The In-Depth Review Of The Horror That Is Kelly’s Wonder Woman
Okay, to review a superhero show, you either have to explain some of the comic to tell how the show has deviated from it, or if the show is faithful, you can just report the facts and point out a few details. That said…
The Not-So-Brief History of Wonder Woman
The thing to understand is that although Wondy doesn’t have a convoluted mythology, at least for the superhero genre (she makes 90% more sense than any of the X-Men), it is a very complicated one. Part of this is unfamiliarity. Look at Superman. He comes from Krypton, which was either an idyllic paradise or a sterile hellhole that deserved to get blown up, then he went to Smallville and was raised by parents who are either dead, or alive, or half and half. Then Metropolis, the Daily Planet, the Fortress of Solitude, Lex Luthor (who may or may not have been his best friend growing up), and I think there’ve been at least four General Zods. Brainiac, don’t get me started on Brainiac. He’s Superman’s arch-nemesis, his name is Brainiac.
But because we’re used to all this stuff, it doesn’t register. Of course Superman has a Fortress of Solitude and four parents and dual identities and we don’t know if Superman is the real guy and Clark Kent’s a cover, or if Clark’s the real guy and Superman’s his day job. It’s just how it goes. James Bond flirts with Moneypenny and gets gadgets from Q, there you are. Whereas Wonder Woman hasn’t really soaked into the public consciousness.
I. THE ORIGIN OF THE LADY IN THE SATIN TIGHTS
The female Greek gods, seeing how women were being mistreated in the ancient world, took the souls of murdered women and reincarnated them as the Amazons, who were meant to spread a message of peace and hope throughout the world. However, Hercules tricked their queen, Hippolyta, leading to the Amazons being enslaved and raped by Hercules and his men. They broke free and took their revenge, but were so bloodthirsty that the gods saw that they had turned their backs on their mission of mercy (yeah, I know, but it was the 80s and we haven’t gotten a better origin yet, so apply some fan-wank liberally), so they banished the Amazons to Paradise Island—which, as you might’ve guessed from the name, was sort of a blessing in disguise. While they did have to guard Doom’s Doorway, one of the nastier Sealed Evils in a Can, they were also able to live in peace for millennia.
However, their society was stagnant. Hippolyta and some others desired children, and eventually their prayers were answered by the gods, who formed Diana out of a baby Hippolyta had made of clay. Takes a village, you know. Diana was also blessed with superpowers from the various female gods, so she can talk to animals, fly, run really fast, punch things… basically, she’s about on par with Superman, and she knows how to use swords, so you don’t wanna see them get into a fight unless you have really good insurance.
Years passed and Diana grew to adulthood, when a conspiracy by Ares to plunge the world into endless war led to Steve Trevor, an Air Force pilot, crashing on Paradise Island. Learning of the threat, the Amazons sent Diana to avert catastrophe, which she did, and now she works as an ambassador, trying to spread peace through “Man’s World.”
The most important thing to remember about Diana is that she was conceived, and is best-written as, a woman warrior who is totally invested in her femininity. Nothing against the “Bitches Get Things Done” crowd, but that’s not her. She started as an antidote for macho heroes and the idea that female heroes can only be “badass” if they ape men. She’s not Michelle Rodriguez, is what I’m getting at.
II. SHE’S FIGHTIN’ FOR YOUR RIGHTS BUT NO ONE GETS HER
Despite traditionally being one of the “Big Three” with Superman and Batman, Diana’s been unable to find her niche due to some really questionable decisions on DC’s part over the years. Just for instance, Greg Rucka’s acclaimed run on her title was ended by Infinite Crisis, so that Diana could be written by a novelist who had never written comics before—giving us a Wonder Woman who didn’t know how to pump gas. And although Batman and Superman have been the “stars” of numerous big events over the years, when it was Wonder Woman’s turn, she got a story she was barely in about her advanced, pacifistic society turning into a bunch of misandrist psychos and invading America. Because what Wonder Woman fan wouldn’t want to see the entire premise of her character being voided to carve up little kids and blow up the Washington Monument?
So it was with the Wonder Woman pilot. Although Batman has, at this point, had several big-budget movies and Superman got a (really crappy) TV show running for ten years, Wonder Woman had Joss Whedon making a movie about her—which then fell through so DC could make Green Lantern. Yeah. That worked out well. Then came the news that David E. Kelley, probably best known for a variety of quasi-feminist legal shows like Ally McBeal, would be creating a TV show about her. Not a big summer blockbuster, just a TV show. From the guy who invented the dancing baby.
From the beginning, the project was beset with bad buzz. Wonder Woman’s costume was given pants, but they were light blue and made her look like a Power Ranger-themed hooker. Then she was filmed in a better, darker costume that actually looked halfway decent (especially compared to anything Tom Welling has worn on Smallville). The brief glee fans had at the thought that the show was working out the kinks fell when it was announced that Wonder Woman would, for no particular reason, have multiple costumes, including the classic but controversial “bathing suit.”
Also, just to be extra confusing, Diana would be Diana Themyscira, who ran her own company (ala Iron Man) while having an open ID as Wonder Woman, and she’d be Diana Prince, a secret identity created so that Kelley could indulge his weird fetish for pathetic single women.
Script reviews were abysmal, focusing on Diana having sleepovers, dancing along to Katy Perry songs, and bantering with sexist nerd sidekicks. Then, on the heels of the news that the pilot wasn’t picked up, reviews of the actual show came out. And although superhero fans were disappointed, bad movie fans were salivating. After the boring, bland spectacle of Green Lantern and the disappointingly quality Marvel films, could 2011 still offer up some good-bad superhero camp?
