Hollywood: The Herstory of Wonder Woman

By Tim Parks

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In 1941 when Wonder Woman made her debut in All-Star Comics, the concept of a female superhero must have seemed like something of an unconventional notion. Following in the footsteps of Superman and Batman, the shero proved that she was every bit as capable as The Man of Steel and The Caped Crusader and headlined her own comic book in 1942 through Sensation Comics.

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However, unlike her male counterparts The National Organization for Decent Literature – the One Million Moms of its time – blacklisted the comic citing that “Wonder Woman was not sufficiently dressed.” Um, hello Superman wore red underwear on the outside of his costume!

Princess Diana of Themyscira has had a long and storied career in the pantheon of pop culture and will finally be headlining her very own movie on June 2. This marks only the third time in her 76 year crime fighting career that she has appeared in Cineplex’s, following her appearance in last year’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. 

Gal Gadot stars as the Amazonian Princess in not one, but two movies this year alone. So let’s look at the herstory of Wonder Woman, shall we? That wasn’t a rhetorical question.

The Original Originator

As previously mentioned, Wonder Woman made her comic book debut in the 1940’s and was created by William Moulton Marston, a famed psychologist and the inventor of the lie detector test, who modeled her after both suffragists and erotic pin ups. The man himself fathered children with both his wife and mistress in a polyamorous relationship and had a penchant for bondage, which showed up in his work. But he took her strength very seriously.

“Frankly, Wonder Woman is psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who, I believe, should rule the world,” he said of his creation.

However, she certainly had her fair share of detractors. In the 1950’s Wonder Woman was accused by anti-comic crusader Fredric Wertham of “being a lesbian with a sadistic hatred of all men.” He makes it sound like it’s a bad thing!

It was during this period that Wonder Woman went from being a war hero and delved into regular gal mode and worked as a movie star, fashion model and even a lonely hearts columnist for a newspaper and during the 1960’s she was rebranded as an Emma Peel from The Avengers-type character.  She fared a bit better during the ’70s, thanks in part to the TV series. But the comic was cancelled in 1985 due to low sales and like the warrior she is came back the following year and has prevailed ever since. She even gained some Greek mythology parentage, courtesy of being Zeus’ daughter
Thank you For Being a Super Friend

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The very first animated version of Wonder Woman was featured on The Brady Kids cartoon in 1972 –  damn, let’s hope she didn’t throw a football at Marcia’s nose! It would have caved her face in! As it was, she and The Bunch get sent back in time to Ancient Greece, courtesy of the kids’ pet magical, talking myna bird. Somehow, I’m sure that Jan was still blamed for it.

During the run of the Saturday morning staple SuperFriends, she sported her Marlo Thomas That Girl flip hairstyle and was the only female in the all-boys Justice League of America. She had all of the traditional Wonder Woman items needed to fight for good: the golden lasso, the tiara, and the bracelets and of course, The Invisible Jet.

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After the show ended in 1986, she went on to be featured in a plethora of animated ventures, including: Wonder Woman and the Star Riders, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, DC Super Hero Girls and even an episode of South Park.

 

You Spin Me Round

In 1967, there was a five minute proposed pilot for Who’s Afraid of Diana Prince? William Dozier, the man behind TV’s Batman, thought it was time to bring Wonder Woman to the small screen. Unfortunately, it was also decided that Diana Prince (Ellie Wood Walker) would live at home with her shrill mother (Maudie Prickett) and transform into her super alter ego (Linda Harrison of The Planet of the Apes films) by going into a revolving wall and being able to fly afterwards. Dub tee eff? The pilot was a poor attempt to capitalize on the success of Batman and thankfully never made it to series. The answer to the title of the show can be answered as everyone should be scured. Very, very scured.

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In 1974, Cathy Lee Crosby starred as the titular hero in a TV movie that was loosely based on the DC Comics character. That’s an understatement. For starters, Crosby is blonde, Swedish looking and sported some sort of track suit/soccer mom ensemble. She was more of a Vunder Vuman who assists government agent Steve Trevor (Kaz Garas) in attempting to recover stolen classified code books from villain Abner Smith (Ricardo Montalban). Um, ok.

