We have discussed many of the issues with the character of Wonder Woman, in addition to her relationship to men, but we haven’t talked much about her relationship to women within the comic. Something that struck me while reading is for the most part, the women of the comic look exactly the same. They look like they could all be the same character but with different outfits and hair colors. The majority of the women share the exact same faces, heights, and body types, which I don’t think makes sense to just blame this on the art style. The men of Wonder Woman have distinct facial features, body types, heights, and other distinguishing characteristics. This is very clearly exemplified in the panel we observed in class on Monday, where the group of women is playing tug-of-war with Wonder Woman’s arms. Even though Wonder Woman is the main character of the comic, she isn’t particularly unique when standing side-by-side other females. She looks like everyone else, but in less clothes.
So what exactly does this mean? I haven’t quite worked it out yet, but I think something is to be said about Wonder Woman being created by two men. As progressive as this comic may have been, Wonder Woman, amongst the other female figures of the comic, are all still portrayed through a male lens. It is a little frustrating to read these comics because the images and text both are very visibly created by men, through the sexualization of Wonder Woman and the references to submitting to a male partner. It makes the character a little more difficult for me to relate to and I struggle to connect with the text. It just doesn’t make sense to me why the male heroes get full coverage suits with tights and Wonder Woman must be bare-legged in heels with her hair down…standing beside the other members of the “DC Super Friends,” she is the only one dressed this way; not an inch of skin is showing for anyone else.
Do you think Wonder Woman needs to be changed? If so, how could she be evolved into a more modern, powerful female character?
3 comments on "Which One Is Wonder Woman?"
Really interesting observation! I feel like by giving all of these women the same facial features and body type, the artists are making their only character trait “womanhood”. While the male characters look different based on what their jobs are or who they are, the female characters look the same because their purpose in the story is to be a woman. Applying the Bechdel Test to these comics (1. Does it have more than two female characters (with names) in it? 2. Do those characters engage in a conversation with each other? 3. And is that conversation about anything other than a man?), I don’t think a single one passes, besides, perhaps, the one that gives the history of the Amazons. Granted, these comics are quite short, however, I think it’s pretty disappointing that a comic that centers on a woman can’t create any realistic or distinguishable female characters. https://news.avclub.com/every-female-face-in-recent-disney-and-pixar-movies-loo-1798277545 This article points out that a similar thing happens in Disney and Pixar movies. There’s a quote in there that I think really gets at the heart of the problem about the way artists and animators think about female characters. “Frozen’s head of animation Lino DiSalvo (commented) about the fact that it’s harder to animate female characters because “you have to keep them pretty and they’re very sensitive.””
I definitely feel a similar frustration at the representation of women in Wonder Woman. It sometimes feels like critiquing Wonder Woman herself is a rocky terrain. As our classmates have mentioned in class and in blog posts, the ways we talk about Wonder Woman’s body and clothing can be problematic when we start to villainize those characteristics. And yet, we can’t simply ignore how the male authorship ship and the male gaze of the audience affect the depiction and reception of Wonder Woman. I’m still thinking a lot about Professor Serrano’s question about what we want/expect from our superheros…
Comparatively, it’s easier to critique the representation of women when we’re looking at how women are being portrayed as a whole (as in the picture you attached) compared to critiquing just Wonder Woman. For example, in both the pilot of the 70s Wonder Woman show and the comics, only white women seemed to be on the Amazon island. The moment in the show where Wonder Woman tells Marcia, “Any civilization that does not recognize the female is doomed to destruction. Women are the wave of the future, and sisterhood is stronger than anything,” is painfully and sadly ironic precisely because of how narrowly sisterhood is defined in these time periods and by the first and second waves of feminism. Many white women in America who were advocating for women’s suffrage or part of the second wave of feminism actively disparaged and oppressed women of color for their own benefit. In these early Wonder Woman comics, I strongly resent the lack of representation of women of color and other marginalized women. So to answer your question, one of many changes I need in a modern Wonder Woman is for her feminism and her sisterhood to be intersectional.
(I haven’t seen the recent Wonder Woman movie yet, but this article talks about erasure and stereotypes of black women in the film. We still have a long way to go. http://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/film-tv/a9992873/wonder-woman-black-women-erasure/)
Great observation! I noticed this as well and couldn’t quite figure out why they all looked so similar. I think as the Wonder Woman comics evolved over the years, she became more developed in that she stood out next to other females in the panels. We discussed how, over the years, she became a much more sexually charged image, but I don’t think we talked about how the newer looks have added to this development of female uniqueness. This does not mean, however, that she has evolved into a more powerful female character. As the general public becomes more aware of these issues, maybe there will be a change in Wonder Woman, as well as the rest of the comic book world.