Change our Minds, Wonder Woman

Season 3 of the 1970s TV show starring Lynda Carter – part 3 of my Wonder Woman musings

By mid season two, watching had become a chore for research. I wasn’t too excited to begin season 3. The first episode set up the expectation of further struggle to continue as well as disappointment. As pointed out by an internet site, it seemed to be targeting teenage and child audiences with its characters and themes – juveniles into skateboarding, amusement arcades, teenage music idols. There’s nothing to refer to who Wonder Woman is or where she’s from, no more poetic philosophical speeches, but just regurgitated plots about mind control and identity stealing – and even the guest actors are recycled.

It seems that Wonder Woman wanted in on everyone else’s show. Female agents were doing well: Diana Prince becomes one. Humanised robots and computers were popular: a Metal Mickey and K9 (with Roadrunner noises) are introduced. Space features regularly to be a Star Wars/Trek/Buck Rogers rival. In the penultimate episode, it seemed they were trying to copy Arnold from Different Strokes, Cheetah from Tarzan and decided that LA had more appeal than Washington.

Lynda’s long ponytail and the over zealous gradually blusher return. They rarely bother with glasses now for Diana – which are still huge – but it’s assumed no-one will make the connection so there’s no need to disguise her. But that takes half the fun away!

There’s an attempt to have others in the IADC office – a short-lived woman named Bobby – but IRAC and Rover return and have more character. I was cross that like in life, computers take the jobs of people, but I became quite fond of IRAC and even found his bruised electronic ego, his raspberries and competitive board games amusing. Steve’s often kept in the office – though he’s eventually allowed out a bit more than last season – and Diana is orphaned in the concrete tower of a Washington government office, without even shots of her apartment, let alone her real home.

But then I found myself enjoying it again. That is partly about Diana. If she is appealing to me, the show works. By that, I don’t mean whether she is personally attractive to me, but whether she’s attractive as a character. The warmth and naiveté of season 1 disappeared. I liken her to Evie in The House of Eliot, the BBC drama about two sisters setting up a fashion house. Evie, played by Louise Lombard, was an utterly charming 18 yr old at the start. Naturally, the character grew up and the actress did too. But what we got was not a mature version of lovably Evie, but a hard person reflected in her image change. By the end, I’d gone off Evie and that alienated me from the show. At least there were two sisters and I felt warmth toward the other. In Wonder Woman, she is the only main character and so losing connection to her meant alienation from the whole show.

The paling foundation and harsh blusher seems to change for the better, as did the shaping of Lynda’s eyebrows. The lipgloss I so wanted to blot – was. She’s naturally tanned again.  But what of her character? She’s become patronising and even predatory to kids and other young women. She’s become hard spy lady that everyone drools over but no-one was going to get.

The feminists on the DVD features said she’s sexy but not threatening to other women. But she’s too thin – and Lynda lamented on the commentary to episode one that her bones no longer shew as they did 30 years ago. She ought to be glad about that. Comic books and the actress who played her says ‘no stomachs’ to women; no cellulite, no large limbs. It’s cool to see your bones, it’s cool to be sticky.

There were flashes of warmth – such as to her friends in the skateboard episode. But the way Diana treats a child in the leprechaun episode was not her usual charm. As a child, I’d have run from this strange woman who was irresponsible in her advances towards young Lisa, not thinking how a child might be frightened. Lynda says she played the child relations as a yearning in Diana for children she doesn’t have. I didn’t see anything maternal about the way she spoke to the girl then – she was snaky and pushy, not explaining who she was, but rather sounding threatening: ‘if you want to help your friend, you’d better talk to me’.

So I changed my mind twice: from liking it more than I expected, to disappointment, back to liking it and then a ultimately a bit disappointed, perhaps in the way the show closed.

There was a little sadness when the last episode ended and there was no more TV Wonder Woman to see.

As the show was cancelled, there is no ending, as Lynda Carter laments on the commentary. She wishes there was chance to say goodbye to the character she’d played for 60 episodes and I have watched for two months.

A weakness of Wonder Woman was its lack of continuing plot and its lack of excitement. Other series drawing to a close would make us all tune in, impatient to see how it’ll all tie up.

I could think of a scenario that would make that last episode exciting. We know Wonder Woman will round off her time on earth as we’ve known her – but how? Will she marry Steve? Will she take up Andros’ offer? Will there be a pull back to her island? I would present the possibility of all three. If Wonder Woman is heterosexual, might she have to chose between her man and her people on all female paradise island? Or could this be an opportunity to change that ancient race? That would be interesting in itself.

Lynda’s suggestions of why her character could end the show were all about  love and families. I am now convinced she does mean what I feared as she has talked about this so much – the idea that Wonder Woman is lacking without husband and family (and by extension, I read, so are we). I think in that sense, Lynda doesn’t fully get her character. Wonder Woman is a goddess. There’s an issue straight away with reproducing with humans, and perhaps even questions about goddesses and physical intimacy. Like Queen Elizabeth I of England, it seems Diana has chosen a mission and her people over what we term as personal happiness.

However, often people with families say the reverse of what Lynda implies – that it takes away their identity as it subsumes them – not that they become more fulfilled and complete. How can Wonder Woman be a feminist if she retires to be a mother and wife? On the extras, various American women writers assemble to say what they love about her. They state that Wonder Woman has been an example of the dual role of woman. But Lynda’s Wonder Woman would give up being Wonder Woman. To lead by example, Diana would need to continue being Wonder Woman and do her family role.

I couldn’t see in Wonder Woman what these women in the documentary could. I wonder if Wonder Woman is too American to be an icon for outsiders: it has created a sense of other in me, when at first I was inclined to the reverse. Perhaps it’s because Diana becomes naturalised to America that I stop being able to identify with her. She stops any critique of America; now it’s expected that her loyalty to her ‘new friends’ – i.e. a government intelligence service – comes before her own people. Her Mother, Queen Hippolyte, vanishes into the mirror of episode 3, season 2 and forever out of the series – never again is the island mentioned, or that Wonder Woman comes from somewhere else.

Reading an introduction by Mercedes Lackey to a 2008 comic ‘Circle’, I am reminded that in the comic book world, Diana is definitely other. Her stories feature ancient gods. She is divine, not human. She is begotten not created – yes I did borrow that line from O Come All Ye Faithful. Like Superman, she is sent to our world from elsewhere, to live as one of us. But although the Superman movies made a very clear link between the Christmas story and their film being released at that time, the Messianic parallel works better with Diana than Kal-el, divinely progenitored from earthly materials. Diana chose her mission at a time of need – she wasn’t sent into the world as an unconsenting baby. Her mother yet lives, not as a prerecorded hologram of deceased mortal commoners, like Superman’s parents, but as an eternal wise Queen.

The DVD extras of season 3 comment on how that Wonder Woman is a change from the usual father son relationship of hero stories, sent by and communing with her mother and sister. As the pilot bravely said: “Sisterhood is stronger than anything…” There is little of that kind of statement now. Feminism is assumed and demonstrated through ass kicking, literally. Wonder Woman now hits out before she is hit – she even headbuts in one episode (23). That goes against the peace loving message that Wonder Woman is all about. That the thoughtfulness of the start was never returned to made this a harder blow, and a missed opportunity to have used entertainment for positive world changing, as Wonder Woman was conceived to do.

 

 

 

 

 

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