Oh yes. Yes indeed.
To go along with this review, I have a very special guest, someone who has the misfortune of having this as her first real exposure to Wonder Woman. She might have confused Paradise Island with Lesbos…maybe she just knows something we don’t. Now let’s cavort like the Greeks of old, Rebecca Jane!
Becca: I am reassured greatly that I am not being promoted as anyone with any sort of genuine knowledge.
Kick: That’s my usual workplace camaraderie. “Yeah, I’m working with Tom, he’s an ignoramus.”
Becca: I feel all warm and fuzzy inside!
Okay, let’s pause for a minute before we get started. The pilot starts in media res, with Wonder Woman already an established superhero dealing with a “freak of the week” deal. She’s well-versed in Man’s World, enough to run her own company even, and has advanced so far that her chief concern is dealing with her own publicity.
As bad a rep as origin stories get, there are cases where they’re necessary. Most people don’t know who Captain America is or why he’s a big deal, so it’s better to tell the story of his origin in WW2 than to skip ahead to him in modern-day America. If an origin is boring (Hal Jordan finds a ring, big whoop) or well-known (Superman, Batman, Spider-Man), then you might as well dive right in, but Wonder Woman is neither. Her origin involves stopping the god of war from bringing about a nuclear holocaust, and you’d think “naïvely idealistic,” as befits a character who just left utopia, would be a better character flaw for Wonder Woman than “negative self-image.”
And to be fair, the script reviews I’ve read mention flashbacks to Paradise Island, so it’s possible the pilot was cut down from a two-parter. Still, when you see where their priorities lie, you’ll not want to cut them any slack.
Becca: See, this would be critical information for someone like me to know – in fact it would be faaaar more engaging than watching her lasso some putz with a bedazzled tampon string of truth.
Kick: The thing is, knowing the Silver Age, there probably is an issue out there like “The 5,000 Mysteries Of Wonder Woman’s Tampon!”
Becca: And thus my education shall begin!
Kick: No, that’s not in continuity anymore. You’d be better off starting with Frank Miller’s gritty reboot of Diana’s personal hygiene.
Becca: You know there’d be menstrual sex. You just know it.
We start off with a display of racial sensitivity not seen since, well, The Help. Willis, a young black man, runs to his home (in the ghetto, don’t you know) to show his mother and siblings a college acceptance letter. Going by the jubilation, it’s not likely that there are a lot of alumni in the family. But the celebration is short-lived, as he starts bleeding from the eyes and ears. Hmm, maybe the drugs he’s taking are irony-release tablets. Oops, spoilers.
But don’t worry, everyone. These poor black people have Wonder Woman to save them. Yeah, forget about fighting the god of war, toss out battling the forces of Apokolips. Wanna see Wonder Woman slay a minotaur? Fuck you! Here, Wonder Woman is a Nice White Lady.
We then cut to a fleeing bald guy being pursued by Wonder Woman. A helpful police broadcast says that he’s unarmed, but not what he’s wanted for. Oh, but in compliance with the rule that all police officers should include exposition on their radio broadcasts, it says he seems to possess superhuman powers. Yeah, that’s much better than, say, showing him pushing someone out of the way with superhuman strength or making a really big jump.
Wonder Woman is hot on his heels, wearing a modified version of her classic costume with long pants and darker colors. It looks alright to my eye, although…
Becca: The trope of the poor, poor boy from the ghetto who just wants to go to college honestly had me going “Wait…is this, am I watching Friday Night Lights? Is this whole thing just…Tyra dreaming she is Wonder Woman?” And let’s be real – no boobs are staying put in that top! No boobs! David E Kelly should have just given her nipples of truth and been done with it.
Kick: Let’s be honest. If Wonder Woman can’t be bisexual, the least you can do for her lesbian fanbase is putting her in a star-spangled tanktop.
How we’re introduced to Diana sets the tone. Whereas in their movies, Superman is introduced catching a falling helicopter (and then reintroduced catching a falling plane) and then giving a nice-guy spiel about air travel, and Batman is introduced as an intimidating avenger of the night, Wonder Woman is seen… chasing after a bald guy.
After a moment of slow-motion that looks like it’s out of an episode of Baywatch, and not one of the scenes with David Hasselhoff, she catches her guy by wrapping his lasso around his neck—one, why didn’t she do that before, and two, you could’ve paralyzed that guy! She takes a blood sample, then gripes bitterly about turning him over to the police for, you know, all that due process crap. In fact, our first good look at Wonder Woman’s face is after she bumps into a car and makes a bitchface.
To be positive, I do like the handling of the superpowers here. The way Diana casually slides the unconscious drug dealer over to the cops like she’s playing air hockey looks cool and gives you a good idea of Wonder Woman’s strength. Four for you, stunt team. You go, stunt team! And none for David E. Kelley.
Wonder Woman walks off to a chorus of gossip and well-wishing, climaxing in a cry of “WE LOVE YOU WONDER WOMAN!” To which Diana makes this face.
Wonder Woman flies back to the headquarters of Themyscira Industries in her jet, which isn’t invisible. This is the part where apparently David E. Kelly thought he was writing Watchmen. Henry Johns (Cary Elwes) and Etta Candy (Tracie Thoms) are watching a succession of news programs discussing the legality of Diana’s actions, with Nancy Grace (!) supporting her and Dr. Phil (!!!) calling her a nutjob. There’s even a line about how Diana is wire-tapping people. Yes, it’s some sort of Bush-era metaphor (only three years into the Obama Adminstration, timely) in which Wonder Woman is the Bush Administration. Or not. I don’t know. A newscaster even says that Diana “Abu Gharibs her quarry.” Do I even need to say anything?