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Lynda Carter’s much-celebrated performance on the Wonder Woman series of the 1970’s was literally making dizzy queens out of boys that spun around and around in order to transform into their favorite super heroine. The show followed in the footsteps of the Batman series of the 1960’s, in that it had a dose of camp thrown in for good measure. How could GITs (Gays In Training) resist?

The series began as a two-hour pilot movie in 1975 and explained her origins on Paradise Island, which was thrown into a tizzy when Major Steve Trevor (Lyle Waggoner) crash landed on said all-female island. Surprisingly, it was not called The Isle of Lesbos. But I digress. She leaves her mother (Cloris Leachman and played by Caroline Jones in the subsequent series) and the other ladies behind to join in the fight for the old red, white and blue.

For the first year of the ABC show in 1976, Wonder Woman battled Nazis during WWII and had her kid sister Drusilla (Debra Winger) join in on the action as Wonder Girl. You go, Wonder Girl!

When the show moved over to CBS as The New Adventures of Wonder Woman, the show was brought into the 1970’s and the only remaining cast member – aside from Carter – was Lyle Waggoner, who played Steve Trevor, Jr.  Those two seasons saw Wonder Woman and Diana Prince doing battle with such scenarios as a telepathic disco dancer using his powers to steal people’s minds in the episode “Disco Devil.” Nope. Couldn’t make that up if I tried. The show went off the air in 1979, but remained forever in the heart of the LGBTQ community.

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Poor Adrianne Palicki didn’t really get a chance to step into the iconic Wonder Woman outfit for long, save for a pilot episode. And said get up in the proposed 2011 update, well, let’s just say was horrible. The first version looked like it was crafted from leggings and a bustier and the second version – after much interweb decrying from fans – just looked like something a college girl would wear for Halloween as slutty Wonder Woman.

Needless to say this David E. Kelley pilot did not live to see the light of day, as was the case for the proposed Amazon for the CW, which was to mainly focus on the origins of the Themyscira Princess. It only made it to the script process, until it was put on pause by the network in 2013.

The Silver Screen

Throughout the past 20 years, a number of efforts have been made to make a big screen adaptation, ranging from versions to star Jennifer Aniston to Sandra Bullock.

But her first celluloid appearance was in The Lego Movie in 2014. Yeah, that sorta counts! However, it is sufficed to say that she was the best part of 2016’s Batman v Superman – really at a runtime of 2 hours and 31 minutes and only 10 minutes of fighting? I call shenanigans!

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Anyhoo, Gadot seems more than capable to step into the foundation laid down by Carter before her. Her solo venture will be set during World War I and co-stars Chris Pine as Steve Trevor, Robin Wright as her Amazonian mentor and Connie Nielsen as her mother. Their island is attacked by men and their machines and they retaliate with arrows and other forms of chicks who kick ass badassery. It is decided that Wonder Woman will travel with Steve, posing as his secretary, to aid the Allies.

On November 17, Justice League will hit theaters and tell the story of Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gadot) tracking down metahumans Aquaman (Jason Momoa, hubba hubba), The Flash (Ezra Miller) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) to form a united front against villainous Steppenwolf.

So there you have it, a brief herstory of the most popular female super hero of our time, who has stood the test of time in remaining an example of being a strong role model for women and gay men alike. You’re a wonder, Wonder Woman!

 

 

 

Hollywood: Everything Old is New Again!

Hollywood: Everything Old is New Again!

By Tim Parks 

Check out my take on the Hollywood recycle program, which includes going green for the upcoming “updates” of Wonder Woman, Charlie’s Angels and Dallas!

If I were Chris Crocker (no I’m not, you stop that Buddy Hinton!) I would, and will most likely, be yelling at my TV screen to “Leave Britney,err,  Dallas, Wonder Woman and Charlie’s Angels alone!” 

