In light of recent comments regarding Wonder Woman’s sexuality and how some people feel negatively about this announcement, I was asked for my opinion. I figured I’d give my two cents’ worth, although since you’re reading this for free and I’m not getting paid anything, you’re getting a better deal than me and I’m getting screwed out of two cents. Except giving my opinion here has robbed me of a good night’s sleep, a fair chunk of what little sanity I have left and some tufts of hair which I’ve yanked out of my own head in trying to wrap my mind around this topic.
Before I get into this, I’d better explain something. Patton Oswalt once joked that there are some people out there who use the latest politically-correct terms and “in” words to disguise offensive statements, while there are some people who may sound crass because they don’t know the latest terms yet the idea they’re trying to convey is a good one. As with many things, we laugh at that because it’s both funny and true, and if I offend anyone here for using the wrong words then I apologize, because I hope at least the message will be more important than the language used.
So… what? Is that really such a shock?
Clearly it’s an issue for some people. Some have complained while others have applauded it… but one of the biggest things for me was how Rucka’s interview was handled. Not his statement itself; that was as logical and well-explained as any that could have been made, and it’s one that I’m fine with because he made sense. Unlike producer Deborah Snyder’s rather odd belief, I don’t believe that sexuality is a part of the Wonder Woman’s power. And, more importantly, it certainly isn’t one of her defining characteristics.
One of the arguments against the interview though was that it was preceded by comments from a gay writer who explained how much he enjoys seeing characters in comic books who represent the LGBT community. Suddenly some people reading that felt that an “agenda” was being pushed. Since the word “agenda” has come to take on some ominous meanings in recent years, and in light of how gung-ho about the subject the writer of the article was, it seems to be a big problem. Personally, as much as I wasn’t a fan of the way the article and interview came across, I’d like to say that yes, there did seem to be an agenda, and here it is:
It’s trying to applaud comic books featuring characters that the writer feels they can relate to and look up to personally, because they share a common bond.
Is that really so bad? I don’t think so.
Let’s put this in another context; I’ve written countless articles about comic books, and many of them explain that I’ve been a comic book-obsessed uber-geek for 35 years. I explain that for context in the articles, so that I can better explain why I feel a certain way about something I’m talking about. I appreciate it when other writers do that too, because I’d rather be given an informed opinion than an uninformed one. Even if it’s something as bland as a piece of writing on gardening, I’d prefer to know that the writer in question actually has a garden and not just a flower pot housing a dead weed. Context is good.
So what’s so wrong about the writer of that piece feeling represented, and saying so? The late Dwayne McDuffie, an industry legend and champion of increasing diversity in comic books, once said “You don’t feel real if you don’t see yourself reflected in the media… There’s something very powerful about seeing yourself represented.” That man went out of his way to try to include all genders and races in his stories, because it was empowering to the readers. Meanwhile, other characters, such as DC’s Oracle, became iconic for doing the same thing representing readers with disabilities.
People like to read about characters they can relate to and view as role models. It’s as simple as that. Was the article in question written the way I would have written it? No, but I can understand why it was written the way it was. It added context.
Likewise, Rucka’s comments have come under scrutiny, leaving some to wonder if he only said what he did to win over an audience or to get attention. Personally, I don’t know Greg Rucka, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he would have responded exactly the same way regardless of who had asked him the question. Like I said, his answer made sense to me, and it isn’t like he’s the first person to have made such a statement regarding the Amazons. But did he say that Wonder Woman didn’t want to be with Steve Trevor too? Did he say, as some have questioned, that she can’t be straight or is bi? I didn’t read him saying those things at all.
Some have argued that by having Wonder Woman leave Themyscira for reasons other than falling in love with Steve Trevor, it makes some kind of implied statement that she’s weaker because she’s not sacrificing herself for the love of a man. Interestingly, it isn’t stated that she doesn’t find him interesting or attractive in the latest series. There’s clearly some kind of a bond there, and it’s perfectly possible that she may fall in love with him, if she hasn’t already, or maybe she’s just curious. Rucka’s statements made it clear though that, regardless of her emotional feelings for him, that’s just one of the reasons for leaving and that there are others. Primarily, she’s interested to learn about the outside world.
Think about Star Wars: A New Hope for a moment. Why does Luke Skywalker leave Tatooine to rescue Princess Leia? The first time that he sees her, he thinks she’s beautiful and develops an instant crush… but that isn’t why he leaves. Later, when Obi-Wan urges him to leave, Luke refuses because he has duties to his uncle and the farm. Only when his uncle and aunt are murdered does he feel the need to leave and do his part, and even then his plan is to take the droids to the rebels, not to save Leia.
