It was a sign of dire need when girls saw Linda Carter as a superhero when I was a teenage boy. Clearly, from my perspective at 15 or so, she was a set of big boobs who wore a cool costume and fought evil.
Turns out it was more than that… a lot more than that. Apparently girls saw her as, well, somebody… and somebody to be. As a teen nerd, I only knew of one girl who liked comics, so I didn’t think anybody was paying attention. Turns out they were.
In a world where men could be heroes and women could be heroines, or the spouse of a superhero, there weren’t a lot of images to aspire to if a girl wanted to try out her heroic side — if she wanted to be brave, courageous, good, and able to save the world. Yes, a woman could keep a mean house, but that’s all there was. (And, btw, that’s cool if that’s who you want to be, but if something is your thing, it’s kind of limiting, to say the least).
What I was also learning at the time, when I wasn’t thinking with my genitalia, via Deering, was that I like strong women. They weren’t as needy, so I could just be a guy — without chest hair, polyester pants, and later, cocaine to impress them, By opening up their possibilities, I got to open up mine — like staying home with the kids, (fun and meaningful for me, unimaginable for my father, inconceivable for my grandfather).
Because I liked the idea of strong women, I didn’t give girls a hard time about Wonder Woman. It’s a darn good thing I didn’t. Now, in 2017, I’d have been seen as an idiot, my girls wouldn’t have gone to see a great movie with me, and I would have missed what will become a classic, alongside of Raiders of the Lost Ark and others. Yes, it’s that good. Wonder Woman is a great movie for the same reason that Raiders was: there is not a wasted minute in the entire film. (As a sidelight, both movies feature the heroes using whips for all kinds of new things.) The movie goes from good scene with good direction and good dialogue and great action to more of the same. Two and a half hours later, you wonder where the time went.
Oh, and she’s a very different kind of superhero. She is brave, courageous, action-oriented warrior who hates war. Throughout the entire movie, she never throws the first punch, kicks the first kick or beats someone bloody with her shield on her own. She is courageous defense throughout. When I was a kid, men — and boys that wanted to be men — never started a fight, but were always willing to finish one. That is Diana Prince/Wonder Woman, the queen of the Amazons. She stands up to bullies, defends the weak, values all human life, but never picks a fight. In doing so, Steve Trevor, her love interest and a hero himself, gets to take care of things the best way he knows how, without “worrying about the little lady”. He, too, stands up to bullies, defends the weak, values all human life, but never picks a fight. That makes two heroes in one movie… and allows for it in real life.
When I was a little kid, there was a show on TV featuring Diahann Carroll as “Julia” — a Black nurse and single mother. My mother was a single mother who wanted to be a nurse, so I Could picture it. The show opened up the possibility that Black families were like mine, and that Black women could be nice. I didn’t know any of them yet, but when I did, I expected them to be like Julia. Most were.
As reviews have come in for this movie, they have pointed out that — like Julia — different people saw different things when they saw Linda Carter all those years ago. There are women who tried out that side of their personalities, once it wasn’t seen as only “manly”. Those women are the leaders of today, regardless of their occupation– preachers , teachers, senators, and — maybe one day– Presidents. They are colleagues and friends who fight for democracy against ruthless men today. I for one, am damn glad they do. The work of saving the world, or our little corner of it at least, frequently takes more than I have.
So, Linda Carter is an actress, and a role model, and the opener of possibilities… and yes, she still looks good, but apparently there’s more to her than that, if only we look beyond age 15. Gal Godot is wise to follow in her footsteps.
Wonder Woman and I are… Resisting with Peace,