Becca: I came into this with the following understanding of Wonder Woman – she flies an invisible plane and she is from Lesbos. One of those was right, neither was corroborated on this program. Though I will give central casting this – You do not want to cast Adrienne Palicki. She will eat you for breakfast and then poop out your bones as candies and eat you again.
Press pause. in the comics, Diana had a publicist named Myndi Mayer and that’s apparently who Thoms is playing, although her name has been changed to Etta Candy, a long-time Wonder Woman supporting character. Post-Crisis, Etta Candy was reimagined as a badass military officer and eventually the wife of Steve Trevor. When Steve does show up later in the program, he’s married to someone else. Why couldn’t they have just had Thoms’ character be named Myndi Mayer and have Etta Candy be Steve’s wife? It would save everyone a lot of headaches.
Also, the comic book Etta Candy was always pretty zaftig, whereas Tracie Thoms is…
It’s kinda weird that in a show which includes a scene all about criticizing the media’s portrayal of female body image, they took the one
overweightmore-to-love character in Wonder Woman’s cast and put her on SlimFast. But hey, Tracie Thoms is a good actress, and black people need representation too, right? Yeah, about that…
Etta Candy/Myndi Mayer is portrayed here as more of Diana’s secretary than anything else. Not in the good, Pepper Potts way either. While Henry is the CEO of Themyscira Industries, and gets a lot of facetime with Diana, Etta just gets to remind Diana where her glasses are. So, they changed a character’s race from white to black, while at the same time downgrading that character’s status from Air Force colonel, to publicist, to servant.
This is also another case where they could’ve created some organic conflict in the cast. To quote Comic Vine: Mindi was one of the important supporting characters of the initial part of the Perez run on the Wonder Woman title. One of Perez’s key themes was celebrity and the perils which come with it. This was reflected in various other characters to differing degrees – Diana, Vanessa Kapatelis, and the Greek god Hermes - but the center of the theme was Mindi. She is portrayed as a shallow person only interested in wealth and fame and the lifestyle that comes with it. She is often displayed as lacking understanding when some characters wish a more private life or for Diana’s message to not be so commercialized.
Here, Diana is the one who wants to be commercialized. So Etta/Myndi has no goddamned point other than being the token black character.
Becca: If you think about the show for even two minutes you realize it’s unbelievably racist. I couldn’t fathom the Etta business. I mean, Etta is FemPop’s unofficial logo! And here she was sitting passively by as Diana bellowed about her doll-likeness being overly endowed, a toupe-topped Cary Elwes as Henry smirking on.
Kick: Would it have been that hard to be make Etta Candy the CEO of Themyscira Industries? I’ve read all of Wonder Woman’s post-Crisis series and I have no idea who Henry is. When Cary Elwes was cast, I heard he was meant to be a possible love interest for Diana. As if he isn’t old enough to be her father.
Becca: Also what skeevtatic magic happened that Cary Elwes turned about 35 and became everyone’s creepy uncle?
Kick: He got cast in those Saw movies.
Becca: But wasn’t he evil in the Jungle Book before that? And also sketchy in that movie where he bangs Alicia Silverstone? I’ve….revealed too much about Elwes knowledge here.
Kick: Yes, the proper amount of Elwes knowledge is that he was in The Princess Bride and he was pretty enough to have a calendar. The thing is, Diana wouldn’t care how old he was, if she had a romantic interest in them, but it’s just wearying that her male cast has to be full of guys she could be having sex with. Even the cop in this is a love interest from the John Bryne run in the comics.
Becca: DUDE! Yes. The romantic “reveal” at the episode’s close? I wanted to throw up. Then die. Then demand Etta clean up the mess I left behind.
Henry wants Diana to go to the infirmary, even though she’s an invincible superhero and all she did was chase down a drug dealer, but she blows him off to go to her Diana Prince identity. Remember, Diana is Wonder Woman, Diana Themyscira (who runs Themyscira Industries and is known by the public to be Wonder Woman, sorta like how everyone knows Tony Stark is Iron Man. HEY, WAIT A MINUTE!), and Diana Prince (who the public does not know is Wonder Woman or Diana Themyscira). Everyone got that?
It’s also a little odd that Diana has a secret identity, but all her friends know about it, since I thought the point of a secret ID was mining drama from having to hide it from people. Here, all Diana would have to do if worst came to worst is come up with another cover identity.
By the way, Diana’s secret identity (or, I guess, super-extra-secret identity) consists of her putting her hair into a ponytail and WEARING A PAIR OF GLASSES. Yes, I know Superman does it, but that’s grandfathered in. This is like adding red underwear to the outside of Green Lantern’s costume.
The point of the Diana Prince identity is that Diana wants to feel normal. Ignoring the fact that she comes from a completely different society, so if she wanted to “belong,” why doesn’t she just hop over to Paradise Island for a spell? A script review mentioned that Paradise Island was in another dimension and she couldn’t get back (which makes her decision to leave for no reason… really dumb). But this still isn’t her culture. It’d be like an American in Japan trying to feel at home by buying used schoolgirl panties from a vending machine.
Becca: Yes, I’m glad this is addressed, this “secret identity” bit made officially no sense. None. Though it did give us the glory of Diana talking to her cat about Facebook.
