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Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines (2012)

The history of fictional female heroes in Western media from Wonder Woman's creation onward.

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Feature documentary exploring the concept of heroic women from the birth of the superhero in the 1940s to the TV and big screen action blockbusters of today. Heroic role models are important in childhood development, yet there are a dearth of these for girls. Wonder Woman provides a rare example of a female heroine who doesn't require rescue, determines her own missions, and possesses uniquely feminine values. Featuring Gloria Steinem, actors Lynda Carter and Lindsey Wagner, and a colorful cast of scholars, writers, and fans, the film challenges pop culture's gender biases by looking at how Wonder Woman's storyline changed over time while considering how women are rarely depicted as heroic, powerful, or world-changing. Written by Anonymous

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10 March 2012 (USA)  »

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Some bits interesting, but nothing new
26 April 2014 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

The first half of this documentary is taken up with a history of Wonder Woman herself: how her lie-detector-inventing creator, William Moulton Marston, convinced the world would be run by a matriarchy by the 2040s, wanted to create an inspirational female action hero. But after a few years of publication Marston's ideals of strong, confident, caring womanhood were junked - instead of rescuing hapless boyfriend Steve Trevor, the Amazing Amazon was featured being carried across streams by him! At much the same time, other women in American comics were being downgraded following the outcry sparked by Frederic Wertham's notorious 'Seduction of the Innocent' - powerful, independent women were seen as dangerous. In 1968, DC even took WW's super-powers away (at this point in the film, Gloria Steinem, who famously put Wonder Woman on the cover of the first issue of 'Ms' magazine, appears to claim credit for DC returning those powers in 1973). Many women talk about what the character means to them (I think if any Wonder Woman documentary doesn't feature Trina Robbins, the universe will explode).

The second half of the film concentrates mainly on other female action heroines - Buffy, Xena, Thelma and Louise - and the history of the (United States') feminist movement. This follows the usual pattern of each generation giving the impression they discovered feminism and the vast male conspiracy which I've never been let in on. Adverse comment is made about the way many of the afore-mentioned female characters chose to sacrifice themselves for others (as if that is a bad thing!) - but rather than moaning about it, why not ask the actresses who willingly portrayed the roles for their opinion?

As a Wonder Woman fan - the 1970s' television series got me reading American comics - I didn't learn anything new about her in this documentary. Nor did I find the feminist bits particularly interesting, as they were pretty much just rehashes of moanings I've heard many times before (instead of complaining that only 3% of decision-making jobs in production companies are held by women, why not tell us, madam, what you're doing to change that?) But any sympathetic documentary about comic books is welcome, and it was nice to see events such as the annual 'Wonder Woman Day' in Portland, which raises money for women's refuges - a fitting thing to do in the Amazing Amazon's name.

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