Wonder Woman is breaking box office records in her first solo film, and we look at what makes her so in tune with the times. Professor, author, and editor Travis Langley explains how Wonder Woman’s pursuit of the truth, belief in humanity, and inspirational name make her the perfect heroine for now.
During World War II, Americans idolized Superman for his bravery and patriotism. During the post-9/11 era of terrorism and new surveillance tactics, Batman was popular for protecting Gotham City from impending doom. Now, in times of fake news and the Women’s March, Wonder Woman has risen to the occasion.
A pinnacle of truth, wonder, and girl power, the heroine differs starkly from heroes in the past. Travis Langley, co-editor of Wonder Woman Psychology: Lassoing the Truth says the biggest difference is that Wonder Woman is a more well-adjusted character. Whereas Spiderman lost his parents and avenges the death of his late uncle, and Batman is an orphan who succeeded despite his gloomy prospects, the new Wonder Woman film depicts her as enjoying a healthy childhood in fictional paradise Themyscira, with a nurturing family, loving neighbors, and the promise of a bright future ahead of her. Although she does leave the island, much to the disdain of her mother, her background story is quite ideal when compared to her male superhero counterparts.
Langley notes that her creator, William Moulton Marston, was a psychologist who helped to invent the polygraph machine. He understood human nature and chose to show Diana flourishing, bringing light and truth to Europe during World War I. Langley explains, “Here he is, involved in the development of the lie detector, the science of truth. And he creates this heroine who’s very well known for having a magic lasso… she could use to make people tell the truth.” Wonder Woman’s commitment to honesty does not go unnoticed during our current alternative fact epidemic, and her devotion for factuality resonates with Americans in movies theatres across the country.
Unlike its heroine-centered predecessors Supergirl, which premiered more than three decades ago, failed spectacularly, and Catwoman, which fared the same, Wonder Woman has outsold movies such as Iron Man and Captain America, and set a new record for opening weekend profits from a female-directed film. Langley attributes this to relevance. Wonder Woman’s debut comes just months after the historic Women’s March, the largest march in American history, and during a new wave of feminism. Wonder Woman is also unattached from other heroes, unlike Bullet Girl and Bullet Man, and is not just a femme fatale character, unlike Phantom Lady. As Langley says, “She’s not the first female superhero, there have been others, but the ones before her tended to be derivative… [she is] a full fledged, strong, female superhero defined by herself, not by anybody else.”
- Travis Langley, co-editor of Wonder Woman Pyschology: Lassoing the Truth
Links for more information: