4 Reasons Why its Taken so Long For Wonder Woman to Appear on Film

As the hype around Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice continues to build, it’s worth looking at the one character who may steal the show: Wonder Woman. In between Ben Affleck’s Batman and Henry Cavill’s Superman, Israeli actress Gal Gadot’s equally stern visage peers out from movie posters, promising a not-so secret guest appearance.

Aside from wondering who Gal Gadot is, (a 5’10” former Miss Israel who’s also an Israeli Army veteran) online commenters also noticed how radically different her costume is from the comic book versions as well as from the live-action tv séries role played by Linda Carter in the 1970’s.

Now the Internet is buzzing with rumours about casting for her solo 2017 film which is purported to include Hollywood heavyweights Nicole Kidman, Sean Bean & Chris Pine. This is definitely welcome news after a couple of false starts, including a never-aired TV pilot for NBC in 2011 and the swapping of directors Michelle MacLaren for Patty Jenkins (who herself was abruptly dropped as the director of Thor).

The usual movie industry machinations aside, why is it that after 7 live-action films for Batman, 6 for Superman and 5 for Spiderman (hell, even Ant Man has had a movie already!) we are just now seeing Wonder Woman’s film debut?

It’s certainly not because she’s new to the superhero game. In 1941, Wonder Woman, aka Diana Prince, was created at the request of comics publisher Max Gaines by polymath William M. Marston. A rather complicated figure, as detailed in Jill Lepore’s The Secret History of Wonder Woman, Marston was a psychologist, lawyer, educator and early feminist. He was also a polygamist and helped invent the lie detector machine. His goal was to create a character “for the new type of woman who should, I believe, rule the world.”

Wonder Woman enlisted early on to fight in World War Two and has been regularly punching bad guys alongside Supes & Bats ever since. So why did it take so long?

 

Here’s a few possible reasons, and how they might be addressed

1)Her gender: Wonder Woman was created, written and drawn by men for decades, at a time when comic books were overwhelmingly male-oriented (quite literally at the behest of ‘the male gaze’) and female characters were frequently objectified, hyper-sexualized and stereotyped. Naturally, a cinematic portrayal associated with anything so derivative wouldn’t just be a mis-step, it would be hugely controversial for all involved.  Thankfully, we can expect more of leading female characters in this day and age as comic books have become far more inclusive.  In part due to Wonder Woman’s first female writers like Mindy Newell, Jodi Picoult and Gail Simone (to take nothing away from accomplished male writers like George Perez), Diana has been written with an authenticity lacking in previous years. Thus it seems just as important that a Wonder Woman film be written, casted and directed by women.

2)  Her Costume & Accoutrements: This one’s obvious, or as newly elected Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau explained when asked about the gender parity in his cabinet, “Because it’s 2015.” Zipping around in an invisible jet while wearing a shiny bodice, knee-high red go-go boots and star-spangled booty shorts might have worked back when Adolf Hitler was the enemy but it certainly doesn’t today. If the first trailers indicate anything, it’s that her cinematic incarnation has toughened up considerably.  

3)   Her Backstory:        As silly as it sounds, a super-powered alien from a doomed planet or an ultra-wealthy orphaned vigilante may make more sense narratively than an Amazonian warrior made from clay on a man-less island who regularly combats immortal Olympian gods with a magic “Lasso of Truth.” Yet Wonder Woman’s backstory, a hybrid of an American context firmly planted in Greek myths, arguably provides the largest canon of source material any comic book character could ever draw from. Translating the mythological into something plausible on film might be challenging, but the depiction of Norse Gods in two Thor films provides an entertaining way forward. Even more interesting is the latest suggestion that the film will bounce around historically, including a premise that begins during the First World War

4)    Her Character:  As a larger-than-life pop culture icon who’s been a employed as an outsized metaphor for years, (including gracing the cover of the first issue of Ms. Magazine in 1972, a move not without its own controversy) Wonder Woman’s archetypical imprint has been deeper than most fictional characters, comic book or otherwise. But as a result, who is Diana Prince really? A fearless Spartan-like warrior unafraid to slice her enemies in two? Or an innocent all-American girl of sorts, trying to make it in a strange world? In trying to make her relatable to readers, writers have oscillated between these and other tropes, something icons like Superman & Batman haven’t had to face. Certainly hers is one story arc where the New 52 reboot raises as many questions as answers. But as the latest teasers and trailers seem to indicate, she’s nobody to mess with. 

Though there’s some great, inventive stories about female superheroes like Supergirl, Batgirl, Storm, Jean Grey and Ms. Marvel being told, nobody comes remotely close to WW’s stature in the comic book universe. Wonder Woman is in a category all her own. So, just like the first Superman and Batman movies, her debut has to be just right.

Written by | Sam Singh

Sam Singh is a contributing writer for the Heroic Universe. You can follow him on Twitter @singhingsam.

  • Gareth Macleod

    Awesome! Very well written and educational. Thank you very much!