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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Wonder Woman: the book



My latest book borrowed from the public library is Wonder Woman: The Official Movie Novelization by New York Times bestselling author Nancy Holder. I haven't seen the movie yet so while I'm waiting for the DVD I thought I'd get a head start. Though I haven't seen the film, I did see and review Batman v Siperman in which Wonder Woman was introduced and I thought Israeli actress, Gal Gadot did a really good job in the role. There's been a lot in the news about the film and whether it is feminist or not. I will withhold judgement until I see the movie and instead write here about how the story deals with the Amazons.

When I was in college I took some classes in Greek history, philosophy, and literature, and I really liked Greek mythology, so it was interesting to hear that Wonder Woman is supposedly an Amazon .... I read almost no DC comics as a kid and never read any of Wonder Woman, so her story and background are all new to me. I had to do a little Wikipedia research and boy was the background of the Wonder Woman character weird ;) ....

Wonder Woman was created by William Moulton Marston (aka Charles Moulton) who was a psychologist at Tufts University, among other things. He carried on a ménage à trois, living together with his wife, Elizabeth Holloway Marston, a Brit attorney/psychologist, and also with his student, Olive Byrne, who was the daughter of Ethel Byrne, a early feminist and the sister of Margaret Sanger with whom she opened the country's first contraception clinic. And they all had kids together.

One of Marston's favorite pet theories was that bondage was a good thing for women. He said ...

The only hope for peace is to teach people who are full of pep and unbound force to enjoy being bound... Only when the control of self by others is more pleasant than the unbound assertion of self in human relationships can we hope for a stable, peaceful human society... Giving to others, being controlled by them, submitting to other people cannot possibly be enjoyable without a strong erotic element.

I know I said I wasn't going to opine on the feminism issue but I've got to at least say that a predatory professor and polygamist who is into submissive women is not my idea of a feminist. But the effort is already underway to make him a feminist icon, with a movie about him and his oh so very liberated women (snort ;) ... Professor Marston & the Wonder Women. But I wanted to address the Amazon issue, not the feminist issue (yet). The professor may have been good at psychology but he and later writers at DC comics were not very reliable when it came to the Amazons.

SPOILERS AHEAD ....

The Wonder Woman story has her as the daughter of top god Zeus and the queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta. Supposedly the Amazons were created by Zeus to protect mankind from the god of war, Ares, who was jealous of humanity. Ares kills all the other gods but Zeus and Zeus gives the Amazons a secret weapon to use against Ares. The secret weapon turns out to be Wonder Woman herself, who ends up destroying Ares.

But this is nothing like what we have been told of the Amazons in Greek literature. They were a band of warrior women, perhaps based on real women but probably mythical, who were ruled by Hippolyta, the daughter of Ares. The Amazons had no special mission to protect mankind from Ares or anyone else.

There were Amazons at the battle for Troy and Hippolyta shows up in the tale of Heracles' labors, but she didn't have a demi-god daughter with Zeus (come on, he was her grandpa), she instead had a son with the hero Theseus, for love of whom she left the Amazons. Sad story, actually ... everybody dies A couple of pretty good novels about Theseus which touche on this - The King Must Die and The Bull from the Sea.

So anyway, the Wonder Woman story is only in the tiniest sense based on Greek mythology, but that doesn't mean I won't find it to be a good and perhaps even feminist film .... looking forward to seeing it, and I'll write more about it then.

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