I’d probably add a patented “you sons-of- bitches” in for good measure! And this was written before I saw ole Wonder’s “new” track suit costume, aack! Enjoy!

It’s on pages 35-36 on the online version of www.ragemonthly.com

Lynda Carter: more than a ‘woman’

Lynda Carter: more than a ‘woman’
by Tim Parks

For someone who has been recognized as the iconic television character of “Wonder Woman,” and more than 30 years ago tooled around the skies in her character’s Invisible Jet, actress Lynda Carter is certainly a very down-to-earth and grounded lady about the character’s long lasting appeal.

“You can never live up to it,” Carter stated. “But, I haven’t let it stop me. I understand it, I get it, and I think that I’ve reaped the benefits of having people identify Lynda Carter with the persona of Wonder Woman. I mean that is not a bad thing, because she’s wonderful. I can’t change that, might as well embrace it. I think that the thing you fight the most, it just persists, and it takes way too much negative energy do that.

She did, however, cite one drawback about her days as a hero.

“I guess I always worried about how my thighs looked,” she answered with a laugh. “You couldn’t have any jiggly thighs happening there.”

Carter is happy to have spent time in Wonder Woman’s satin tights, fighting for her rights and the old Red, White and Blue, even if people sometimes have trouble separating her character from her real-life persona.  

“People that know me really well forget about that, they just forget about it,” Carter said. “And, I’m certainly not aware of it, except in a public setting. I think that is the case with every actor that has ever played an iconic role – Charlton Heston in Ben-Hur, it goes all the way down,” Carter recanted. “It’s hard for me to separate, not knowing an actor of some kind, and they can be entirely different from the character’s they play. It just means they’re good actors, and I think the real person is somewhat disappointing.”         

During Carter’s phone interview with me, she was anything but disappointing, as she displayed a sweet disposition and was most gracious, which is good news for legions of gay and lesbian fans, as Carter’s turn (or spin, as the case may be) as Wonder Woman, conjures up many a happy childhood memory. But the actress was unaware of her gay appeal until a little more than a decade ago.

“I finally sort of figured it out, it was only maybe 15 years ago,” she replied. “I had a woman come in from a lesbian magazine, and she said, ‘You don’t know, do you?’ And I said, ‘I don’t get it, no, what?’ I lived in a little bubble, I guess. And she said, “you’re so big in the gay and lesbian community!’ And I said, ‘Really?’”

Ironically, Carter’s own ideal of a personal superwoman, is another community favorite.

“My heroine, the person I so wanted to be like was Bette Midler,” Carter stated. “Because she’s got that irreverence, and I’m nothing like Bette Midler, and I would never be anything like Bette Midler – Bette Midler is all her own, she kind of finds that goddess from within in her own way.”

But, there are commonalities between the two women, aside from the gay connotations surrounding their career fan base, which lies in the area of music.

When Carter was just a child she entered talent shows, and as a teen, she joined her first band, “The Relatives,” which included another ’70s TV alumni, Gary Burghoff, who would later star on M*A*S*H as “Radar.”

In 1970, she sang lead vocals for “The Garfin Gathering,” after that, Carter was crowned Miss World-USA in 1973, which led to her performing on a global scale with Bob Hope. During her tenure as a certain superhero, she recorded an album, headlined Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, and did five Emmy-award winning television variety specials.

“I had it in my blood,” Carter stated about what initially drew her to music. “It was always there; I can’t remember a time when I didn’t sing.”

More recently, she won raves for her portrayal of “Mama Morton” in the London West End production of Chicago in 2006, and last year saw her return to singing on stage as herself, belting out standards like, Peggy Lee’s “Fever,” and Billie Holiday’s “God Bless The Child.”

And Carter is set to hit the stage again, and will begin touring with whistle stops at the Thousand Oaks Performing Arts Center on April 25th, The Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts on April 27th, a six evening run at The Hotel Nikko in San Francisco from April 29th through May 4th, and on May 10th, she will be performing at The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.   

Carter is excited to be performing live again in front of an audience, and be “back on the road again,” as she put it.

