The Pretty Bird is in favor of Wonder Woman’s new getup.

26 Aug

So this post is a little bit delayed.* Here it is anyhow: I’m a big fan of the reimagining of Wonder Woman’s appearance.

I’ve read the objections: That the new getup strips her of age, and implicitly, experience, and in doing so privileges youth in a capitulation to the beauty industry/absurd commercially-driven beauty standards. Or that the womanly appearance of the old costume was, in essence, a feminist text, whereas this new one is somehow not. Or, in a few cases, the de-emphasizing of the US flag imagery and/or increased subtlety as un-American, whatever the fuck that means. And, fine. Some folks prefer that we don’t mess with an icon. Some folks prefer that nothing change, ever. (They’re kidding themselves, of course.)

But what the hell, ladies? The first objection implies that younger women, or perhaps women who don’t stride around in pin-up costumes, are not valid feminist texts. Because young people are lacking what, exactly, that makes them less valuable? Wrinkles? This is one of my biggest peeves** in the entire world: The assertion that somehow the perspective of those who’ve been alive for a while is better than/smarter than/more valid than that of people whose lives are mostly still ahead of them. Guess what, ladies and gentlemen? You don’t take off the blinders through the simple act of getting older. You just change them out for a different pair. This assertion is a very, very close cousin of the fundamentally anti-woman assertion among white male writers that the kind of experience that makes for quality/valuable/literary (pick your qualitative abstraction) fiction can only involve fighting or killing another creature or human. Well, bullshit. The ageist assertions are, too. Take a look, friends, at the people in the news photos holding up signs with Obama drawn as a witch doctor, which is a certain declaration of stupidity: How many of them look to be 22-year-olds to you? There are stupid young people and stupid old people. There are people for whom experience has been a great teacher, and there are people whom it has left myopic, solipsistic, and embittered. There are 14-year-olds who’ve been through more in their lives than a good portion of US adults will ever face.

On the other points, well, Wonder Woman is not a feminist or patriotic icon. Wonder Woman is a fictional character who was created and drawn by men in an era when women in this country didn’t even have the kind of reproductive, employment, education, and public participation rights that we consider–rightly–to be a cornerstone of human rights in our culture. Like pretty much all female characters in superhero comics, Wonder Woman was drawn as an action figure in swimwear and bondage cuffs because it looked hot. If you are looking to superhero comics for feminism and/or patriotism, good fucking luck, man. The new costume, while it does, yes, make her look younger, nods appealingly to the redesign of Catwoman’s costume that debuted in February of 2002 (scroll down to this guy’s #1). That redesign, like this one, deprivileges the more explicitly porny features drawn for most female superhero comic characters. Look, they’re both still hot. And most of the readers are still pubescent boys and young men. Until that audience changes, sometimes you have to pretend the meatloaf is an airplane and find a way to get it into the hangar, so to speak. And, really: That old costume was ugly. This one is contemporary and beautiful. Its use of color and depth is gorgeous.

Initially, I was not a big fan of the rewrite of Wonder Woman’s character history that accompanies this redesign, though. It seems on its surface to strip her of power in a way that the costume doesn’t. She was an Amazon princess/queen who drew on her heritage for strength and power to fight crime, etc. Now, she’s unaware of that past and was raised in the US. An alternate reading, however, might suggest that, by drawing on more mundane sources of power–namely an upbringing not all that different than the ones women all over the US experienced–she is, in fact, celebrating the power inherent in all women.

None of this matters to the storytelling. As with all narrative art, we analyze after-the-fact, slap our own perspectives over top of whatever some creator/writer/visual artist did because it looked/sounded/seemed cool. Wonder Woman’s history has been conveniently reimagined so that she can have the quest of discovering where she’s really from, so that her larger story arc can take the form of the oldest kind of story: the journey of discovery. Interestingly, a kind of story that, at its core, almost always featured the male adventurer discovering what it meant to be a man.

*I’m sorry to say that this means I’m not going to link to some of the stuff I’m referencing. I can’t remember where I read almost any of it at this point.

**I’ve been called “kiddo” by administrative temp coworkers with half my experience and a tenth of my intellect and ability, and eventually quit relatively lucrative jobs because that’s not–ever–an acceptable working condition. I’ve stopped reading the work of writers who’ve publicly made loud pronouncements about the differences between “young writers” and everyone else. Because by the very act of asserting such idiocy, you’ve branded yourself incapable of the kind of empathy and logic that ought to drive the world forward.


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