Meagan Vincent Feminist History Through Masked Eyes Cancelled.

The remake of the classic and iconic Wonder Woman sitcom of the 1970's was officially cancelled by NBC, the very network that had commissioned the show, without even a pilot episode shown. The show seemed to be off to a rocky start as soon as it was announced to be in the works. A leaked script was immediately shopped around and was called 'bizarre' by many who read it. Fans created an uproar when they saw the new Wonder Woman's costumes as well. NBC tried to counter this by introducing the idea that Wonder Woman would wear three different costumes, but it wasn’t enough to quell the fire and the show, after getting mixed reviews from the NBC execs who viewed the pilot, it was inevitably cancelled.

It’s a fact within television that unpopular shows and shows that wouldn’t appeal to the public are normally and constantly cancelled. However, the cancellation of Wonder Woman’s show is a symbol of something far greater and far deeper. Superhero movies and television shows are in abundance. Smallville, a sitcom on the life of Clark Kent, or the superhero Superman, survived ten seasons before its last episode aired on May 13th, 2011. The Incredible Hulk movie(2008)starring Liv Tyler and Eric Bana, made 55 million dollars in its opening weekend, and 134 million dollars in total. The Dark Knight(2008), a remake of the Batman movie from the 90's made over 158 million dollars its opening weekend, and even more astounding, it made over one billion dollars worldwide. In comparison the heroines faired much, much worse. Catwoman (2004) played by the Oscar winning actress Halle Berry, made only 16million dollars its opening weekend and made 40 million in total. Electra (2005), the heroine played by Jennifer Garner made 14 million dollars its opening weekend, and made only 24 million dollars in total. The glass ceiling doesn’t only exist for the 'real women'

because it is evident that it exists for the ladies within the pages of the comic books as well. Women comic book heroes, from the very first heroine, Fantomah, tell the story of feminism and women’s struggle from their very introduction.

The years between the 1940's and the 1950's were tumultuous yet groundbreaking years for women. In 1941, the United States became involved in World War II. With the men involved in the war, the United States government launches a campaign to get women into the workplace. One of their most popular ads included 'Rosie the Riveter' who beckoned the women to be involved in the wartime efforts and even had her own song by the same name. Some 13 million women joined the workforce, eager to fill the holes in the workforce the men had left behind. The iconic Wonder Woman was born in December of 1941 and she perfectly epitomized the working class women of the United States. Wonder Woman was a major departure from her fellow heroine Fantomah, who had debuted only a handful of months before her. Fantomah was a mysterious, wild over sexualized girl from the jungle who had been carefully crafted to capitalize on the popular Tarzan of the Apes and Sheena, Queen of the Jungle comic books. Wonder Woman was created by the polyamorous William Moulton Marston who modeled the heroine after his lover. Wonder Woman was debuted fighting the Axis Powers and was the most famous female to defend American Democracy. While the real woman did their part to help in the war, by becoming the backbone of the country, the comic book ladies did their part as well. Many new heroines were introduced, including Liberty Belle, Pat Patriot, and the extremely sexualized post war heroine, Yankee Girl.

The 1950's brought change for women as the men came home from the war and resumed their lives in the home. Although 80 percent of women want to keep their jobs, most are eventually forced out by the men to return to their domestic lives. America’s new conservative attitudes and domestication of its women was mirrored in its comic books as well. The Comics Code Authority was made to clean up the industry. When strong women disappeared from the work force, strong women disappeared from comics as well, as artists would prefer to not show a female character rather than tone down her excessively large breasts or cover her midriff and butt. Many of the heroines created during the war disappeared from the newsstands. Even Wonder Woman was not impervious to the wave of conservative attitude sweeping the nation. The once busty Wonder Woman was now being drawn fully clothed more often and her costume not as scanty. Wonder Woman became a member of the Justice Society of America during the 1950's. Although she was stronger, faster, and much more agile than the men, Wonder woman joined the team as their secretary. As if this wasn’t demeaning enough Wonder Woman is shown happily volunteering for the position, all the while lamenting about how she wish she could go with the boys on their adventures. Marston, the original creator of Wonder Woman died in 1947, leaving his creation to Artist Peter, who stripped Wonder Woman of her feminine wisdom and care for the welfare of the woman and focused Wonder

Woman’s comics on her love interest Steve. Many of the story lines were based on how Wonder Woman could keep her 'man', Steve, happy.

