Essay about Literature - Feminist Criticism and Wonder Woman

Essay about Literature - Feminist Criticism and Wonder Woman

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Feminist Criticism and Wonder Woman


Wonder Woman. To get a better picture of just who Wonder Woman is, I checked out some of her many websites last night and found a surprisingly rich archive. Wonder Woman, in fact, has a complicated, even schizophrenic, heritage. She’s been portrayed by such diverse actors as the perky Cathy Lee Crosby and Lynda Carter, who endowed her with both a competent, working woman aura and a dose of eroticism (Lynda Carter, I discovered, is the subject of a lot of Wonder Woman fetishist erotica on the Internet these days). An Internet poll about who should play Wonder Woman, if the series were revived today, uncovered equally diverse ideas— people suggested Cher, Lucy Lawless, Angela Bassett, and Demi Moore. Clearly, in our cultural imagination, Wonder Woman is a character with many faces.

Things only get more complicated when you consider the frame narrative that explains Wonder Woman’s existence. She was born as Princess Diana (interestingly paralleling another icon of womanhood) in an Amazon community that seems pretty clearly grounded in lesbianism. Although the women in this harmonious and idyllic Amazon community have gone to great lengths to hide and protect their island from incursions by men, they are nonetheless delighted when a male American army officer inadvertently crash-lands in their utopia. So smitten with him are they, in fact, that they stage a ruthless physical competition to decide who will get to pair off with him. When Diana (later Wonder Woman) wins, she happily abandons her position as a royal ruler of the Amazons to accompany him back to the United States and take a boring desk job as a lowly secretary in the army. She even trades in her cool Amazon garb for a pair of gl...


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...er Theory complicated by post-colonial scholars and scholars of race who consider the ways gender intersects with nationalism, class, and race. As feminist critic Theresa de Lauretis suggests, “a new conception of the subject is, in fact, emerging from feminist analyses of women’s heterogeneous subjectivity and multiple identities . . . the differences among women may be better understood as differences within women.” It is important to realize that not only does feminism as a movement exist in the face of these contradictions and complications—within feminist criticism, within gender studies, within individual literary texts and within our understanding of the individual woman as a subject—but that it cannot exist without them. Perhaps, like Wonder Woman, feminist criticism remains vital because it is astonishingly diverse, open, and rigorously self-problematizing.

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