Kick: I guess there wasn’t any misogyny or violence happening anywhere in the world.
Becca: No. But damned if The Notebook was going to watch itself.
Kick: I mean, I get when Superman wants to take a moment and spend time with Lois or chill with his friends, but he doesn’t just Tweet.
Becca: And if he did, he wouldn’t ONLY follow Jimmy. Or maybe that should happen? Because it would be AMAZING!
Kick: Jimmy only uses his Twitter account to tell Superman he’s in danger and talk about how good he looks cross-dressing. Also, I see Diana as more of a documentary girl. Maybe she’d unwind with Breaking Bad or something, or get dragged into watching Spartacus if she’s with friends.
Becca: I support this.
Kick: Zatanna is the kind of friend who makes you watch True Blood.
Diana goes “home” as Diana Prince, where she sits around and watches TV. Yeah, that secret identity is really paying off. Just to drive home the “pathetic single woman” cliché, she has a cat. Named Sylvester. Wait, why would an Amazon name her cat after an American cartoon character and not, I don’t know, something Greek? Oh, right, corporate synergy.
Eating chips, Diana watches The Notebook and flashes back to breaking up with Steve Trevor. Apparently, Diana lived with Steve for two years (!) before deciding to use her abilities for something other than… I don’t know, doing the dishes. “Given my abilities, one might think it’s unconscionable for me not to do a little good,” she says, letting him down gently. It took her two years to come up with that one. Deep thinker, our Diana.
This is the only backstory we get on Diana. Yes, that is the most pressing aspect of her origin, her lovelife. Not how she got her powers, who she is, why she fights crime. Since no mention is made of Ares or her mission of peace, all I can assume is she just went to America to hang out with Steve. That’s it. That’s our feminist superhero’s entire motivation, she wanted to do a guy, then she arbitrarily broke up with him to fight crime. Is she sympathetic yet?
Becca: What was funny for me – as a total novice – was actually sitting there and trying to force that scene into making sense. I went as far as going, “Maybe…she’s just looking for a way to break up with him?”
Kick: Haha, a female lead who doesn’t moon over some guy? What next?
Back at Themyscira Industries, Etta is being a strong black woman and telling Diana about her meetings. When she objects to a press conference, Henry butts in to explain that it’s “pushback” for “assaulting people on Youtube.” Okay, she caught a wanted criminal and handed him over to the police. She’s a superhero. Isn’t that kind of her job? You don’t see Superman having to give an interview to apologize for stopping a forest fire.
Remember that inner-city youth from the opening? Apparently, Diana was chasing the bald guy on his behalf, because his mother shows up to chat with Diana. Professor X gave Willis drugs, and given they’re steroids, does that mean Willis was juicing up? Maybe to get an athletic scholarship? Maybe he’s a nerd who just wanted six-pack abs, but the athletic scholarship seems to be the clear inference here. So of the two black characters, we have a secretary who longs for the screentime of Astrid on Fringe and a drug addict.
Mom tells Diana she wants to kill the drug dealer. All Diana says is “leave vengeance to me.” I can’t help but think that Diana’s reaction to homicidal rage should be more, I don’t know, even-handed? She’s basically the Punisher in this.
Becca: Please know that I misheard the mom and that she was saying “It was the mascara!” and I was all “tainted mascara? SURELY A JOB FOR A WONDER WOMAN.”
Kick: That literally was the plot of the Catwoman movie.
Becca: Shut your face no!
Kick: Well, it was Halle Berry Catwoman, so that was approximately the right challenge level there. Evil make-up.
Becca: Aw, bless her heart.
Kick: As long as she stays far away from the Batman, X-Men, and James Bond franchises.
Spurred on by the encounter, Diana holds a press conference to denounce Veronica Cale (Diana is very hotheaded in this). Here’s where it gets confusing. Diana says that muscle supplements sold by Cale killed six African-American teenagers, all from the ghetto as Diana helpfully tells us (so… Veronica is a racist? Or is she just trying to rack up points for Evil Bingo?). If that’s the case, a phone call to the FDA could solve this problem right now. I mean, Diana is a beloved hero, shouldn’t she have the juice to bring about an inquiry? Yet, they said baldie was a drug dealer, so how has Diana connected him to Cale?
Diana admits that she has no proof, but the blood sample she took from the drug dealer will prove everything. Although even if he does have super-drugs in his system, how will that prove he got them from Cale? And why doesn’t she just wait for the test results to get back? Because she’s in a rush to face the camera and tell Cale “If the police don’t get you, I will.” Yes, our heroine just threatened someone on national television.
Becca: This was disheartening, there could have been conflict, pathos, less racism, but instead Wonder Woman goes all lawless gorilla juicehead on us.
Afterward, Veronica denies everything Diana said, which is really easy when Diana has no proof. Diana gets in a snit about how Veronica called her an action figure, to which Etta replies that she is an action figure. Diana designed her costume to be an action figure so she could sell dolls.
Yes, forget about Diana adopting the American flag’s colors to signal her alliance against Nazi Germany. Forget about Diana dressing to honor Diana Trevor. And forget about Diana being dressed to honor the Greek gods. This Diana’s costume is all about selling action figures.
Diana asks why Veronica Cale would risk her corporate empire on an improperly tested drug—what, is she a criminal genius who’s too dumb to turn a profit on pharmaceuticals? Yes, even the characters in the show know this makes no sense. Etta tells Diana that they tested the drug dealer’s blood and found no proof. Now, this was set up, as Diana said that the chemical breaks down quickly, thus the idea was that she get a sample from him and test it before that could happen. However, having Diana know that there was a risk of the chemical disappearing and leaving her with no proof makes her look even more foolish and impulsive. And remember, she’s no rookie. This is a seasoned veteran Wonder Woman who’d become the idol of milloins.
