What is the problem with Wonder Woman? That is the question many people ask themselves when thinking and talking about the latest and greatest comic book movies. She is perhaps one of the world’s most well known superheroes and yet any projects (film, TV or other) featuring her are constantly on the back burner. The most recent setback in seeing a decent live action version of the character is the announcement that plans have been put on hold to make an Arrow like Wonder Woman TV show for the CW in favour of a Flash based TV show instead. I have mixed feelings about it because well….Arrow is a very mixed bag of show and some of what I have heard about the planned Wonder Woman show was just…rage inducing. Still it was something to look forward to but yet again like Joss Whedon’s attempt at a film, the truly terrible David E. Kelley TV show Pilot and countless other attempts to bring the character to modern audiences all current plans have been shelved.
So what is holding Warner Brothers back from modernising and unleashing a new, awesome and wonderful Wonder Woman on the world? Matthew Paterson over at Major Spoilers has made a good and educated guess and the basics of it are that WB see Wonder Woman as a risk. A risk so big that it terrifies them at the amount of money they could lose on making at Wonder Woman TV show or film. As a result she always gets sidelined for safer bets and more “bankable” characters. Which anyone including Matthew Paterson will tell you is complete bullshit. People like good movies, if everyone tells them a movie is good they will go see it. If it appeals to them, they will see it. Hollywood has a fear of people liking things outside of their predefined boxes. Guys like guns and action, girls like romance and drama and never the two camps shall meet. Every time anything staring a big female lead is a success everyone says, “Hey maybe now Hollywood will start making more female orientated action movies, comedies, etc.” but it never happens because the moneybags types refuse to take their heads out of the sand. Then everybody quickly returns to talking about female characters in movies by their looks and body parts rather than their you know…character.
It is a pretty dire state of affairs when the most realistic looking live action Wonder Woman we have seen on screen so far is a porn parody of the character. That says more about all this than anything I could ever write but hey! I am a writer so I will take a stab at it! I’ve been expecting a Wonder Woman movie since I saw the first X-Men movie at the cinema which is quite a long time ago at this point. (13 years for those keeping track!) I love Wonder Woman, she is my favourite female superhero and I honestly just want to see her given her dues on both the big and small screen. Sadly all I have is a really good animated movie, the various series of the Justice League cartoon, the Lynda Carter show from way back and a pilot episode for a TV version of the character so far off the mark it physically hurts me when I watch it. Seriously it is like being punched in the nerdy centre of my heart repeatedly.
I’m part of the Buffy The Vampire Slayer generation which means I reached adulthood with the idea in my head that Buffy was amazing and others could see that too. So in turn this would mean many would follow suit with the groundwork laid by the best TV show ever made. The the future would be full of kick-ass leading ladies heading up movies, video games and TV shows. They would stand side by side to their male counterparts and often show that they are sooo much better than them. Beautiful ladies kicking dudes/monsters/robots/whatever in the head would be everywhere!
So yeah… it is now the latter half of 2013 and my dreams have been well and truly crushed by this point.
It is all because the people in charge of these things have forgotten that Wonder Woman, like her good friends Superman and Batman, is much more than a simple comic book character. She is a symbol that has transcended the pages of comics and is routed firmly in the pop-culture psyche of the entire western world. And when those rare moments happen, when someone who cares for the character gets close to having her adapted for screen again, it gets taken over by committees of idiots who push things like, “Needs bigger boobs” and “Must make comments about undergarments” on the character. So instead of having a TV show or movie about a woman who can kick so much ass it is mind-boggling, we get trite crap that shows no actual love or care for the character at all.
And terrible costume design…
No there is nothing wrong with the colour settings on your computer! The costume is that bad!
Also all the talk of her being too complex or hard to define is bull crap too. Wonder Woman is the perfect character for both film and TV but at times it feels like everyone apart from me fails to see that. Her long and varied history of origins and incarnations means that you can take any one of them and modernise it into the perfect comic book movie or TV show that happens to have a pair of boobs leading the charge instead of a penis dragging a chiselled jaw behind it.
Here are just three examples I quickly came up with:
EXAMPLE ONE: The Nolan-fied Wonder Woman
Because everything DC Comics related can and will be compared to Batman and have Christopher Nolan involved in it at some point. This is grim and gritty, “realistic” Wonder Woman. All the mythological stuff is pared down in favour of showing a raw version of the character. Themyscira is an isolated commune of women who teach their own to defend themselves. There are allusions to worshipping the Greek Gods in their naming of each other, traditions and a wish to return to a more nobler time but that’s about it. The main implication would be that these are women who have been severely wronged and are retreating away from normalised society because they do not feel safe or welcome. The film’s inciting incident leads a young early twenties Diana Prince on a mission of vengeance that turns into a lesson about what justice is and why it is better than pure hate filled revenge. She would also learn that the outside world isn’t that bad after all and that you have to learn to have faith in people rather than just fear them and what they could possibly do to you.