The point here is that a crush, or falling in love with someone, they’re fine but they aren’t a solid enough motivation for inspiring a character to take action. In the case of Diana, she wants to leave not because of love but for bigger reasons. An emotional connection with Steve Trevor, however, is a catalyst and that isn’t being downplayed in any way.
As for Wonder Woman’s exile from Themyscira, that isn’t exactly new territory either. In the past, and in various mediums, it’s happened for a variety of reasons. Usually it’s because if she returns then she may lead men to the island paradise, which would lead to disaster. It’s been said at times that if a man sets foot on Themyscira then the island would sink into the sea; at others it’s been said that if a man sets foot on the island, it will rob the Amazons of their strength and immortality. While Steve Trevor’s appearance does contradict those reasons, it’s understandable that the Amazons wouldn’t want Wonder Woman returning if it jeopardised their own safety. It’s not so much a punishment as a burden of responsibility.
And before anyone yells out about that being a weak answer as to why Wonder Woman was exiled, just take a look at previous runs of the comic books. For three thousand years the Amazons have lived pretty much trouble-free. After Diana leaves and then returns, they’ve been attacked, killed and their island has been torn apart. In theory things would be better if Trevor had never shown up at all, or if Wonder Woman had never left, but then it wouldn’t be much of a story at all.
While she may be exiled initially, it’s more than likely that she will return. One of the finest examples of this was in the Justice League/JL Unlimited cartoons. In those, she didn’t leave the island because of Steve Trevor, and no fans ever seemed bothered by that particular fact. She becomes exiled later for allowing the men of the Justice League onto Themyscira, and despite them helping to defeat Felix Faust that makes no difference. Yet later, after much reconciliation, Diana is finally allowed to return. It’s a gradual process, but people can and do return from exile sometimes.
As for the whole aspect of the rights and wrongs of feminism, another issue which has come up again since that article, that isn’t for me to say. What I do know that Wonder Woman was created to be feminist icon of the time, and I believe that she still is. If that’s news to anyone then I’ll be surprised, but probably not as surprised as some people were when a comic book issue came out in the ’70s where she was applauded by some women and booed by others, who called her a traitor to the feminist cause because she wore such revealing clothing and was a sex symbol.
Her response to the people in the crowd who supported her was that she was proud to represent her sisters, all women… and disappointed and annoyed by those who claimed to be feminists but despised her attire. She made it perfectly clear that she chose to dress the way she did, and nobody – even feminists – had the right to tell her what she should and shouldn’t be wearing or how she should be acting. If some saw her as a sex symbol then that was their business, but she would always be exactly who she was: a strong, independent woman.
And that’s the real trick here. She’s supposed to be so many things and represent so many people in so many different ways. She’s brains, beauty and brawn combined, a warrior and an advocate of peace, an exile and a representative of her people, a diplomat and a fighter, a woman of strength and caring, compassion, aggression, charm, a feminist, a nurturing guide, a sex symbol, gay, straight, bi…
She is Wonder Woman. It’s as simple as that. And as such she’s supposed to bring us together as fans and readers, not tear us apart over something so ridiculous as her sexual activities.
If people hate what’s happening in the stories lately for whatever reason, that’s their opinion and it’s no more or less valid than mine. I can respect people’s opinions even if I don’t agree with them. I happen to like the new series, and have repeatedly said so. If people want to cheer because now her sexuality and those of the Amazons have been more clearly defined, I can respect that too. I always had the feeling that whoever she’s with, man or woman, it would be a relationship of love and not definitions.
I’m happy that she’s still an icon that people can relate to, and to me it makes sense that a fictional group of women stuck on an island for three thousand years could be gay whilst others are celibate, and that WW herself might be gay or bi, or whatever direction the creators choose to take her in. I also hope that whatever happens in that regard, that the fans will always accept her. The really important thing is that she is representing others, she is a role model, and not just in terms of sexuality. There’s far more to her than that.
One of my friends was recently diagnosed with breast cancer for a second time. When she found out this devastating piece of news, she proudly displayed a picture of Wonder Woman throwing a knockout punch. The word bubble coming from Wonder Woman’s mouth reads: “Cancer, I’m going to kick your ass!” If anybody needs proof of how inspirational a figure Wonder Woman is, they should think about that.
So here I am, badly explaining (or mansplaining? I don’t know, I was just asked for my opinion) what Wonder Woman means to me and others, defending a couple of writers I don’t know from other people’s opinions which I respect them having regardless, and missing out on some sleep because this whole thing is pretty silly to begin with. That’s my opinion, and you can love it or hate it because that’s your right. My own agenda was just to say this, and if I’ve offended anybody with my opinions, my language, use of terms, grammar, missing pieces of hair, typos, spilled coffee on the keyboard, or whatever, then I’m sorry.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get some rest…