I’ve been listening to The Secret History of Wonder Woman and then watched Marvel’s Agent Carter last night. Both characters are powerful women who are actively discriminated against and talked down to. Wonder Woman had a rocky history where her creator had wanted her to be as powerful as Superman but to be a character who used love more than fighting to win. She fought battles that were really women’s issues on her own for a while and then, like Carter, she became more “womanly” after the WWII. Her purpose was taken, her image was downgraded, and she just wanted a man.
I remember reading The Feminine Mystique last year and the way that so many women were stifled after WWII. Taking on Agent Carter in the light of this timeframe can be a slippery slope for Marvel and ABC. It was great to see her use tactics that have been rumored to be used for women spies throughout history, such as bringing in the coffee at the right time, but it was also great to see her stand up for herself and politely reject benevolent sexism. I hope she remains a model for facing such things in workplaces, as we still do. What makes her truly great is also among her weaknesses, much like Agent Coulson. She’s just a human. Just a human who can only do so much in a day. Just like any one of us. If we can only do so much anyway, why not do what we can?
It’s what makes so many of the superheroes great. They do what they can, which is usually more than the rest of us can do. It’s also much more than the rest of us will do, which is a different distinction, isn’t it? Characters like Carter prove that we don’t have to be Wonder Woman to fight for our freedoms. Characters like Wonder Woman prove that we can get distracted from our goals by life even when we have great beginnings. The women’s liberation movement, or second wave feminism, gave us a return to life outside the home and so gave life to these characters in a way that wouldn’t be possible if we were still in it. Action was required, action is always required for achievement.
Carter will forever be a character of the 1940’s and so bogged down in the discrimination against her for that day. Wonder Woman, on the other hand, can be brought forward and written as a woman of action. Both can show us how to be active.
Note: I am not up to date on Wonder Woman but reflecting upon her beginnings according to the book.
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