, 2007

Make Mine Amazonian: A Brief Review of Wonder Woman #7

The Suffragettes understood the difficulty of discussing pressing concerns during larger, national and international crises, Gentle Reader. When The Great War broke out, they were expected to forgo their fight for The Larger Fight. Put down your placard and hammer, Sister Suffragette; the riveters need a Rosie, the boys need your support. When they continued to demand the Vote, on both sides of the Pond, they were chastised, condemned, and even physically hurt because of it.

But they kept on keeping on, fought the good fight, brought the government to reconciliation with its female population. The Suffragettes won the vote, a legal voice, decades, a century after the fight began In Earnest. They were called harridans, unsexed females (a term This Humble Author truly despises, the use of “females” rather than “women”), The Shrieking Sisterhood, the Damned Mob. They protested, hunger striked, broke windows and set fires, wrote letters upon letters upon letters, demanded justice and a voice and they got it, finally, after so much suffering, violence, pain, and even, in Emily Davison’s case, martyred death.

Women fought, bled, and died for This Humble Author to have The Right To Vote. They fought, bled, starved, and bruised for me to minor in Women’s Studies, for me to be a Feminist Scholar, for me to write a dissertation that in no small part is about them. Centuries upon centuries of suffering, Gentle Reader. Centuries. And it still hasn’t helped completely.

It. By It, I of course mean The Struggle for Women’s Rights. I mean Feminism. I mean that sometimes we tear ourselves down from the inside out.

So many of my Brother and Sister Bloggers have reviewed Wonder Woman #7, and all of them reviewed it well. As it was with #6, so it is with #7. There isn’t much I can add to the conversation. Wonder Woman is behaving in a strange, horrifying manner. She’s expressing concern over the broken body of a colleague, then dropping him because he, in a delusional pained state, makes an off-color joke. And she smiles, yes, *smiles*, Friends, while she does it.

Why does so much of popular culture insist that Feminism is about misandry? Why does so much of popular culture insist that Feminists hate men? Hate women? And, in all truth, hate themselves?

This Is Not My Wonder Woman.

I have been a Wonder Woman fan for over 25 years. I have read countless incarnations of her. I supported Diana Prince, lover of Steve Trevor. I supported Princess Diana, ambassador of peace. I even supported Wonder Woman, killer of Maxwell Lord, savior of humanity. And throughout this, I have always known that *Wonder Woman Is Not Human*.

Why, why, Friends, do so many try to insist she become so?

Wonder Woman is a fascinating character because she *isn’t* us. She has a different set of morals, skills, and requirements. She has a different sense of Justice. She is a Zealot, you might even say, for Justice. Blinded by it, literally, in the case of Rucka’s run, because she refuses, that’s right, *refuses* to stop her quest for justice.

She killed Maxwell Lord because that was the only way to protect those she was sworn to protect. She may experience regret, she may believe that she needs to understand humanity in order to return as its savior, but in the end, She Is Not Human.

And therein lies the rub, Gentle Reader. I don’t want a human Wonder Woman. Make mine Amazonian. Make mine Other. Make mine Princess Diana.

Why do we, as a society, try so hard to make the Other One Of Us? Why do we try to normalize, insist, yes, insist that there is a “Normal” in the first place? Why do we pretend that Wonder Woman is less alien than Superman, when in fact, she’s not? Or even that just because Batman happens to be Bruce Wayne, that he is human, and therefore “Normal”?

Why do we need our heroes to be Just Like Everyone Else?

I don’t know if I’ve said this before, Friends, but I adore Martian Manhunter. I adore him, specifically, because he is so alien. When he finds something human that he likes, he expresses nothing but Pure Joy (Oreos! Yes, Oreos!). I adore Hellboy for the same reason. Because both characters insist on being What They Want to Be, rather than What Others Expect Them To Be. Martian Manhunter is never as interesting as when he rejects his human form; Hellboy is never as interesting as when he rejects his demonic expectations.

Wonder Woman is never less interesting as when she caricaturizes Feminism.

She is a Symbol for Women’s Rights, has been for a few decades now, and despite her strange origins, she stands for Feminism, now. The problem is that so many producers of popular culture don’t really, truly understand what Feminism is. The reason is almost frighteningly simple, really, because *there is no one Feminism*.