This approach favours a powerless or less Superman levels of power version of the character, because we couldn’t have her being as powerful or more powerful than the Man of Steel now could we? 😉
It would be all about Diana having crazy flippidyflu martial arts skills that would put the Black Widow to shame. She would grow in power/skill as the film progresses and it would even favour the flashback style structure of Man of Steel. With the flashbacks being her remembering life lessons learned in the commune. The big bad would be some a real douche bag with an ingrained hatred of women. Obviously he would constantly underestimate Diana until the inevitable punch up at the end of the film which would end with a terrible pun about kicking your head in with stilettos before knocking the bad guy out after he has said something stupid like, “You’re still just a woman.”
The film would end with Diana putting together a reasonably close version of the iconic costume and hitting the streets dispensing justice and ready to team up with Superman and Batman in the inevitable sequel. She would be a very green around the gills version of the character. It would be more about Diana discovering who she is in the process of punching people in the face. Young, attractive and has a mean right hook. She also has a thing for light bondage if things really do need to be “sexed up” a bit.
It is the version that would divide fans. It compromises on a lot of what makes the character unique in favour of giving audiences the most “bankable” and violent version of the character. The fights would be brutal but she would always be beautiful. That core of what makes Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman would still be there it would just be hidden under the veneer realism.
This is what we would probably end up with.
It will make millions.
EXAMPLE TWO: The Retro Cheese Wonder Woman
This is basically what David E. Kelley was attempting to do with his proposed TV show. So this would be like that a bit but you know….good.
It would play on the expectations of a lot of the viewers having only really being exposed to the Lynda Carter show and perhaps not even actually watching it, just knowing of it and its iconography because even you the discerning internet using nerd that you are, has to agree that the 70s where a long time ago! Overall it would be very lighthearted and tongue in cheek but with a good heart.
It would easily been seen as the modern take on the Lynda Cater show with a twist of Batman ’66 thrown in there for good measure. It would be set in the past possibly the 70s or 80s and have a mix of the Wonder Woman we all know and the Diana Prince spy persona. It would almost certainly be a TV show which would see Wonder Woman’s Diana Prince persona being sent on campy James Bond type spy missions around the world but with her having to bust out the Wonder Woman persona when the shit hits the fan. Then conveniently finding a way to make Wonder Woman’s appearances wherever she goes explainable without ever blowing her cover. There would be a slowly building and steamy relationship with Steve Trevor over the first couple of seasons. Which would eventually end once the spark of them finally getting together had worn off. The second “boyfriend” would be hated by everyone and leave the show and she would get back together with Steve Trevor briefly around season 3-4 before moving onto a man who can keep up with her and her hectic lifestyle without judging her. She would also be surrounded by a strong supporting cast, mostly female. All of which would slowly take on positions of power in the military/spy agency she works for and in her private life, as both her drive in her work as a spy and her place as a symbol for the women’s movement as Wonder Woman inspires them to get a better lot in life.
It would all be very post modern and play on the expectations of that to great effect. Tapping into the nostalgia of the character and the current trend of looking to the past to explain the present (see Mad Men). Also being set in the past means that it would have to tackle women’s rights issues head on. Often showing that despite the battles of the past being won there has been a slow slip back to entrenched ideas in the modern world. Also the more lighthearted nature of the show would serve as a good counterpoint to the trend of realistic and gritty modern takes on every other comic book character out there.
This show would have Wonder Woman firmly in the do-gooder camp. Being a strong independent woman in “Man’s World” holding a mirror up to the inequalities of the past and the present. All while telling kids they should not do drugs. Then when she is in Diana Prince mode we would see a more thoughtful and smart side to the character as she manoeuvres around being a spy and a superhero while somehow managing to keep her identities secret. You could even have the jokey David E. Kelley idea of her having a third identity which allows her to blow off steam when not on the clock. She also has a thing for light bondage if things really do need to be “sexed up” a bit.
This would be the idealised, utopian version of the character. One which critics would say is “Just like the comics!” without ever actually reading a comic book. The villains would be weird retro inspired mixes of well known DC characters, mythical creatures/people and new creations. There would be a lot of drama, action and comedy. It would be perfect for a Saturday night.
