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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Wondering About Wonder Woman...

I was thinking about Wonder Woman today, specifically how excited I am to see Gail Simone take over, but started to think about the uneven portrayals the character seems to suffer sometimes.

I've never really understood why it seemed so hard to write Diana. She's not really a very contradictory character, not like say Guy Gardner or anything, she's just a dignified woman who thinks of her duties first.

I wonder if maybe the problem is that some of the writers don't consider what role "Princess" would really play into Diana's character. Diana's a character that for all she's the first child born in centuries, that has always had duty and honor weighted onto her shoulders. Ideally the duty of royalty is to serve the people and at least on Themyscira, that ideal is upheld. Everything Hippolyta did as ruler was for her people. When she served her personal interests, replacing Diana with Artemis, among other things, she was abandoning her duty and she left for a while to atone until she was able to serve again.

I think it might be hard to relate because we don't really have a model of inherited power/status to look at in this country. Socio-economic factors do have a huge impact on our lives, of course, but we don't tend to be born with our roles immediately defined for us. With one path as our only path, barring very bizarre incidents. We don't really have an archetype readily available to base our characterizations off of, except for simpering twits and gallant idiots in Fairy Tales.

I think that to really get into what makes Diana tick, we really do need to look at what it must mean to be born the child of a king or queen. To have your path laid out at birth. To have your life completely aimed in one direction. To have the rules and restrictions drilled into you at birth, and to know that your life is essentially meaningless outside of your one specific role.

Themyscira of course does have many differences. The Amazons are functionally immortal. Hippolyta wasn't going to die any time soon (and dissolved the monarchy before she did anyway), but the element of birth and duty still upheld. Probably even moreso for Diana. As the only child born in millenia, she had social obligations to every woman there. Hippolyta probably wasn't the only Amazon to yearn for a child, so Diana would have had to take it upon herself to be the child of everyone. To alleviate all of their maternal instincts and bring that joy into their lives.

The pressure must have been enormous. Imagine the upset if she were unhappy. A sensitive girl like Diana would probably realize that her emotional state impacted so many people that she would have learned strict control.

Diana as an ambassador would have been the representative of her entire people moreso. Control and dignity are vital. Even doing the most casual thing, she has to be aware that what she does reflects upon not only her culture but her government as well. She can't afford to look weak or ignorant or clueless. Even if everything's very strange.

Actually, you know who I think would be a good model to look at when trying to write Diana of Themyscira? Prince Charles of England. At least his public persona.

He already has children, so his role in fathering heirs is finished. But his mother, the Queen always appears spry and healthy. Considering HER mother lived to be a hundred, it's probably going to be a long time before inheritance is an issue. He was however born and raised to his role, indoctrinated in his duties from birth.

He's the first member of the English royal family to be educated with non-royals. And is the first to graduate from college. This is a pretty big deal considering how isolated royalty tends to be. That could very well be compared to Diana, as the first Amazon to leave Paradise Island.

Well, I guess with the Infinite Crisis reshuffle, Hippolyta was actually really out in the world during WWII. But that could be a parallel to Queen Elizabeth attending school and taking part in the war effort as a young adult. Rather than the more extreme perspective change of an actual schooling experience. Hippolyta was a visitor to America, Diana was stationed here.

Like Diana, his public role tends to be diplomatic. He also does a lot of charity and environmental work that tends to get overshadowed by his villainization during his divorce as well as other scandals. Diana's many good deeds also tend to be overshadowed by unfortunate circumstances. Snapping the neck of Max Lord and having it broadcast to the world is a bit beyond any real world situation, but then, it IS comics.

Of course Diana is very different from the Prince as well. But I think if someone were trying to write a good Wonder Woman, using a stoic, dignified, polite, duty-minded, distant, and somewhat socially awkward persona similar to his would not be a bad foundation to start with.

As long as she still gets to punch things, of course.


  • At July 08, 2007 9:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Allow me to Larry King this;Amazons Attack...Good Thing or Bad Thing?

  • At July 08, 2007 10:34 AM, Blogger SallyP said…

    Noblesse oblige. Honor and stoicism are no longer admired in America, which is rather a sad thing. Which is probably why Picoult has Diana flapping her hands and being emotional and helpless...which drives me into a tooth-gnashing rage.

    There are plenty of strong historical women who could give Diana some pointers; Eleanor of Acquitaine, Berenice of Palestine, Boadiccea,Elizabeth I, heck even Queen Victoria, before she went all weepy over Albert.

    Frankly, I long for a little stoicism.

  • At July 08, 2007 12:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I agree completely.

    Fits in with my earlier theories about why Supergirl became so rebellious and how Diana was, unconciously, making the same mistakes Hippolyta did in trying to define Kara's future role without thinking about what Kara wanted or what was best for her.

  • At July 08, 2007 3:17 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    anonymous: I'd say bad, but with the caveat that the biggest problem might just be that there's so much other stuff going on right now that Amazons Attack feels tacked on. (Also I think it might have been better with a more experienced writer on Wonder Woman. Picoult's a talented prose writer, but an inexperienced comic book one, and these kind of massive events must be a sort of trial by fire).

    sally: Those are definitely great examples. I've always personally admired stoicism as a character trait so I'm very biased, but I don't think we see it enough.

    Batman doesn't count. He's too...I'm not sure what it is actually...but I wouldn't call him stoic.

    "Starman": That's a really good point! Poor Kara. Clark is really too hands-off a mentor and Diana is too heavy handed...

  • At July 08, 2007 8:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think the problem with your take, Kalinara, is that it'd be really hard to write that character as interesting without breaking the public persona and showing the conflict. At that point, to us, the readers, she's not the person she presents herself to the DC universe as being. The public Diana would be who we'd see in JLA or other books, but in her own book we need to see what drives her to all that.

    -- Jack of Spades

  • At July 08, 2007 8:46 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Hi! That's a good point, but I think the solo title doesn't have to drop the idea to work around it. There are lots of storytelling techniques that can be used to show the human/conflicting side without contradicting the other elements. Internal monologue captions and the like.

    Really I don't think it'd be any harder than showing Batman's internal conflict, honestly. He doesn't have to be turned into a floundering idiot to show a more human side. :-)

  • At July 10, 2007 2:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The problem, I think, with the various versions of Wonder Woman is that she's really a hero at the tale end of he journey. She's already done the rookie thing and her character should have already moved passed that point in her development.

    She isn't damaged goods like Bruce, nor does she have Kal's Jesus complex weighing on her shoulders; she should be the very model of a well adjusted and balanced hero by now. That's why I favored her ambassador role so much. It allowed her to experience conflict without compromising the character's development.

    And now she's been kicked back down to rookie status. It feels like DC thought they couldn't go anywhere with the character so hit the reset button.

  • At July 12, 2007 1:41 PM, Blogger FemiNerds said…

    Onion, you have so kindly summed up what I've been feeling these past months. You're exactly right - DC seems to have given up on WW, and has simply hit the reset button. It's almost like they didn't know what to do with her after she killed Max Lord. Which is a terrible waste - not only of a strong character with an established back story, but of the fans' time and money, really.


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