Since When Did Wonder Woman Need A Sword??

When I was a kid, my heroes were always women.  Always.  The characters I admired were Snow White, Dorothy, Wonder Woman... They were my escape from Superman and Batman, and the other cartoon purveyors of machismo that dominated pop culture.  These female heroes brought joy to a previously darkened world, helped their friends see the strength within, and stood for the power of peace in a war torn world.  They were in every way better than most male heroes.  They weren't always whipping out swords or guns and they weren't always punching people out.  They had other, superior ways of overcoming challenges.

Let's take a look at Wonder Woman.  She was created during World War Two as an answer to the male dominated violence in the world.  Psychiatrist William Moulton Marston believed the problem with comics at that time was that they were too violent and full of "blood curdling masculinity".  As a feminist, he created Wonder Woman (though many believe his wife Olive was not only the inspiration for the character, but a large portion of the brains behind her as well) as a character far better than men.  She comes from the Paradise Island in a time of great war to teach men how to live in peace.  Her powers are the powers of truth and love and beauty.  She repels bullets with her bracelets, and uses her golden lasso to make men tell the truth.  She is an amazing heroine, with a unique perspective, a great origin story, and until very recently she never needed a sword.  Never.


The sword started appearing around ten years ago, and gained major prominence in a newer, bloodier iteration of Wonder Woman.  In the upcoming film?  Major sword action.  I guess this is a way for movie execs to answer the demand that women be treated as strong and proactive, and stars of their own lives, much like men have always been depicted.  No longer do women need to be helpless eye candy.  I for one think this is awesome.  However, I feel like the people paying lip service to feminism, for the most part are doing simply that.  Paying lip service.  The movie exec way to make a woman strong?  Make her more warlike.  They've thrown Alice and SnowWhite both into armor, and for me the strengths they had originally--compassion, ingenuity, wit, and the audacity to call out pomposity and ridiculousness-- were thrown under the bus and deemed "less than".  Well, every gay kid knows that those qualities are often all we had to get us through the trials and tribulations of daily life as a child to find the "other side".  And for those who say that Wonder Woman deserves a sword because she should be able to "kick ass" just as much as Superman and Batman?  Where's Superman's sword??  Oh, yeah.  He doesn't need one because he has superhuman strength.  For the record, so does Wonder Woman, and she's never needed a sword to show the bad guys what's what.


For my money, the addition of a sword, and other cheap plot developments like a romantic relationship with Superman (Wonder Woman does not need to be a supporting character to Superman's mythology, thanks very much, cuz she's got shit of her own to do, and in her story she is the only one doing the saving) do nothing but weaken the character.  And thus far it is doubtful, to my mind, that she will fare very well in these new film interpretations.  It's likely to be another case in which the woman is stuck on the side to be arm candy and to occasionally surprise us all because she can really "kick ass" just like a man.  Of course, she's usually only aloud to fight other women, and when she is fighting men she often (as was the case of recent Man From UNCLE film) overpowers them in ridiculously sexual ways like snapping their necks between her inner thighs.  Really??  But even if it turns out that the new film doesn't know how to handle Wonder Woman, she will always have the comics, which continue to experiment with her and in many vehicles, allow her to be the strong, independent and peaceful leader she was born to be.

And of course, just when you are about to give up hope, along comes a character like Rey from the newest Star Wars film.  She's bright, in charge, using her mental and metaphysical powers as well as those of combat, AND she's nurturing, empathic and occasionally funny.  If only she had come about before Wonder Woman was in development, it's possible they could have taken some inspiration from her and I would be feeling a lot better than I do.