Orinally created by William Marston (and drawn by Harry G. Peter) in 1941 Wonder Woman today stars Gal Gadot as the Amazonian princess. Jenkins’s film marks the first time this legendary character has been in a live-action feature film. Since the 70s TV show Wonder Woman, Lynda Carter, it’s taken decades to get the best-known female superhero her own film. It all goes back to her origin story.
When Marston created Wonder Woman, he was very clear about his intentions. In Jill Lepore‘s The Secret History of Wonder Woman, Marston argues,
“Wonder Woman is psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who should, I believe, rule the world…the only hope for civilization is the greater freedom, development and equality of women in all fields of human activity.”
Our hero’s creator, Marston, was a psychologist. He and his wife Elizabeth had an unusual living arrangement. Olive Byrne, was his mistress and they all cohabitated and raised 4 children together. Elizabeth and Olive are both credited with being his inspiration for Wonder Woman. Marston drew a great deal of inspiration from early feminists too witnessing the suffragettes struggle as a young man, and especially from birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger who was also Byrne’s aunt.
Byrne also supported the family, taking care of the children and writing articles in Family Circle (under a pen-name), some of which involved interviews with Marston and arguments as to why mothers should let their children read comics. Both Holloway Marston and Byrne contributed to Wonder Woman’s stories and her iconography and to Marston’s philosophy about love and the power of love.
Beyond that, Wonder Woman’s origin story says she was sculpted from clay by her mother Queen Hippolyta and given life by Aphrodite, along with superhuman powers as gifts by the Greek Gods. But in recent years artists updated her profile: she has been depicted as the daughter of Zeus, and jointly raised by her mother Hippolyta and her aunts Antiope and Menalippe. Artist George Perez gave her a muscular look and emphasized her Amazonian heritage and writer Greg Rucka clarified her sexual orientation as bisexual, giving her a backstory that includes relationships with women.
When Ms. magazine first debuted in 1972, it was Wonder Woman who was on its cover. She did so again for it’s 40th anniversary, a reminder of just how much the feminist movement and the character itself had, and had not, evolved. Ms. founder, Gloria Steinem has long discussed the importance of the character. In 1972, she said,
“Wonder Woman symbolizes many of the values of the women’s culture that feminists are now trying to introduce into the mainstream: strength and self-reliance for women; sisterhood and mutual support among women; peacefulness and esteem for human life; a diminishment both of ‘masculine’ aggression and of the belief that violence is the only way of solving conflicts.”
And today Wonder Woman is still kicking ass and inspiring young woman as she did 75 years ago.
You’re still a wonder, Wonder Woman!