Characters over the ages #1

We kick off this blog, appropriately with Wonder Woman. I think WW is a fascinating sociological specimen. Here - in a skimpy, spangled nutshell - you have an idea of gender relations - particularly the strange and laughably contradictory views that men have of how their women should be.

A little history lesson first. Wonder Woman was introduced into the world gingerly in 1942. At that time, the big guns of comic books (Superman, Batman) were all male. The prevailing idea was that a female lead couldn't sell comics. To cover up for her unfortunate gender, the writers added a few ingredients - patriotism (star-spangled girl, also her debut was around the time of Pearl Harbour and she was married to a US airman); mythology (very bad rewriting of the Greek myths in her back story); and of course gratuitous T&A. To begin with WW had only female villains to fight. To expect a woman - even with those cool bracelets and lariat - to kick the asses of male supervillains was too far-fetched for the public to swallow.

Also WW was shoehorned into this odd relationship with the good Capt. Trevor. This is where the complex politics of man-woman relationships entered the picture. Note that Superman could marry mortal Lois and Batman could (briefly) woo the winsome Vicki, but when you have a strong (and they don't come stronger than her) woman in a relationship with a decidedly ordinary man, things tend to look bad for the guy in question. To save Steve from the severe embaressment of being regularly saved by his girlfriend, the authors played up his military history, his courage and fighting spirit IN SPITE of not having any superpowers. Finally Steve never realised that Diana and WW were the same person and often rushed in to save his damsel, believing her to be in distress. At times like these, WW was only too happy to simper "Oh Steve", and give our hero a long kiss.

Cut to the post-feminist era. Now superheroines are accepted with open arms (yeah right!). In the DC universe, decidedly sexual women - Black Canary, Zatanna (Why would anyone fight crime in fishnets?) and more recently Huntress - take the stage. With kickass attitudes, they can take down any villain - male or female - and are incredibly slutty to boot. Now the focus is back on our lady. She has the first-mover advantage. So she is already queen of the scene. Time to start taking WW seriously. So her godly powers are accentuated and she is made a UN ambassador (there has never been that much collective cleavage in any security council sitting). Now remains the problem of the insignificant other. Being a product of the 1940's, WW was strictly monogamous. So opportunity to position her as the pristine queen - to be admired and desired, but never attained. But what of Stevie boy? Well, take the easy way out. Steve (like all men with powerful girlfriends) has sudden ego hassles, walks out on her and marries the comic relief. So he is now a complete jerk (courageous World War heroism notwithstanding) and she's better off without him.

Now in this new avatar, WW is strictly kept out of any relationships. Subtle sexual tensions vis-a-vis Batman and Aquaman are being explored, but they are never overt (nor should they ever be). The new WW is a beacon for her entire gender. She is smart, bold, ethical, and responsible. A complete role model, a woman to be looked up to. She can kick ass on an Olympian scale and remain the heart of the JLA. In other words, someone to be taken VERY SERIOUSLY.

Oh, and she still wears a high-cut, backless, strapless swimsuit that masquerades as a costume.

Men, you see, will always be pigs.