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Wonder Woman as a Feminist Icon

Hanna Lafferty ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Recently, the internet has become incensed by false “Kryptonian Wonder Woman” rumors surrounding the Batman vs Superman movie. This intense animosity towards any change in Wonder Woman’s origin story (especially one that could make her seem a “lesser” hero than Superman) shows how important the Amazonian Princess is as a complex female role model. Wonder Woman’s representation as not only a feminist icon but as a woman has changed dramatically since her conception.

Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman.

Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman.

When William Moulton Marston created Wonder Woman in the 1940s, her character’s focus was directed towards the resilience and charisma that women showed in the war effort during WWII. She was meant to be the start of an “American matriarchy”, one ruled not by force as previous superheroes dictated, but with reason and compassion.While this was a fantastic beginning for a feminist role model, Wonder Woman’s course was dramatically changed in the 1950s as women were called back into homes for more domestic pursuits than fighting off the Nazi Party. It wasn’t until the 1970s that the famous feminist and activist Gloria Steinem called for a revamping of Wonder Woman and a return to her more feminist roots. While Wonder Woman’s recent incarnation is more brutal (in keeping with the Amazon’s warrior code), her complex personality is still in keeping with the character’s ideals of equality and harmony.

Susan Eisenberg as Wonder Woman from the DC Animated Universe.

Susan Eisenberg as Wonder Woman from the DC Animated Universe.

Emertainment Monthly had the chance to talk to Susan Eisenberg—the voice of Wonder Woman in the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited cartoons, Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, and Justice League: Doom—about the character’s role as an icon. “I don’t know that I understood the impact Justice League had for viewers and how defining it was in terms of people’s impressions of Wonder Woman,” says Eisenberg. “So when I would meet with people, young people in their twenties, and they would say ‘Well, I grew up with Justice League’, it does not get better than that; than young people saying ‘You’re my Linda Carter’…that was exceedingly wonderful to hear.”   

When asked what she thought of Diana as a role model for gender equality, Eisenberg said that we “can’t ignore the fact that she’s this female character who is equivalent to these men, she is equal to these men… It’s the character of Wonder Woman that will carry on, whether it’s with Gal Gadot—and if she does an amazing job it will be with her—Wonder Woman endures regardless of who voices her or who plays her on film, in television she will endure, just like Superman, just like Batman, because they are timeless.”

Gal Gadot, who will be playing Wonder Woman in Superman vs Batman.

Gal Gadot, who will be playing Wonder Woman in Superman vs Batman.

Really, the outrage over the false rumors should not be considered a bad thing. That so many people who grew up with the story of Wonder Woman—who have seen her change and grow to become such a powerful part of American pop culture—are willing to defend against any change that could make her character seem weak, or unable to stand on her own, is remarkable. Her importance as a role model to young women and young men is not to be underestimated. DC has come under fire before for their lack of diversity in their lineup. and the importance of representation within comic books and within movies centered around comic books is undeniable.

Wonder Woman in the New 52, the current iteration of DC Comics.

Wonder Woman in the New 52, the current iteration of DC Comics.

“Children need to see themselves up on screen and on pages in books. I think that’s incredibly important. The fact that this has an influence on children, the fact that they’re now in their twenties—that when they were younger when watching these shows, that [the shows] had an impact on them,” says Eisenberg, “I don’t think you can oversee the importance of that…to turn on the television and see a cartoon with someone who is African-American or Hispanic…who is a woman who is strong, who is fantastic, and smart, and nerdy, and bright, and sexy…I could not be more supportive of those efforts. Anything that can teach kids, or show kids how things can be and be an example to children, whether it’s been basic kindness or that you can be whatever you want to be…that’s magnificent as an opportunity, for anybody who is involved in this business…that’s powerful stuff.”

Check back later in the week for a full transcript from the interview.

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