That is to say, Feminism is not misandry. It’s not a She-Woman Man-Hating Club. It’s not a self-loathing cycle of despair, either. I am not a Feminist because I hate men. I am not a Feminist because I hate myself. Nor am I a Feminist because I hate other women, and want to fight them for any scrap of power I can grab.

I am a Feminist because I believe in equal rights. I am a Feminist because I believe that we live in a society that forces women into maternity, heterosexual imperatives, low-paying jobs, domesticity, self-hatred, particularly of their own bodies, proms, believing Math is Hard! and that Sci-Fi and Comics are for Boys! I am a Feminist because women *fought* and *died* for me, yes, *me*, to have more rights, various opportunities, and a better life than they themselves had. I am a Feminist because I believe Woman’s Story is mostly untold. I am a Feminist because I am physically stronger and intellectually smarter than some men, and not so much than others, and I’m completely okay with both. I am a Feminist because I believe Women should be whatever they want to be, whether that’s a CEO or a Stay-At-Home-Mom. Feminism gives us the Choice.

I am a Feminist because I believe in Choice.

I am a Feminist because I have the power to speak for those who can’t speak for themselves, and I therefore have the imperative to do so.

Wonder Woman became a Hero because she had the power to do so. She fought for the right to come and help “Man’s World,” or maybe she just had “Mother Issues,” but in the end, she has come to help. Yes, Friends, To Help. And if she’s soul-searching, or trying to find herself, or just taking a vacation, I support her. But if Becoming Human, or Finding Herself means that she no longer cares about people in pain, just because those people happen to be men? I can’t, in all good consciousness, believe that this is the same character that blinded herself to fight Medusa. Or that this is the same character that began said soul-searching in the first place because *she hurt and killed a human*.

Let’s bring back what’s truly interesting about Wonder Woman: her Otherness. The navigation of this world through *her* eyes. Her Amazonian Ideals. Her frightening sense of Pure Justice.

Make Mine Amazonian again, please.

16 comments:

Matthew E said...

So what's your take on what Simone has said about how she's going to write the character?

Shelly said...

What really saddens me is that a woman, whose novels receive excellent reviews and which touch upon issues of importance to women (I have a few but haven't gotten around to reading any yet), is the one who has written this, pardon the term, crap.

Picoult's Wonder Woman isn't a character; she's a caricature.

Amy Reads said...

Hi Matthew,
So what's your take on what Simone has said about how she's going to write the character?

It's been such a crazy week that I haven't even read any of the follow ups on Simone's taking over. Do you have some links for me?
Ciao,
Amy

Amy Reads said...

Hi Shelly,
What really saddens me is that a woman, whose novels receive excellent reviews and which touch upon issues of importance to women (I have a few but haven't gotten around to reading any yet), is the one who has written this, pardon the term, crap.
Picoult's Wonder Woman isn't a character; she's a caricature.


That definitely concerns me, but some part of me is hesitant to place all blame on her shoulders. DC makes several of the larger plot points, executively, don't they? I think it boils down to the fact that Picoult perhaps isn't familiar with the way that WW has been written over the past, say, ten years.
But the dropping thing? How is that acceptable for any character? I just don't understand.
Ciao,
Amy

Matthew E said...

Try here:

http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=108610

The good stuff starts at about the one WW picture with the blue background.

Matthew E said...

Let me try that again with HTML.

Link

The good stuff starts at about the one WW picture with the blue background.

Amy Reads said...

Hi Matthew,
Let me try that again with HTML.
Link
The good stuff starts at about the one WW picture with the blue background.


I think it sounds utterly wonderful! Thanks for the link! In particular, I agree with Simone's read of WW's battle style--if the Army comes, you call her in.

Also I adore the idea of creating new, interesting villains for her. Rucka did a great job bringing the gods in, but now that they've all left, I think WW needs more than just Cheetah and Giganta.

And I, too, am interested in the Diana Prince story. I think the question, Who is Diana Prince? is more interesting than, say, Who Is Wonder Woman?
Ciao,
Amy

Spider63 said...

Sadly, most of the superheroes have been re-written to hit target demographics, and the loyal fans have generally been kicked to the curb. That's the way it is, and why I gave up on comic books during the Spider-Man Clone Saga.

Amy Reads said...

Hi Spider,
Sadly, most of the superheroes have been re-written to hit target demographics, and the loyal fans have generally been kicked to the curb. That's the way it is, and why I gave up on comic books during the Spider-Man Clone Saga.