The 1960's brought about brought on the improvement in women’s sexual health. Leaps and bounds are made in birth control legislation, abortion laws, equal pay acts in put into place, and affirmative action becomes extended to women. Women were making a fuss about the inequalities they faced and the Media was definitely not standing behind them. While reports flew about bra burning feminists, the comic book industry decided to show very few women, if any at all. Marvel comics, one of the largest companies had no women headlining their own comic books. Instead Marvel chose to either show a woman as part of a group of men such as Sue Storm from The Fantastic Four. Or stereotype the women by showing them enjoying feminine past times such as shopping and going to tea. The company that owned Wonder Woman did the same thing, herding Wonder Woman into the updated version of the Justice Society, of which she had been the secretary. Wonder Woman became part of the Justice League, a group of new ‘baby’ superheroes, even though she had been around for nearly 20 years. The women of the 1960s comics were written as generally satisfied with their lives. They were women who found fulfillment in their relationships, with little need for power or independence. The ladies, the Louis Lanes, were content being the ineffectual girlfriend and the person the male superhero must always save. The media was working hard to show the women of the country, where they supposedly belonged and the conservative idea leaked into the pages of the comics. The 1970's however brought about new heroines and new changes for women in the United States. In the 1970s, women convene consciousness-raising groups to educate about gender oppression, create community, and share common experiences. The first women’s studies departments are developed at universities, and the United Nations designates the 1970s the “Women’s Decade.”

Valkyrie, a new heroine is introduced and she has scathing words about Introduced in The Avengers in 1970 alongside 3 other women, Valkyrie, a scorned woman is on a quest to “free her sisters from the invisible shackles that man had places on them.” Valkyrie convinces her fellow heroines that they’ve been subjugated by the male heroes in the group and sets out to battle them. Valkyrie is eventually exposed to be a villain but her message has been planted in the group. In the coming decade we would see many more heroines questioning their


position in life. Vampirella was another feminist character in the 70's to debut. Dressed in tight black clothing, committing violent acts, and drinking blood, Vampirella was everything women in comic books were not allowed to be years previously. Gone were the mandates that controlled the production companies. While still adhering to the tight clothes and the revealing tops, Vampirella was actually sweet natured and virtuous. She battles demons and monsters instead of creating the havoc she looks designed to create. She constantly challenged the mainstreams idea of what it is to be intrinsically female. Most creators of the comic books did not believe that the new age of women would last however, and it showed in their stories. A great example would be Catwoman. In one comic Catwoman and her new group of ladies, the Feline Furies, have defeated Batman. Catwoman goes on a crime spree. “Men! It was men who led us astray, men who put us behind bars like caged tigers.” In the end however Catwoman forgets about her promise to emancipate her sisters and instead runs off with some jewels as if to say Catwoman’s choice in freeing her sisters is just as fleeting as the women’s movement for equality. The 1980's brought a cold wind on the feminist front. Abortion and Abortion rights were denounced by republicans across the country and the Equal Rights Amendment is not ratified. Sexual health rights also took a beating as the Supreme Courts ruled that states can deny public funding for

abortion and abortion clinics. Women in comic books were to meet the cold wind head on. Batwoman, who loved and yearned for Batman was killed violently, as was Supergirl. Rape and violence became a recurring theme for the ladies, sometimes at the hands of their own husbands which are seen in the beating of, The Avengers Wasp, by her husband, Yellowjacket. Invisible Girl from the Fantastic Four also has a miscarriage from the very same radiation that gave her and her comrades her powers. It was almost scary to be a female in a comic book. The women because less exposed and more androgynous. The X-Men series featured women clad in all leather with punk attitudes. While the men were handsome, tall and free to be themselves, the women were made into ‘safer’ characters. The women, who had spent the 1970’s relishing their new found freedoms and powers, were taking a beating, both in reality and in the comic books. The 1990 and the 2000’s brought on the year of the advertisements. Pop culture swept the nation. Boy Bands and supermodels such as Christie Brinkley filled the pages of magazines and assuredly carried over into the realm of comic books. The comic book ladies, who had survived the violence and disasters of previous years, now became supermodels. They weren’t good enough in their former glory. They needed a revamping, a makeover to make them look like the supermodels so prolific in mainstream media. The Invisible Woman, of the Fantastic Four, now a mother of two has her entire costume and body remade. Gone were the entire outfits she had made for herself and her comrades. Her costume was now made into a bathing suit style uniform and her muscles and lean legs drawn out of proportion. Wonder Woman, who had made her

miniscule comeback, in 1986 was also drawn like a supemodel, shaded and colored to give her the ideal look so prevalent in pop culture.

Comic books are a mirror for American culture and life. People write what they know about and much of history can be found in the oldest comic books created. But world wars, propaganda, explosions and history are not the only things contained within the pages of the comic books. Oppresions,inequalities, and decades of sexist and chauvanistic ideals litter the pages of the comic books that we still read today. A lot can be said about these ideals, as so many of them have not been erased. The commodification of a womans body is the most obvious issue with these comic books. By making a female superhero scantily clad,or a buxom babe, she is made to be a view for the male gaze,just as any women in America is today. Gender inequalities are also extremely visible in these comic books,as women superherous, were few and far between and were rarely ever given the storylines that were well deserved. Many of the ladies were girlfriends of the superheroes, only placed within a comic book as the bat, the dumb girl that has to be saved by her man. The seeds of these inequalities are planted into young male readers,the primary market. How are women to become equal and stop being the victim of violence when the chavanstic mentality is taught at such a young age? Just like Wonder Woman the remake couldn’t catch a break and become a normal television shows equal over trivial things(after all, there are many shows with horrible scripts that stay on television) women cannot seem to because the chances are so few and far between.

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