Wonder Woman's Secret Past

Roundup
tags: Wonder Woman



Jill Lepore, a staff writer, has been contributing to The New Yorker since 2005.

The Wonder Woman Family Museum occupies a one-room bunker beneath a two-story house on a hilly street in Bethel, Connecticut. It contains more than four thousand objects. Their arrangement is higgledy-piggledy. There are Wonder Woman lunchboxes, face masks, coffee mugs, a Frisbee, napkins, record-players, T-shirts, bookends, a trailer-hitch cover, plates and cups, pencils, kites, and, near the floor, a pressed-aluminum cake mold, her breasts like cupcakes. A cardboard stand holds Pez dispensers, red, topped with Wonder Woman’s head. Wonder Woman backpacks hang from hooks; sleeping bags are rolled up on a shelf. On a ten-foot-wide stage whose backdrop depicts ancient Greece—the Parthenon atop the Acropolis—Hippolyte, queen of the Amazons, a life-size mannequin wearing sandals and a toga, sits on a throne. To her left stands her daughter, Princess Diana, a mannequin dressed as Wonder Woman: a golden tiara on top of a black wig; a red bustier embossed with an American eagle, its wings spread to form the letters “WW”; a blue miniskirt with white stars; bracelets that can stop bullets; a golden lasso strapped to her belt; and, on her feet, super-kinky knee-high red boots. Nearby, a Wonder Woman telephone rests on a glass shelf. The telephone is unplugged.

Superman débuted in 1938, Batman in 1939, Wonder Woman in 1941. She was created by William Moulton Marston, a psychologist with a Ph.D. from Harvard. A press release explained, “ ‘Wonder Woman’ was conceived by Dr. Marston to set up a standard among children and young people of strong, free, courageous womanhood; to combat the idea that women are inferior to men, and to inspire girls to self-confidence and achievement in athletics, occupations and professions monopolized by men” because “the only hope for civilization is the greater freedom, development and equality of women in all fields of human activity.” Marston put it this way: “Frankly, Wonder Woman is psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who should, I believe, rule the world.”

The house in Bethel belongs to Marston’s oldest son, Moulton Marston. He’s eighty-six. Everyone calls him Pete. “I started it six or seven years ago when I had so much Wonder Woman stuff lying around,” he says. A particular strength of the collection is its assortment of Wonder Woman dolls, action figures, and statuary. They come in every size, in ceramic, paper, rubber, plastic, and cloth; jointed, inflatable, and bobble-headed. Most are posed standing, legs astride, arms akimbo, fists clenched, half sassy, half badass. In a corner, blue eye-shadowed, pouty-lipped Wonder Woman Barbie dolls, tiaras missing, hair unkempt, have been crammed into a Wonder Woman wastebasket.

Many of the objects in the Wonder Woman Family Museum date to the nineteen-seventies, when DC Comics, which owns Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, was newly affiliated with Warner Bros. Between 1975 and 1979, Warner Bros. produced a Wonder Woman TV series, starring Lynda Carter, a former beauty queen. Since 1978, Warner Bros. has made six Superman films and eight Batman films, but, to the consternation of Wonder Woman fans, there has never been a Wonder Woman film. This is about to change. Last December, Warner Bros. announced that Wonder Woman would have a role in an upcoming Superman-and-Batman film, and that, in a three-movie deal, Gal Gadot, a lithe Israeli model, had signed on to play the part. There followed a flurry of comments about her anatomical insufficiency for the role.

“It’s been said that you’re too skinny,” an interviewer told Gadot on Israeli television. “Wonder Woman is large-breasted.”

“Wonder Woman is Amazonian,” Gadot said, smiling coyly. “And historically accurate Amazonian women actually had only one breast.” (They cut off the other one, the better to wield a bow.) ...




comments powered by Disqus