During these troubling times, I like to go to my safe space for a while so that I can process things, and for me that often means diving into comics. Recently I was thinking about the 2017 Wonder Woman movie, which I loved, but also had some troubling religious aspects. We talked previously about how Wonder Woman was heavily Christianized, with Ares acting more like the Christian devil and less like the God of War, putting Wonder Woman in the Christ/savior role. But today I want to focus on the lack of goddess figures in Wonder Woman, excluding Wonder Woman herself, of course. Why, in a society of just women, was there so much focus on Zeus as the main god they followed, especially when previous comic incarnations of the Amazons did have them worshiping the Greek goddesses over the gods?
While I enjoyed Wonder Woman as much as the rest of this blog did, I did come out of the movie wishing for more of the Amazons. Not only did the scenes on Themyscira feature dozens of women of a Certain Age™, whom Hollywood would usually block from action scenes, being totally badass, I can’t remember the last time we saw a joyously matriarchal society portrayed on screen. I was also hoping against hope for some good old-fashioned Sapphic love, it being an all-female Greek-inspired island and all, but I guess I’ll keep waiting there. Thankfully, the internet, being the internet, is always happy to provide me with these things when Hollywood fails to. And while there is a very small contingent of femslash growing in the nascent Wonder Woman AO3 category, the one story that really struck a chord with me was a gen fic focused on Antiope, General of the Amazon army and Diana’s beloved aunt and mentor.
If you haven’t yet seen the new Wonder Woman movie… seriously, why haven’t you? It’s fabulous. After we gushed about its awesomeness while coming out of the theater, I mentioned to my group that Diana Prince seems like an awesome unconventional Christ figure. They were a little confused, because (spoiler alert) Wonder Woman isn’t crucified, and she’s certainly not a man. I couldn’t really explain it well then, but I can now.
Wonder Woman might be the most famous female superhero. While her story makes references to Greek myths, it doesn’t seem like her creators were Greek, and her writers didn’t really bother for accuracy when it comes to those myths. On the other hand, Christianity is so influential to Western culture and its history that Christ figures show up all over the place in our stories. We’ve already talked about how Disney’s Hercules draws from Greek myths but still turns Hercules into a Christ figure. Nearly all fictional Christ figures are male. So while making Wonder Woman into a Christ figure doesn’t do much for Greek mythology, it breaks new ground in the way we can understand what a Christ figure can be.
Significant spoilers for Wonder Woman below.
With the recent news that Joss Whedon is in the works to do a (potentially amazing, if arguably problematic) Batgirl movie, I’ve been thinking about Barbara Gordon a lot. I mean, more than usual. BG’s always been a personal favorite and perhaps the first example I remember from my childhood of not only a real “strong female character” but a superhero I actually connected with. Babs has been a hero to many and while she has been used in incredibly problematic ways over the years, she remains one of the most prominent female superheroes to the average geek.
As different artists have taken a crack at Batgirl over the years, she has gone through a few phases, as have most of the other major players in the Batman canon. Many of those different versions of BG have been used in exploitative ways. Despite this, many have made her a feminist icon and often a source of inspiration to fans of all genders. In looking back at some of these incarnations, I also hope to highlight a few things that will be crucial to the Batgirl film not ending up horrible.
TW: Discussion of themes related to sexual violence and ableism.
With Wonder Woman’s tenure as the United Nations Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls coming to a somewhat unceremonious end, I can’t help wanting to do a postmortem on her appointment and the controversy surrounding it. In addition to finding the whole affair oddly fascinating, I found it revealing—not only about global attitudes towards feminism but on how the most recognizable symbols of pop culture feminism are often inherently polarizing.
While I do not question that all parties involved genuinely had nothing but good intentions, there were some serious objections raised almost immediately (after the collective online shout of “cool!” dissipated, anyways) and they bear further examination, especially in light of the apparent success of said objections.
The three things that were most controversial about this “appointment” are all significant. The primary objections were that Wonder Woman is overtly sexualized, that a fictional rather than a real woman was unacceptable for such a role, and that giving “Wonder Woman” that voice for women was effectively just handing it to the DC Comics marketing department. While there were a few objections related to her history of violence and some that simply being a comic book character delegitimized her, the former was not really unique to this case in any particularly interesting way and the latter is something I won’t dignify with a response.
Before I jump into the fallout over all this, it’s probably a good idea to recap what exactly happened. While this was a big deal in geek and/or feminist circles, it was quick and a lot of us may have missed most of it. In October of 2016, the UN announced that Wonder Woman would be named an honorary ambassador. The press release mentioned that as part of a campaign with DC and Warner Bros, Wonder Woman would be connected to everything from fighting abuse to promoting examples of women making a difference. What would WW actually do though? Primarily, be featured in various social media campaigns to promote gender equality as part of the United Nations’ sustainable development goals.
For better or worse (mostly for better, from what I can tell), DC has finally laid the grim, poorly structured, and laughably undiverse New 52 to rest, and has started over under the header Rebirth. This sort of reboot to continuity is often a boon for readers looking for a convenient jumping on point, and Rebirth was no exception for me. When I heard that Wonder Woman would be starting over at #1, and more, that Greg Rucka, author of the iconic modern Batwoman story Batwoman: Elegy, would be writing her, I was super hyped. Wonder Woman has suffered any number of woes during the New 52, not least of all a writer/artist duo who didn’t seem to understand that feminism was not a dirty word.
I read the first issue of Wonder Woman Rebirth when it was released in June, before I got a new brickspace job and moved to a different state. Once I finally got settled, priority number one was catching up on the comics I missed during the whole process, and the first point of order of that mission was to acquire the Wonder Women I’d missed in the interim.
Aaaah! The more I see of the upcoming Suicide Squad movie, the more excited I get. I’m even more pleased with this trailer than the first. It shows a little bit more of the humorous aspects of the movie while still keeping the “gritty edge” that DC Comics seems unwilling to let go of for any of their movies.