“It’s about the music, and the connection to people,” she recanted. “And whether I’m in a big theater or I’m in a small setting, to me I have a desire to relate to audiences through music, and through whatever parts of me I can give on the stage.”

Fortunately, Carter has a two-fold stage presence, one of which entails memorizing lines and hitting a mark, to the other stage medium of nailing a song and captivating a live audience; and she sees the similarities and differences inherent in how both avenues of performance lend themselves to each other.    

“It’s never been any different in acting work,” Carter said. “It’s finding the truth of things, and when you’re coming from an honest place, I think it connects. I have a lot more control on what goes on in my stage performance – there’s a lot more pieces to the puzzle. It’s not costume changes or big lighting tricks or a giant orchestra – it is really putting yourself on the line. I’m comfortable with it, I like it, and I knew I was going to be an actress and a singer, and that’s it.”

But that’s not it, as for the life that the 57 year-old Carter has led and is leading, she’s also a wife to Robert Altman, a well-known Washington, DC lawyer, and mother to son Jamie and daughter Jessica.

Carter relayed that being a celebrity mom was more of a challenge when her children were younger, “they had to grow up learning that there was something different about me.”

One of the ways in which they were educated on this fact was when Carter was her son’s show-and-tell, bringing her Wonder Woman costume to her then five-year-old son’s classroom.

And embodying the good natured spirit of the character she had portrayed on television for three years, Carter asked her son to come up to the front of the class, to see if his classmates had any questions for him. Naturally, the very first question was “what’s it like to have a mom that’s famous and played Wonder Woman?”

“And, Jamie kind of looked up at me and said, ‘Well, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be,’” Carter laughingly recounted.

The balance of motherhood versus having a career has shifted nowadays for Carter, as her children are entering adulthood.

“My kids, I’m not saying they don’t need me, but in many ways it is easier for them for me to be busy,” she said. “I’ll drop anything for my kids, if I can do it physically, I will. I would not schedule something in the middle of my time with them, a singing thing that interferes with what I am doing with them. I don’t want to miss anything, and without a rich, personal life, all of the success in the world does not mean very much.”

Sometimes, fans can forget that the celebrities we admire are in fact human beings, which come equipped with the same set of worries that everyone can have from time-to-time. And, when you think of Lynda Carter, the word statuesque immediately springs to mind,  when asked what is the one thing that fans might be surprised to learn about her, the answer did, in fact, come as a surprise.

“I’m always fighting my self image of ‘I’m too fat, I hate this about my thighs,’” she replied. “I’ve never quite mastered the whole, ‘don’t hate me because I’m thin’ thing. I’m fine now, and I’ll never be twenty again, and I’m o.k. with myself these days. But I’m no different from anybody else, things start shifting and moving around. And it’s like, ‘Oh My God! When did that happen?’”

Since she has already conquered her fair share of stages during her career, Carter admitted to one area of the entertainment tree that she has been would love to branch out into.

“I think I can be very funny, and if you look back on ‘Wonder Woman,’ there’s a self deprecation in there,” she answered. “I would love to do a comedy, and I’m kind of good at the straight man thing.”

And certainly, a lot of gay men would support her straight man desire, and she did impart some wisdom for those of us who spent countless hours twirling about, trying to transform ourselves into her television alter-ego as children, (c’mon – I know I wasn’t the only one waiting for that clap of thunder to change me into her) and how to recapture that moment in time today.

“Go someplace where if you fall down, you won’t hurt yourself or hit your head on something, and do it again.”

While Carter acknowledges her past and its impact on the pantheon of pop culture, she is not bogged down by it.

“I’m doing what I’m doing now, I’m not thinking about my past accomplishments. I’m always interested in where my life is now, because that’s how we remain full,” she explained, and told a story of roses she had planted that became overshadowed by trees, and had to be moved in order to flourish – which she found to be a fitting analogy in regards to herself. “I had to move them into a sunny place, well that’s kinda my life story.”

This interview was first published on April 24th, 2008.