Wonder Women: The superheroes behind Wonder Woman
With just over a week until the long awaited release of the first ever Wonder Woman film, women around the world are getting excited about seeing their role model gracing the silver screen. The character of Wonder Woman has been a popular feminist icon since she was created in 1941. Throughout her history, she has served as a symbol of female empowerment, strength and independence. Wonder Woman is never the damsel in distress and when she gets into trouble, she uses her intelligence and determination (as well as the odd superpower) to save herself and others.
But Wonder Woman is more than just one woman. Throughout her history, the character and her development has drawn inspiration from some pretty incredible role models in their own right. It takes more than one woman to inspire so many generations and we want to doff our proverbial hats to the women that make Wonder Woman, well… wonderful.
Cover of Sensation Comics 1 (Jan 1942) Art by Harry G Peter Cover of Sensation Comics 1 (Jan 1942) Art by Harry G Peter Princess Diana of Themyscira
Wonder Woman is really a Princess, but definitely not of the prince loving, pink clad variety. Daughter of Amazonian Queen Hippolyta, Princess Diana (or Wonder Woman) hails from the all-woman world of Themyscira (originally known as Paradise Island in earlier comics). She and her fellow Amazonian women exist in a land where women are warriors. Her adventures follow her when she enters ‘Man’s World’ and adopts the identity of Diana Prince. The original Wonder Woman appeared during World War II and was often found fighting for justice against Nazis among other villains.
In 2016, Wonder Woman was named as an honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls at the UN. The position was short-lived due to a public outcry about granting the position to a fictional character. While that decision may not have been the smartest move by the UN, the message it sent was unmistakeable. Worldwide, Wonder Woman is recognised as a feminist icon and an important figure in promoting positive female representations. That’s quite a legacy for the 75 year old character.
Elizabeth Holloway Moulston and Olive Byrne
The origin of Wonder Woman is actually quite scandalous, even by today’s standards. The character was created by William Moulton (Charles) Marston. Wonder Woman’s appearance was inspired not only by his wife, Elizabeth Holloway Moulston, but also by the third person in their marriage, their lover Olive Byrne. The all lived happily together with their four children (2 to each woman).
Wonder Woman was created because of a conversation between Marston and his wife. He was trying to come up with a new character whose superpowers were surpassed only by wisdom and love. Elizabeth is said to have told her husband that to achieve that, he’d have to make the character a woman. Hence, Wonder Woman came into being.
Elizabeth herself was a lawyer, a working mum and had three degrees. In the 1940s! It’s no wonder (pun intended) that her husband was inspired to create the world’s leading feminist icon.
Olive, the third member of the relationship, was presented to everyone (including her children) as a widowed sister-in-law of Marston to protect their non-conformist lifestyle. Throughout their relationship, unable to wear a wedding band, Olive wore golden cuffs on her wrists which were the inspiration for Wonder Woman’s bullet-repelling armbands.
Even after Marston’s death in 1947, Elizabeth Holloway and Olive Byrne continued to live together in a relationship that lasted 64 years, until Byrne’s death.
Margaret Sanger and Ethel Byrne
Marston is said to have taken a lot of his inspiration for Wonder Woman from early feminists and suffragettes. Chief among these were Margaret Sanger and Ethel Byrne. They were sisters and, not-coincidentally, Ethel was Olive’s mother. Both women were early activists for family planning and opened the first birth control clinic in the US in 1916. They were both imprisoned for illegal distribution of birth control.
As far as influences go, it doesn’t get more feminist than that.
Who can forget the 1970s Wonder Woman? The popular TV incarnation of the world’s favourite comic heroine was a huge success, making Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman the symbol of female independence for more than just one generation. And who can forget the spinning? It’s so retro and camp, but totally fabulous! We’re pretty sure no 2017 version could ever spin quite so brilliantly.
We’ll forgive her for not being a spinning queen because she more than redeems herself in every other way. Gal Gadot is not only an actress and a model, she also won Miss Israel, competed in Miss Universe, has studied Law and spent two years honing her Wonder Woman-ness during her mandatory military service in Israel. She did all of her own stunts for three films in the Fast and Furious franchise and made her Wonder Woman debut in Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice in 2016. She’s the first actress to ever play Wonder Woman in a titular role on the silver screen. In preparation for filming, she spent six months training in all sorts of martial arts, body-building, sword-fighting and horse-riding. She also managed to fit in plenty of other film roles and modelling jobs, all while raising her daughter with her husband Yaron. Since finishing filming Wonder Woman, the couple have also welcomed their second daughter into the world.
Phew! That’s Wonder Woman material right there.
Gal Gadot stars in Wonder Woman (source: Warner Bros) Gal Gadot stars in Wonder Woman (source: Warner Bros)
It stands to reason that a female director should direct such an important film about female empowerment, so it might seem obvious that a director of Patty Jenkins’ caliber was chosen for the job. Jenkins has a track record for films with powerful female narratives as she wrote and directed Monster (2003). It probably comes as a surprise, then, that Jenkins is the first ever female director of a Superhero movie from the major studios and is only the second ever to direct a film with a budget of over $100m (Kathryn Bigelow was the first).
Patty Jenkins, of course, could not make the film alone and so let’s consider her as the symbol of all of the women who worked on this film. From producers to runners, women made up a huge proportion of the crew with many women heading up departments. This was a very deliberate move by Warner Bros and the movie’s producers to improve the gender imbalance of film crews, which has been a source of much discussion in recent years.
POP are proud to have had Supporting Artists for the film solely cast through POP agents. Flying the flag for the girls was Sally King of Sally King Casting who worked tirelessly on the production and a group of bad-ass ladies who will feature as Supporting Artists in the film.
Let’s Hear it for the Boys
And let’s not forget the boys! We know you guys are all feminists at heart. Cast, crew and supporting artists proved this with their unwavering commitment to the production and to the ideals that the film represents.
We cannot wait to see the results of everybody’s hard work on 1st June.