Woman of the Hour?

No, about 46 minutes per episode – 36 of them so far…

I have already shared my thoughts from the first series of the 1970s TV show and a little research into the comics – my first and very pleasing forray into the world of  Wonder Woman. Now I have completed watching season 2 and my feelings are different.

Wonder Woman has changed TV network and also time period. The season premiere begins by being incredibly similar to the original pilot – the crashed plane, the women on Paradise Island, the bullets and bracelets competition to win the mission of returning with the craft to America. Steve junior’s in a suit, no longer a uniform, and has grown up to look just like his Dad from the first season. Etta Candy and Colonel Blankenship are gone, and in their place at the office are a talking computer and robot, a short lived boss called Joe, an unseen voice, and later, Eve, one of the series’ several black characters (there were none in Season 1). Steve spends more time on the end of a phone and less joining Diana on escapades. Paradise Island soon ceases to feature.

Diana is now a star in her own right; she becomes a famous agent of the Inter-Agency Defense Command. In the first season, Diana wasn’t considered pretty enough to enter a beauty competition and she is picked as Yeoman due to her lack of glamour. Early in the second season, Joe isn’t sure she’s got the right wardrobe to go undercover as a ‘swinger’. Now, in every episode, her looks are commented on admiringly. Like the series itself, Diana undergoes a change halfway through. Diana’s style becomes what she’d call ‘slinky’ in the first season. Her hair and make up change and she doesn’t seem as beautiful and appealing. Comic book artist Phil Jimenez states he admires Lynda Carter’s portrayal for its grace, regality, femininity, dignity and style. Diana was naive, but never dippy. Some of that has gone by the close of this season and that has a huge bearing on my appreciation of the show.

The Wonder Woman costume has a subtle make over, making the PE pants highlegged, and the cleavage more prominent. The stunts are bigger and it seems a little more violent. There’s also greater sexism. Wonder Woman’s first girl fight left her and the other woman with ripped clothing. Later, Diana happens to rip her pants (in the US sense) in a parachute jump, at the knee; so she cuts her trousers off at the groin to make them hotpants. (Steve also falls with her but doesn’t suffer any rents to his clothes). Yet, even in a swimming costume, Ms Carter never shows her actual legs – the satin tights remain.

That line in the lyrics does, but much of the theme tune’s other words are changed and an irritating sound that like a kid who can’t play the recorder is added. The Nazis are phased out, and now Wonder Woman fights ‘on the side of right’ rather than for hers. No more stopping wars with love, no more metamorphosing doves… she’s woman of the hour and her chance to fight evil is not denied… almost as if she wants to kick ass. One comic artist on the DVD extra said that Wonder Woman wants to spread her message of love – she’s not looking for fights. Yet these lyrics suggest the reverse.

Early on in the season, there were links with the first series and the opportunity for some thoughtful questions posed. But by the end of the first disc, there’s no more just war discussion, no critiquing or even assertion of what makes America good. The side of right and America’s government are unquestionably synonymous – and Wonder Woman fights for us  – even against her own people on Paradise Island. That episode, “Trouble in the Bermuda Triangle”, speaks of aiding the American arms supremacy. The writer has misunderstood all that Wonder Woman stands for – she is for peace and justice, and would hate nuclear weaponry. I wonder if Wonder Woman had stayed in the US till the end of the war, whether Hiroshima and Nagasaki would have happened.

Episode 3 attempts to deal with how Japanese people were treated by America during the war, although the above atrocities are not talked about. Was this episode on relocation camps to abate bad feeling from Japan or to encourage fellow Americans to lose their old prejudices? It ends with the shocking line: ‘That’s why pencils have erasers’ regarding the mistakes made by America to Japan. I would be interested to know how that episode was received by Japanese viewers, as it can come across as clumsy and even propagandist; but the storyline seems at least like an attempt to deal with issues. These essays peter out shortly after.

The Nazis were appropriate adversaries with far more potential than those of the seasons set in the 1970s. Sometimes these new villains have special powers – the Japanese psychokinetic, the boy with psychic gifts – but these are appropriated by military intelligence. Villains rarely have much of a reason for being evil now. The overlooked country’s royalty trying to use the olympics to win recognition was an interesting idea – but it got lost in camp evil laughs and silent massaging twins. The writer of the Outer Space episodes with Andros returns – but this feature length episode was far poorer than the one in the first season. The aliens are now after minds, not moral judgments; and apart from a swipe at all bureaucracy, there’s little food for thought this time.

The laughs are less; since the comic books titles go, there’s no more invisible planes or voice mimicry; and only the yogic travel into outer space amused me.

It felt by the end that I was watching a different show, far different from the one I had found so inspiring and surprisingly thoughtful as well as entertaining.

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