As a person who spends a lot of her time in geek and nerd circles, I often find myself caught up in age-old arguments, like Can Wolverine Really Die? or What’s Stronger: Captain America’s Shield or Mjolnir?* Sometimes these arguments can get a little—okay, a lot—offensive. Just recently, someone made the comment that the new Superman movie was going to be a Justice League film, because Batman was going to be in it. “Aquaman and Wonder Woman, too,” I said. The groans started almost immediately, and I expected the next comments to steer the conversation towards a light dissection of Aquaman’s illogical League inclusion. But no. The offender was not that most useless of Super Friends, but Wonder Woman.
I pressured them for more information, but the only answer I could get to why her inclusion was a stupid idea went something like, “Because no one cares.” Apparently, a revamp of everyone’s favorite Amazon was—in their minds—just plain stupid. I felt my face going hot. I don’t know if I was angry or embarrassed. Somehow, it hurt that no one cared. I wanted to know why.
I started to wrack my brain, trying to find some clue as to why Wonder Woman was attracting such derision. I grew up watching Lynda Carter reruns. Sure, it was a cheesy show, but no more so than the animated home-release superhero films making their way to Netflix every quarter. Or, as Brian Moylan over at Hollywood put it, “Batman had a campy retro show too, and he’s had eight movies made about him since then.” Wonder Woman isn’t respected, but Shark Repellent Bat Spray is?
Maybe it’s her powers, I thought. Maybe they just aren’t cool anymore. Part of me wants to scream “SHARK REPELLENT BAT SPRAY” again, as loud as I can, but I’m going to exercise restraint.
Was Wonder Woman really the weakest and uncoolest of the Super Friends? In that animated Justice League of the 1970s and ’80s, only Aquaman, Batman and Robin, Superman, and Wonder Woman appeared throughout the show’s twelve-year-long run. Heroes like The Flash, Green Lantern, and the Wonder Twins appeared regularly, even for several seasons at a time, but only these five were there from start to finish.
Having established that Wonder Woman is part of the League’s steadfast core, I want to take a brief moment to analyze her allies. As I’ve said before, Aquaman is largely useless, with the exception of a certain image, which points out his most valuable potential. This Super Friend is the guy everyone loves to hate: the kid brother of the DC Universe. If that isn’t bad enough, Aquaman cannot spend lengthy periods of time on land, a fact which further narrows the scope of his usefulness.
Speaking of which, let’s talk about Robin. I’ll leave Batman alone for just a minute. Now, Robin is the Boy Wonder, and I love him in that capacity.** The role of Batman’s sidekick has been filled by many different people over the years, but one thing remains the same: when Batman’s around—always, for our purposes—Robin is just a sidekick. No more, no less.
With those two out of the way, let’s move on to the big bads: Batman and Superman. Bruce Wayne is the original genius billionaire playboy philanthropist. He’s a great detective with more gadgets than James Bond and a film noir backstory worthy of a Humphrey Bogart flick. Batman is a master of every martial art, and yet … Wonder Woman still kicks his ass. Not only is she vastly superior in terms of strength and speed, but the powerful relics she wields give her such an advantage that Batman cannot be anything close to a worthy opponent for her.
That leaves Superman. As an alien who gains ridiculous superpowers—heat vision, frost breath, bulletproof flesh, flight, etc.—from Earth’s yellow sun, and whose only weakness is a radioactive mineral from his home planet, you’d think he would be the winner of any Super Friends free-for-all. Batman can’t beat him, and no one else wants to try. Except Wonder Woman. Because she actually can defeat Superman.
Although the two demigods have never faced off in a fight to the death, they have been forced to fight each other at various points in time, mostly whenever one of them was being controlled by someone else. The funny thing about it is that, no matter what the situation is, both Superman and Wonder Woman—on those occasions when they each were the combatant in their right frame of mind—have held back in order to keep the other alive. So we don’t know for sure who would win in a fair fight. Theories vary, but most fans agree that Wonder Woman and Superman are evenly matched.
All that being said, the idea that Diana could possibly be the weakling among the Super Friends falls flat.
Next, I started to think maybe the story just wouldn’t be compelling enough. Then I remembered that Greek mythology never goes out of style. From the Percy Jackson series, to the non-canonical abomination that is Wrath of the Titans, to the questionable casting of Dwayne Johnson as Hercules: if it screams ZEUS, we’ll eat it up.
Wonder Woman is the princess of the Amazons. She might even be the daughter of Ares, although, given the fact that he has attempted to seduce her in the past, there’s also a good chance she isn’t. Even so, she’s a skilled warrior who has been blessed by six Olympians; among their gifts to her are super strength and durability, super speed and agility, the ability to heal, and a hunter’s eye. Additionally, she is the bearer of three powerful weapons: her tiara, lasso, and bracers. In fact, Wonder Woman is so surrounded in Greek mythology—just as much as Thor is immersed in the Norse Eddur—that she is the only reason we had Xena: Warrior Princess to look up to as children.
I would like to be able to say that my friends were in the minority when they said that no one cares about Wonder Woman. But although I found a lot of encouragement while researching this article, I also came across this misogynistic rant by Nick L. at Moviepilot. Granted, Mr. L. is not a professional journalist, nor is he a comics heavyweight. But his contradictory and unreasonably offensive attitude toward Gal Gadot’s casting as Wonder Woman rings the same as any other overtly sexist geek’s.
This is exactly what all female geeks and nerds—not just Wonder Woman fans—are up against: pervasive sexism in a community of which we are so much a part, but which treats us with polarized extremes of adoration and disgust. Female geeks are theoretical unicorns, but, when we show up, our knowledge, intellect, and opinions suddenly become threats to our male counterparts. We are then maligned as posers: sluts and whores who wear Batman shirts for attention. This is all if we are conventionally attractive, of course. If not, we’re subjected to the same forms of body shaming and sexual derision that our male peers have endured to the point of being stereotyped.
According to many, we already have silver-screen heroines—like Katniss and Tris—to represent us. The problem is that these young women don’t represent us. They represent our daughters, nieces, and younger sisters. With the intense fetishization of early puberty already present in mainstream society, these characters injure us just as much as they help younger generations. Those of us who have left high school far behind are not seen as wizened Katnisses, but post-prime windbags.
We need a hero who looks like us and portrays us as strong, intelligent, and capable. I don’t know whether or not the world is ready for her, and I don’t really care. We need Wonder Woman.
* The answer is C: the Incredible Hulk’s pants.
** When he’s a grown man in green and red spandex, not so much.
Want to weigh in on this geeky discussion? Leave your opinion in the comments!