She’s also a horrible businesswoman, as in a meeting to discuss the Wonder Woman doll they’re launching in a week or so, she A. completely ignores what’s going on to talk shop with Etta Candy (in the comics, working at TACO BELL was serious business for her) and B. is completely surprised to see how boobtacular her action figure is. Because she didn’t look at any of the designs I guess.
After getting into an argument with Henry, Diana loses her temper and shouts him down. Because, you know, that’s Wonder Woman all over. Always exploding about ill-designed action figures. Next thing you know, she’ll be slapping the lasso of truth on an assistant for getting her decaf. She has a long rant about all her emotions and how everyone thinks she’s perfect because she… merchandized that image and publicized it? I’m just saying, you don’t see Tony Stark complaining that everyone thinks he’s a devil-may-care playboy.
She goes off to be alone in her office with her feelings. Resolve conflicts the Wonder Woman way: scream at people and then storm off! Oh, and apparently, the Wonder Woman dolls fund most of Diana’s crimefighting. Wouldn’t, say, a fashion line or a perfume be more her speed? I can’t see Beyonce, for instance, raking in most of her dough with Beyonce Barbie.
Becca: And for the record? Adrienne Palicki…is a barbie doll! She could not furrow her brow to properly indicate distaste at her perceived mammoth gazongas because the resemble between doll and woman was uncanny.
Henry comes in—again, what’s the point of Etta Candy’s character if all of Diana’s scenes are with him? After telling Diana that she’s wound too tight, Henry asks about her and Steve, worrying about her and thinking she’s profoundly lonely. Yeah, get a good dicking, Diana, that’ll set you straight. Another flashback has Diana telling Steve that she can’t keep dating him because when she’s Wonder Woman, her enemies will target him to get to her. So what’s the point of her having a secret identity? This is a situation where the Wisdom of Athena might’ve come in handier than the Man-Pain of Batman.
“Steve, I’m going to set up a dual identity. In one, I’ll stay with you and be a normal human being. In the other, I’ll fight crime as a superhero. By keeping the two separate, we can be together, but you might wanna take self-defense courses in case someone finds out my identity anyway.”
There. That wasn’t so hard.
Veronica Cale comes in to exchange some lesbian innuendo with Diana, who basically tells her “Give up or I’ll kill you.” Then she doesn’t kill her. Veronica, being a female villain, uses her sexuality for evil, bragging that she has Congress by the balls, pun intended. Yeah, how’s that work? There are, like, three hundred people in Congress. Where does she find time to sleep with them all?
Becca: I will say, if anyone could bang all of Congress into submission it’s Liz Hurley. Also – I was 90% sure in this scene Diana was going to five up repartee altogether in favor of a swift boob punch to her enemy.
Kick: Or a neck snap.
I’ve got to imagine you could show the average Wonder Woman fan a scene where Diana is sneering and rude to her cool, grinning opponent and trick them into thinking they’re in the mirror universe.
“There are all sorts of evil forces to do battle with,” Veronica sniffs. “I suggest you pick another one.”
“No need,” Diana replies, “I’ve got you.”
She just said she was evil, Di. See that “another” up there? It’s not a comeback if she admits she’s evil. Guess there’s a reason they don’t call it the Wit of Athena.
Let’s pause for a moment. Veronica Cale is usually pegged as “Wonder Woman’s Lex Luthor,” and that’s a fair approximation, but Greg Rucka actually gave her some very thematic subtext. Just as Lex Luthor and Superman are tied up in ideas of male ego and humility (guess which is which), Cale is a very un-feminist answer to Wonder Woman. Whereas Diana is all about harmony and sharing the spotlight, Cale can’t stand the thought of Wonder Woman being more popular than her. It’s Mean Girls writ large. She goes to a very negative, ‘alpha male’ place in her catty bitchiness, while Diana rises above it. It’s a much more interesting facet of Wonder Woman’s feminist message than just more “evil men with their manliness,” showing how women can sabotage each other and themselves.
In the show, Cale is evil all along, instead of being driven to it by her own insecurities, making for a less-rounded character. And Diana herself is very macho and aggressive, killing the subtext on both ends. And instead of hating Diana, she actually has some lesbian subtext with her—which consists entirely of Cale flirting with Diana and Diana making “I will end you!” sentiments. Now, I loves me some femslash and I loves me some foeyay, but with this being unreciprocated on Diana’s part and a symptom of Cale’s ee-vil sexuality on her part, it honestly comes across as a Psycho Lesbian thing. So they took one of Wondy’s less interesting villains and then got her entirely wrong for the sake of nothing more than cheap titillation and vague homophobia.
Becca: Truth. Veronica would’ve dug the boob punch. It smacked of Megan Fox in Jennifer’s Body – as in, fetishistic and vaguely homophobic.
Kick: I actually liked Jennifer’s Body. It’s at least in the far-end of the spectrum, where they’re putting the Jennifer/Needy in context. This is just random.
Becca: Valid. I didn’t despise Jennifer’s Body – but I feel Cody’s work is undermined by her own tendency to be precious and accessible.
Kick: I don’t know why we’re talking about Diablo Cody while reviewing a show by someone who’s precocious and keeps dragging their own interests into work after work.
Becca: Ha ha! They should write a show together!
Kick: Single Female Lawyer Gets Pregnant.
Becca: I suggest a live action My Little Pony.
If they really wanted a villain to go in this direction, they should’ve gone with Barbara Minerva, aka the Cheetah. She’s one of Wonder Woman’s classic rogues, and someone who has an origin open for streamlining. She also has a very love/hate relationship with Diana, perfect for our purposes. Say, she starts off just a nogoodnik who is increasingly flustered by Diana until she becomes the Cheetah, and those powers prove to be a curse. Diana sympathizes with her, as always, and tries to redeem her. You could get a very interesting, well-rounded relationship out of that—something like Lex Luthor and Clark Kent in Smallville, but in reverse… ending in the triumph of Minerva’s redemption. Just the sort of thing you’d expect to find in an optimistic, good-hearted Wonder Woman show.
Diana flies to the hospital (hope no one needs that helipad. Or did she just park her jet in the lot?) and is so angry by Veronica’s goading that she… visits Willis, the college kid cut down in the prime of his life. Okay, maybe this is just me being picky, but don’t heroes do a lot of rescuing and taking villains to jail? Wondy’s jet is pretty much a glorified hang glider. So if she were, saying, trying to save someone from a volcano, what, would she strap them to the wing and hope for the best? Oh, and she has twelve jets. I guess when you wear red boots everywhere, all that conspicuous consumption has to go somewhere.
Becca: She will rescue slash capture you – but you’d better know how to pilot a plane.
Diana tells Willis to get better and he mumbles “Truth, justice, and the American Way.” What, Diana, it wasn’t enough you took the glasses from Superman, you had to steal his motto?
Then Diana goes to interrogate the drug dealer. But even though the show villainizes Cale for using her sexuality to get what she wants, Diana cringe-worthingly tells the guard “This outfit opens doors for me” when he won’t let her in.
Another detective comes in to tell Diana that the Justice Department is pursuing a case against Diana. The gist is that if she’s associated with the LAPD, then all her illegal actions would reflect on their cases and a lot of convictions would be overturned. Basically, Diana is such a shitty superhero that even the LAPD wants nothing to do with her. Diana doesn’t care about that, she’s Jack Bauer!
He lets her in to torture the guy—way to uphold the law, dude—and she slaps the lasso on him. Apparently (this is never stated), the lasso can make people tell the truth, but it doesn’t compel them to tell the truth. So all Diana can do is use it as a lie detector. As she tortures people. I can understand depowering her some for dramatic purposes—just like she doesn’t fly—but wouldn’t it be more interesting if her lasso couldn’t force the truth out of people and she wouldn’t stoop to torture? Might make the writers have to get creative to show how Diana deals with her problems. So I can see why they wouldn’t go that way.
And I guess we can forget about contrasting Diana with more ruthless characters like Artemis, since you can’t get much more ruthless than torturing the man you hospitalized for information.
Becca: That moment was just awful. Everything that came out of her mouth reminded me of Halle Berry as Storm. If she had said “you know what happens to a neck choked by my lasso…” I would not have been surprised. At all. Entertained but not surprised.
Kick: And it’s anathema to the character, since Diana was created to be the exact opposite of Macho Torturer Guy.
Becca: And don’t forget – prettttty fucked up to begin with.
Kick: Well, yeah. Even Batman just threatens people with torture. He doesn’t just straight-out start ripping out fingernails.
“I’m represented by council!” the drug dealer yelps, to which Diana replies “I’m representing the kid you almost killed.” It’s not a good sign when your badass dialogue reminds me of a comedy bit from MST3K: The Movie. “All rights are reserved, Callahan!” “Yeah, but what about the rights of that little girl?”
And just in case you thought Diana was just bluffing to get him to talk, we cut outside and hear the mook screaming in agony. But as it turns out, torture works fine. Wow, who knew? Diana tells the cop about the location of a laboratory with proof of Cale’s evil deeds, which he tells her she can’t go to because she tortured the information out of the guy. So… why’d he let her torture him in the first place?
I could kinda understand the “civil rights whackjobs getting in the way!” thing if the only objection was to Diana using her lasso, but she fucking tortured the guy! There wasn’t even a ticking time bomb, like on 24! She got angry, so she decided to take it out on someone who was already behind bars. Our. Fucking. Heroine.
For the record, Veronica Cale’s evil plan: She’s developing a super-soldier serum for the military and, instead of testing it on, you know, lab animals or something, she’s using it on third-world country people who are smuggled into the country (because she can’t just test her stuff out of the country). BUT she’s also testing it on ghetto kids, which is how Diana gets wind of all this in the first place. Cale ALSO keeps around the failed experiments just for Diana to find and expose, instead of killing them and burning the bodies like a good evil overlord. ALSO, even though Diana has the drug dealer in custody for days, Cale does nothing to move the facility that’s been compromised, even though Diana openly says she’s gunning for her. This isn’t an idiot plot. It’s a developmentally disabled plot.
Becca: It’s like watching a car chase only all parties involved are going 7 miles an hour.
Next up, Diana has dinner with a senator who’s in bed with Cale (possibly literally; see: evil sexualized villain). Naturally, he’s Southern and folksy, thus evil. He says that Diana “genetically isn’t human.” That’s literally the only explanation we get of Diana’s powers or origin or anything. For all we know, she might be one of the X-Men.
The facts are these: Because Themyscira Industries runs on Wonder Woman merchandise and that’s sold because Wonder Woman fights crime and because Wonder Woman breaks the law to fight crime (c.f. FUCKING TORTURE), they’re making bank on illegal activity and there’s a RICO case against Wonder Woman.
