Wonder Woman’s New Costume Is Criminal; Spandex Panties Rule
Wonder Woman has a new costume, and my mom does not like it.
“Gross,” she said, closely examining the leggings, bolero jacket and everyday-Jane haircut. “That is not my Wonder Woman.”
Her Wonder Woman is the raven-haired 1940s Amazonian goddess in a red and gold corset with red boots and star-spangled panties. Actually, when Mom first fell in love with the Golden Age Wonder Woman during World War II, the superhero preferred a skirt. The blue briefs debuted a few issues later. Lynda Carter, as most men of a certain age certainly recall, wore the Spandex ensemble flawlessly in the 1970s television show.
With her Lasso of Truth, invisible plane and indestructible Bracelets of Victory (constructed from remnants of Athena’s shield), Wonder Woman is considered a feminist icon. She certainly was that to my mom. In the rural South in the 1940s, my mom pretended she was Wonder Woman, saving the world from the Nazis while her nephew, Rex, jumped off roofs as Batman. For my mom’s generation, Wonder Woman offered women a chance to both be it all — strong, crime-fighting and beautiful — and have it all, including a handsome war hero as a love interest.
William Moulton Marston, (who also developed the polygraph), created Wonder Woman at the insistence of his wife, Elizabeth Holloway, who wanted a female superhero to counter the male-dominated comic world of Superman, the Green Lantern and Batman.
“Wonder Woman is psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who should, I believe, rule the world,” Marston wrote at the time.
Wonder Woman was born in the era of Rosie the Riveter, when women went to war and, on the home front, filled jobs typically held by men. Wonder Woman could fly a plane, make men obey and tell the truth with her Golden Lasso.
Woman Woman’s simple story developed from Greek mythology. She was Amazonian and lived among a tribe of strong women, including her mother, Amazon Queen Hippolyta, on Paradise Island. During World War II, Steve Trevor, a U.S. intelligence officer, crash lands on the island. Wonder Woman wins the right to return him to “Man’s World.” Once there, Wonder Woman — aka Diana — begins to fight the Nazis and crime.
As with all comic book heroes, her story developed over the decades to include more superhero powers and complex back stories with twists and turns that often made no sense.
At the end of the mod-happy 1960s, for example, Wonder Woman surrendered her powers to stay in Man’s World. Tsk, tsk. She becomes a mod fashion plate, changing costumes for a split second to look more like Diana Rigg’s Emma Peel of the era, and owns a boutique. A Chinese master teaches her martial arts and in turn, she delves into espionage. Yes, very Emma Peel.
“Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength, and power,” Marston wrote about his creation. “Not wanting to be girls, they don’t want to be tender, submissive, peace-loving, as ‘good’ women are. Women’s strong qualities have become despised because of their weakness. The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman.”
So what if Wonder Woman showed a lot of leg, a hint of cleavage and touted her patriotism unabashedly? The bustier nicely highlighted her warrior muscles, and she was the first superhero to wear big-girl panties without shame. The package certainly wooed the Justice League. They made her its first female member.
Some have questioned the practicality of Wonder Woman’s old mega-snug costume for fighting crime without her breasts falling out. Hello, she’s a superhero. If she can capture diabolical masterminds, surely she can keep the girls tethered.
Wonder Woman’s updated wardrobe is generating a firestorm of buzz.
The Washington Post’s Robin Givhan hails the change and calls the new Wonder Woman “an international sophisticate.”
Feminist Gloria Steinem put Wonder Woman on a 1972 cover of Ms. magazine. The headline? “Wonder Woman for President.” Steinem told The Associated Press that the new costume “gives us the idea that only pants can be powerful — tell that to Greek warriors and Sumo wrestlers.”
She added,”In fact, they’re so tight that they’ve just painted her legs blue; hardly a cover-up.”
Steinem also takes issue with the Wonder Woman storyline shift. So do I.
Wonder Woman was raised on Paradise Island and influenced by her strong-willed mother and Amazonian sisters. Men were not part of the family. It’s a story line that resonates even today, as my WomanUP colleague Bonnie Goldstein recently wrote when describing another colleague, Helena Andrews, and her strong mother.
In the revamped telling, Wonder Woman is whisked off the island as a baby and raised some place that turned the superhero into a gritty, urban street fighter. Yawn. What’s wrong with fantasy in funny books?
Apparently, a lot.
Wonder Woman incoming series writer, J. Michael Straczynski, calls the outfit “versatile.” Code word for practical. “She can close it up to pass unnoticed . . . open it for the freedom to fight . . . lose the jacket or keep it on . . . it has pockets (the other fan question, “where does she carry anything in that outfit?”), it can be accessorized,” Straczynski wrote in DC’s official press release. “It’s a Wonder Woman look designed for the 21st century.”
P’shaw. Superheroes shouldn’t sport the same look that my hip friends wear to concerts.
In her debut comic, Wiedlin turns into a costume-rockin’ sci-fi superhero who wields a guitar and a whip while wearing fishnet stockings, silver boots, a long purple cape and – gasp! — a red corset and micro-mini skirt.
The cover advertises “Sex, droids and rock & roll.” Now, that’s escapism.
But perhaps originality is too hard these days. It’s better to toy with a known commodity like Wonder Woman than test-market an entire new brand. There’s something endearing about a classic remaining — just that — a classic.
Wonder Woman in her red, white and blue glory is an American icon. She should remain so.