I had heard, rumor-wise, that DC was trying to "dumb down" Wonder Woman before the movie hit. That broke my heart in a million little pieces, not only because hey, no one should even joke about that, but also because the public would be a lot smarter if people stopped pretending it was so very dumb.
Ciao,
Amy

Sam said...

Really nice essay, you hit many of the aspects of Wonder Woman that really appeal to me. Good job!

Scott said...

I find that one of the signs that a writer doesn't know what to make of a character is when the character him-/herself wonders the same thing. I like to call it Hamlet Syndrome, wherein the characters just don't know what to do with themselves.

There are two things Greg Rucka did for Wonder Woman that I really liked: (1) He emphasized her as a warrior; and (2) He defined her place in the Trinity dynamic. She has strength like Superman, but isn't as "soft" as he is. And she has the same determination and warrior mentality as Batman, but isn't as hung up on the concept of human law and justice (which is why she is willing to kill when necessary). (Of course, putting herself through the legal system in Manhunter was more of an appeasing gesture than a display of faith in human justice.)

I'm sure people will debate this, but Rucka managed to convince me that Wonder Woman was actually better than either Superman or Batman. Both of those characters have certain lines they will not cross--Superman is afraid to cross it and Batman's faith in justice will not allow him to. But Wonder Woman is above all that. She's surpassed both of them when it comes to fighting the good fight.

Amy Reads said...

Hi Sam,
Really nice essay, you hit many of the aspects of Wonder Woman that really appeal to me. Good job!

Thanks so much! I have never recovered from my adolescent Wonder Woman obsession, and honestly, I'm quite happy I haven't.
:)
Ciao,
Amy

Amy Reads said...

Hi Scott,
I find that one of the signs that a writer doesn't know what to make of a character is when the character him-/herself wonders the same thing. I like to call it Hamlet Syndrome, wherein the characters just don't know what to do with themselves.

I think that's a really apropos analogy. I don't mind the idea of Wonder Woman soul-searching, but at least make her soul-search across the universe, not just in her own book, when she's so confident and secure in Manhunter and JLA.

There are two things Greg Rucka did for Wonder Woman that I really liked: (1) He emphasized her as a warrior; and (2) He defined her place in the Trinity dynamic. She has strength like Superman, but isn't as "soft" as he is. And she has the same determination and warrior mentality as Batman, but isn't as hung up on the concept of human law and justice (which is why she is willing to kill when necessary).

And I'd like to add #3 and that is emphasizing her Otherness. Rucka really reveled in the fact that WW is not human, and God, I can't Thank Him Enough for it. But further, that she gets it, you know? There's this great scene during the Flash crossover during Rucka's run, and Flash makes some cute joke (as Wally will), and WW didn't go ballistic on him. Rather, she joked back, and Flash was more than a bit confused, and a bit pleased, I think.

Also, I'd like to add here that the JL/JLU cartoons did a great job characterizing Wonder Woman, even for the "fresh off the island" WW. Further, they didn't waste time with the origin stories, which I appreciated.

(Of course, putting herself through the legal system in Manhunter was more of an appeasing gesture than a display of faith in human justice.)

Well, I think it was just about the best olive branch WW was going to offer, and I think it worked to her advantage.

I'm sure people will debate this, but Rucka managed to convince me that Wonder Woman was actually better than either Superman or Batman. Both of those characters have certain lines they will not cross--Superman is afraid to cross it and Batman's faith in justice will not allow him to. But Wonder Woman is above all that. She's surpassed both of them when it comes to fighting the good fight.

No debates from me! I keep telling everyone that she's stronger and better than Superman, because he has (at least) three weaknesses--kryptonite, telepathy/magic, and yellow suns--and she has none. That's right. None.

Okay, so if her bracelets get crossed and she's in, say, 1944, then she has a weakness, but other than that, none. Zip.
Ciao,
Amy

Amy Reads said...

Hi Scott,
That's red suns, not yellow suns. Need more coffee, I think!
Ciao,
Amy

Fanboy said...

Very well done. Very well done indeed.

Amy Reads said...

Hi Mr. Fanboy,
Very well done. Very well done indeed.

Flattery will get you everywhere, Friend!
:)
Glad you enjoyed it.
Ciao,
Amy