Diana’s brilliant defense of her brazenly illegal actions is that with the wars, the recession, and unemployment, the U.S. government has bigger fish to fry. You could use that argument for everything. “Why are you stopping me from drinking and driving, don’t you know there’s a war on!?” Diana then accuses him of being in Cale’s pocket. Yeah, that and the fact that you tortured someone are the only reason you’re being accused of torture!
Becca: Though this menacing Southern cliche of a senator did make me pine for the Gilmore Girls.
Kick: I get that when I watch Supernatural. Oh, Sam, you were so much happier back then.
Meanwhile, the cops are working on getting a warrant for Cale’s laboratory. Diana is told to be patient. “It’s a virtue,” Etta reminds her.
“Not one of mine,” Diana says. Now would be a good time to discuss Diana’s characterization.
This is the pilot’s biggest failing for me. Say what you want about the costume, the actress, the setting, or any of that, but the most important thing is the character. The series could always hit its stride down the road, so long as they got Diana right. Without that, it would only go further off-course, like when Joel Schumacher came up with the idea that Batman was some kind of gay cartoon character. Is this the Diana that fans know and love? Nope. To illustrate my point, let’s take a few seconds to think up some words that we’d use to describe Diana in the comics. Serene. Wise. Badass. Joyous. Courageous. Loving. Merciful. Now, let me tell what the Diana of the pilot makes me think of: Impulsive. Short-tempered. Vindictive. Murderous. Moody. Forlorn. Unstable.
Now I know what some of you will say, like so many DC writers whining like school kids told to stay after class. “But Moooooom, Wonder Woman is booooooring. We need to make her interestinggggggg.”
And who says that an even-tempered, wise character can’t be interesting? Just for instance, let’s take Jean-Luc Picard from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Is he brooding? Does he have angst? Is he trying to get revenge? Does he have a messy love life? No, but that series is literally classic. The conflict came from both outside sources and divisions among the ensemble. In fact, I’d count Captain Kirk in the same boat. Despite the recent movie’s retcon of him, he was always a pretty straight arrow, even if he did have an eye for the ladies.
Not to be a stan, but let’s add to that Kahlan Amnell from Legend of the Seeker. A series with a wildly devoted fanbase, based not only on her character, but on her relationship with Cara Mason, another female character that was her complete opposite. For that matter, what about Dana Scully from X-Files? Smart, reserved, and logical. Kate Beckett in Castle too. Myka Bering in Warehouse 13 is the de facto protagonist of her show.
Yes, they usually are paired off with more flamboyant male characters. This is where, if I were making the show, I’d include a character for Diana to play off of, and not a male love interest either. Someone with a genuinely different viewpoint from Diana. Artemis is someone from a warlike and misandrist culture trying to adapt to Diana’s world. Donna Troy and Cassie Sandsmark are young women who receive similar powers to Wonder Woman, and try to learn how to use them. Phillipus is sort of an aunt and mentor to Wonder Woman. Io is a gentle, nerdy blacksmith who’s in lesbians with Diana. The list goes on. It wouldn’t be that hard to cherry-pick some people from the comic, since she’s has about fifty different supporting casts. Basically, all I’m asking is that a Wonder Woman show be as feminist as Rizzoli & Isles.
Back to the show. Etta gets a phone call and tells Diana that Willis has died. Remember, THE BLACK GUY ALWAYS DIES FIRST.
Kick: Speaking of Etta, I’m looking at some pictures of Catherine Tate and there’s your Etta Candy right there. Want someone who’s un-slender, but still badass, beautiful, and awesome? Bingo. They’re both ginger, even.
Becca: That is genius! Man. Why won’t America embrace Tate? I will hold her close to my bosom for the nation!
Kick: I’m writing a novel now, the love interest is a very close relative of Donna Noble. Like, “couldn’t get married in most parts of America” close.
Becca: That is delightful!
Kick: Makes the sex scenes a breeze too.
Thirty minutes into the pilot, and after we’ve seen her in costume a half-dozen times, we get a suiting-up montage. Diana has decided to once more break the law after respecting the law after breaking the law. This girl flips more than an SUV in a crash.
Conveniently, Diana gets a phone call from the cop, who tells her that if she breaks into the laboratory, it becomes a crime scene and the cops can legally enter. And they won’t arrest her because…?
Becca: Boobs. The answer is always boobs.
Cut to Cale’s men, a bunch of steroid-soldiers, jabbering about how they have to stop Diana from reaching the infirmary of the laboratory. That’s, like, the third time this plot point has been reiterated. The leader says there’s no way Diana can get inside, so naturally she throws open the barricade (a garage door) in the next ten seconds. They… do know Wonder Woman has superpowers, right?
Also, for no particular reason, Diana has put on the “swimsuit” costume. In the comics, Diana puts on armor when she knows she’s in for a fight. Here, she takes off her pants. Also, sometimes her boots are flat and sometimes they have high heels, it literally just switches in-between scenes. Okay, if the actress can’t run around in high heels, how can the character? C’mon, guys, you don’t see Batman running into battle in dress shoes.
And there’s really no way around this. Wonder Woman’s outfit makes her look like a porn star. I know, I know, in a comic book it can be drawn to look majestic and intimidating as well as sexy, but here… it’s really just sexual.
Becca: Can I admit here that I actually thought “there’s not a Brazilian wax in the world Brazilian enough to prevent visible pubes in that ish.”
Kick: I’ve heard the argument made that Diana’s uniform is comparable to sportswear, but you don’t see Superman fighting crime in wrestling trunks, or Batman facing the Joker in basketball shorts.