This show will never be made.
It would make millions.
EXAMPLE THREE: The coming to “Man’s World” Wonder Woman
This is the classic Wonder Woman origin that everybody knows. Raised by her fellow Amazons and never seeing a man, Wonder Woman journeys to ‘Man’s World’ with Steve Trevor as her guide. She is there to save the day and promote a message of peace in a world defined by violence. Also being raised in isolation by a mythical tribe of warrior women means that she does not know what cars, TVs, computers, phones, etc. are and does not know about women’s place in western society. Action, comedy and some commentary come together to make an awesome summer blockbuster. Complete with special effects and Wonder Woman taking on soldiers, gangs of thugs, mythical beasts and the God of War,
Kratos…wait I mean Ares, himself in a big and truly epic final showdown. Steve Trevor would also visibly swoon at one point in the movie to show everyone that the traditional gender roles had been well and truly reversed.
By taking this ‘classic’ approach you can see the film play out in your mind. Except in this film the stuff about not understanding our world will extend beyond the usual “What is ice cream?” and “Women do what?!” stuff to a broader commentary on the madness that is our society and how both genders behave.
This is because everyone always forgets that Wonder Woman does not actually know how to be a woman.
Wait! STOP! Step back from the keyboard! Take a deep breath! Finish reading before you get all angry at me for saying Wonder Woman does not know how to be a woman!
Remember, this version of the character has been raised in complete isolation by a race of warrior women with a viewpoint on the world so different from our own that she would never view herself as a woman by our limited definitions ingrained in our society by decades of patriarchy.
She knows nothing of make-up, high heeled shoes, sexual harassment, misogyny or that woman on the whole are still treated as being less equal in the totally equal society that is the western world. She has had a sword in her hand since she could walk and she has been taught to defend what is good and right all of her life. Trained to kill so others may live. The brightest and strongest of her people. Full of compassion and wonder for the world outside of Themyscira. She faces the harsh reality of “Man’s World” with a want to make it better. To fix it. To leave her mark and show that everyone can get along if we just put aside our petty differences. She has had the work of the finest thinkers of the Amazons and Graeco-Roman historical figures ingrained in her mind since she could talk. She can and will go ten rounds with you about the works of Plato and what it means to her and take you on in the boxing ring AT THE SAME TIME! She will leave your jaw on the floor as you marvel at her completely natural beauty and then punch you in the face for staring too long. She is a wonderful mix of contradictions that will leave you amazed and entertained. She also has a thing for light bondage if things really do need to be “sexed up” a bit.
It is perfect role model stuff. Showing the younglings that you do not have to stay in your predefined boxes. You can be whoever you want to be. Young boys get a kick-ass female superhero they can look up to who teaches them about equality. Young girls get a kick-ass female superhero they can look up to who teaches them about equality and that you can still be beautiful, sexy and who you want to be without compromising who you are.
The best thing about this is that it has already been made!
I implore you to check out the DC Universe animated Wonder Woman movie.
A live action version of that or something along the same lines adding in aspects of the really rather good New 52 Wonder Woman would be absolutely amazing! It would fit alongside the DC movie versions of Superman and Batman by sheer contrast, Wonder Woman would be equal to them in power and skill but better than them when dealing with things like, people and compassion.
This is the dream. This is the thought that keeps me up at night when I imagine comic book movies that could be.
It will never happen.
It would make billions!
Why is it so god damn hard for people to see the potential for the character? Wonder Woman is perfect! I know it. You know it. We just need to get the rest of the idiots on the same page!
I honestly truly care for Wonder Woman as a character and entertainment franchise that just has not been exploited to its full potential in past decade or so. I dream of the day when everyone is going crazy at Comic Con over a teaser trailer for a Wonder Woman movie. That the casting rumours in the run up to production will both amaze and delight us with the ultimate and final choice. To see that movie spawns a wave of female lead superhero movies for both DC Comics and Marvel. That Wonder Woman finally gets to take her place at the centre of the Trinity that makes up the power players of the DC Universe on the big screen for an epic Justice League movie. That we get a film that does the character, her legacy and place in popular culture justice. A film where she also has a thing for light bondage if things really do need to be “sexed up” a bit just to get more bums in seats at the cinema.
If that too hard of a thing to ask for?
Now go read some Wonder Woman comics and shove them in the faces of anyone who will care to listen to your insane ramblings about an Amazonian princess who is just all kinds of wonderful.