Wonder Woman in America & Abroad
Wonder Woman has been a hit of the early summer and while she has met with challenges in other countries, she has been America’s darling (again) for the last month. Wonder Woman has always had great popularity in the United States. She was created here, and her comics and stories are widely read here. Her creator, William Moulton Marston, created her to save America. In “The Origin of Wonder Woman” Athena tells Queen of the Amazons, Queen Hippolyte that, “American liberty and freedom must be preserved. … America, the last citadel of democracy, and of equal rights for women, needs your help!” (Marston 11). As a result, Wonder Woman is sent, with American military man Steve Trevor, to guide the country and save the world.
This is what Marston created her to do, to save democracy and freedom. As Marston created her he considered her role in America: “Peter got his instructions: draw a woman who’s as powerful as Superman, as sexy as Miss Fury, as scantily clad as Sheena the jungle queen, and as patriotic as Captain America” (Lepore 196). Though she is Amazonian, her garb and attitude aren’t patriotism for her land. Marston highlights this by ending “The Origin of Wonder Woman” with a note that tells us: “And so Diana, The Wonder Woman, giving up her right to eternal life, leaves Paradise Island to take the man she loves back to America—the land she learns to love and protect, and adopts as her own” (12). As an immigrant, Wonder Woman doesn’t find herself bound to the U.S. Instead she chooses the U.S.A. as her home. She sacrificed her family, friends, and heritage to come to America and stop the war.
Patriotism and Identity
Like all parts of Wonder Woman’s history her transformation into an American and her handling of the U.S.’s wartime dealings weren’t unproblematic. She fought for the equal rights of Americans (especially women and children) by putting an end to a milk gouging scheme that risks the future of American children and their health (see “The Milk Swindle”) and ending labor abuses against women (see “Department Store Perfidy). She also travels to other countries including Mexico to fight against German and Japanese forces. These instances reveal, as Gloria Steinem points out, “highly jingoistic and even racist overtones, especially when she was dealing with Japanese and Germans. Compared to other comic book characters of the period, however, Wonder Woman is still a relief” (206-207).
Those moments of racism and hatred are difficult to take especially because they are mixed with moments of strong feminism and the demand for equal rights. Steinem contextualizes this by pointing out that “Although Wonder Woman was shocked by America’s unjust patriarchal system—a shock she recorded on her arrival here from Paradise Island—she never had much opportunity to follow up on it. A nation mobilized for war is not a nation prepared to accept criticism” (206-207). This is important to consider, but it also reminds us of the risks of patriotism. How does one love his or her home country without degrading the country of another? After all, Marston forced Wonder Woman to shed her own country of origin to be American. Thankfully, this is undone as her complex story progresses, but at the foundation of her story there is this fact—she, like so many others, sacrificed their own culture to embrace America for what it could be.
Hanley, Tim. Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World’s Most Famous Heroine.
Chicago, IL, United States: Chicago Review Press, 2014. Book.
Lepore, Jill. The Secret History of Wonder Woman. New York, NY, United States: Knopf Publishing Group,
Steinem, Gloria. “Wonder Woman.” The Superhero Reader. Eds. Charles Hatfield, Jeet Heer, and Kent
Worcester. Jackson: U of Mississippi, 2013. 203-10. Print.