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Could Wonder Woman empower women and girls?



“This whole issue of taking a cartoon figure who is clad in a bustier, with cleavage, high-cut shorts — a sort of muscled version of a Barbie — and saying ‘This is what represents gender equality’ is incredible. It’s culturally insensitive. It’s insulting.”  Those were the words of Shazia Z. Rafi, after learning that Wonder Woman was named Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Woman and Girls by the United Nations. Ms. Rafi previously worked at the U.N. and is now managing director of the consulting firm Global Parliamentary Services.



Wonder Woman: 75 years appearing on comic books
Wonder Woman: 75 years appearing on comic books

There were some voices in support of the U.N. move, though, although not surprising: “stories — even comic book stories — can inspire, teach and reveal injustices” said Diane Nelson, president of DC Entertainment (the company that produces the Wonder Woman comic book). Among those attending the ceremony at the Economic and Social Council chamber last week, were Patty Jenkins, director of the upcoming Wonder Woman movie, and star Gal Gadot who will play the role of the superheroine, as well as actress Lynda Carter, who played Wonder Woman in the 1970s TV series. Carter, who according to a news report “gave a moving speech about how Wonder Woman embodies the inner strength of every woman, was the only one to acknowledge the protesters in her remarks, saying ‘Please embrace her. To all those who don’t think it’s a good idea, stand up and be counted.'”


Gael Gadot who plays the iconic female character on the upcoming movie and Lynda Carter, who played the role in the 1970s TV series
Gael Gadot who plays the iconic female character on the upcoming movie and Lynda Carter, who played the role in the 1970s TV series

Of course, it is not hard to find some suspicious coincidences in this appointment: Wonder Woman is celebrating her 75th anniversary, and Warner Bros. is releasing a movie featuring the superheroine soon. The connection between the international organization and some big entertainment corporations is also becoming more prevalent these days: just this past March, the U.N. named Red, the leader of the Angry Birds mobile game characters, as an envoy to tackle climate change. That campaign is in partnership with Sony Pictures Entertainment. But those that defend the appointment have also argued that Honorary Ambassadors—unlike Goodwill Ambassador such as Nicole Kidman and Anna Hathaway—could be fictional characters. They point to some precedents: Winnie the Pooh was Honorary Ambassador of Friendship in 1998, and Tinker Bell Honorary Ambassador of Green in 2009.


Too sexy to be a U.N. Honorary Ambassador?
Too sexy to be a U.N. Honorary Ambassador?

And who is Wonder Woman after all? Consulting the Toon Encyclopedia online one can read “In 1940, psychiatrist William Moulton Marston began serving on a board of consultants for the company that eventually became DC Comics (now DC Entertainment). Concerned that the male-dominated superhero world seemed to teach an unbalanced set of values to its youthful readership, he approached publisher Max Gaines with an idea for a character who would embody the feminine aspects of heroism. The result was an 8-page insert in the 8th issue of All Star Comics (December 1941), introducing Wonder Woman. She wasn’t quite the first superhero woman in comics (that honour could belong to Invisible Scarlet O’Neil, The Woman in Red or any of several others), but she was certainly the most successful.”


Like Superman and other superheroes she also has some sort of mythical origin. After the crashing of an American pilot on Paradise Island, home of the Amazons, the legendary female warriors, Diane, the local princess, fell in love with him and accompanied the pilot to his world where she became a dedicated crime-fighting superheroine.


Gael Gadot as Wonder Woman
Gael Gadot as Wonder Woman

As the publishing business became more concentrated in a few publishing houses, so did the various superheroes originated during the late 1930s and the 1950s, which made Wonder Woman sometimes partner with Superman, Batman, Aquaman, Flash, Green Lantern and others. At the end of the 1940s, she became a member of the Justice Society of America (JSA) predecessor of the Justice League of America (JLA). Despite her notable fighting qualities, the creators of the group of superheroes were not totally ready to move Wonder Woman from a more traditionally feminine role, so she was the JSA’s secretary…


Wonder Woman had two TV shows in the 1970s, the most successful featuring Lynda Carter. Warner Bros. is now preparing the release of the movie for June 2, 2017, with Israeli-born Gal Gadot in the title role. This actress, model and former Miss Israel already made a brief appearance as Wonder Woman in the recent “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.”


Of course, the question would still be around by then: is she a suitable ambassador for women and girls in their aspiration for equality and fairness in this male-dominated world?

By Sergio Martinez – totimes.ca

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