Becca: Although dear lord I wish. Can the Joker please take on Batman with the assistance of the Harlem Globetrotters?
Kick: Hey, the Harlem Globetrotters would never work with that maniac! The Lakers, maybe. They do put up with Kobe.
Becca: Fair enough!
What follows is a pretty good action sequence of Wondy going Kratos with her lasso. Compared to the ten years of two-hit fights in Smallville (supervillain hits Clark, attack backfires, supervillain hits the ground), it’s goddamn Bruce Lee. But Wonder Woman does kill, like, four people who are pretty much just doing their job. She crushes two guys between shipping crates (complete with Doom scream!), uses another as a human shield, and THROWS A PIPE THROUGH A GUY’S THROAT.
Becca: It was kind of Dexter-tastic. Though that may have been the shipping crates talking.
Kick: I don’t think even Diana’s dark passenger would fit in that jet.
Becca: Maybe that’s why the lasso was so wee. To fit in the jet.
Kick: I’d say it’s her fun-size lasso, but aren’t all lassos fun-size?
Becca: Yeehaw I say. Yee. Haw.
“I really liked that one,” Cale notes of the corpse, and I guess her nonchalance at his death is worse than Diana actually killing him? I mean, c’mon, she’s Wonder Woman. Does she really need lethal force to take out a guy with a gun?
And why is Cale there anyway, knowing that a psychotic superhuman is on a rampage? Shouldn’t she be fleeing the country right about now? As you might expect, Cale calls Diana out on all the illegal shit she’s done, to which Diana responds by throwing her lasso around the neck of the unarmed woman and then slamming her unthreatening ass against a wall.
By the way, despite the fact that Cale has video proof of all of this, and Diana has a public identity—you can literally drive up to her place of business and shake hands with her—nothing comes of this. Do you think if Steve Jobs went around throwing pipes through people’s throat, he could just go back to work the next day?
Becca: Good point. Though I’ve heard Arianna Huffington does shit like this daily.
Kick: No, in the real world, you can’t just go around committing heinous crimes and then go back to work without any consequences. Unless you’re Kobe Bryant.
Becca: I don’t think we can just offer up Kobe on that score when there are folks like uuuhhhh Hitler? Dick Cheney?
Kick: Yeah, but it’s a running gag now.
Becca: Ohhh I see – that’s how humor works!
Diana finds an infirmary full of freakishly deformed steroid cases and promises to get them help. Back at Themyscira Industries, Diana comes home to a warm round of applause from her employees. Yay, manslaughter!
Henry tells Diana he’s proud of her and Etta nods, because her character is completely indistinguishable from Henry and adds nothing to the plot. In other news, the lawyer from the Justice Department has arrived and, surprise, it’s Steve Trevor (cough CONFLICT OF INTEREST cough cough). Really, did you think David E. Kelley could go for forty minutes without one character turning out to be a lawyer? I guess he’s supposed to be “dreamy,” but his eyes are waaay too far apart.
Becca: Dude, Steve looked like a honey badger.
Kick: If Steve were a honey badger, it would be one of those honey badgers that gave a shit.
You know how this goes, he’s not over her, she’s not over him. Steve “investigates” Diana by asking a flirty question and getting a flirty answer, and although Diana has been working with the LAPD throughout the episode, he says she hasn’t.
So even though the show has repeatedly emphasized how evil Veronica Cale is for cheating the system and using friends in high places to manipulate shit, Diana does THE EXACT SAME THING and it’s played for laughs. She’s yukking it up after murdering multiple people a few hours ago. Also, Steve is married now–so I guess they’re taking the wildly popular “superhero pervs on a married ex” plot angle from Superman Returns.
Then Diana goes home, as Diana Prince, and has no friends other than her cat, as shown when she starts a Facebook page. I guess Henry and Etta Candy and even Steve Trevor don’t have Facebook accounts.
All in all, if they wanted to make a show about a ruthlessly corrupt corporate executive who moonlights as a superhero, they should’ve made an Emma Frost TV show. She wouldn’t have complained about her action figure’s breasts being too big.
Just to be clear, I don’t mind Adrianne Palicki in this. She’s got the height for the role, with time she probably would’ve put on the necessary muscle (sort of like how by season two of LotS, Bridget Regan looked like she could change your tire without a jack). And when she doesn’t have Script PMS, she shows every sign of pulling off the appropriate banter and warmth.
It’s really the script that lets her down, making her overcomplicated, unrelatable, and needlessly sexualizing her (what with every male character she meets being a potential love interest, except the black guy). They managed to take Wonder Woman’s complicated mythology and not only make it cheap and shabby, but actually make it more convoluted. I was watching it with a friend and she got confused trying to follow the Diana Prince/Diana Themyscira/Wonder Woman concept, while Diana’s origin wasn’t even touched on. You can’t just say “hey, Wonder Woman” and launch straight into some meta-y critique of the superhero genre, especially when it seems like it’s written by someone who’s never read a superhero comic in his life.
Becca: I there was a real missed opportunity here – we needed a C plotline wherein We spend the day with Sylvester, napping, eating, pooping, poking Diana on Facebook.
Kick: That’s just begging for a crossover with Lord Tubbington on Glee.
Wanna know the sad thing? Successful corporate executive by day, crime-fighter by night, from the creator of Ally McBeal and Boston Legal sounds like an awesome Power Girl series. Plus, you could get a lot of comedic mileage out of the girls (you know, Peej, Terra, and all the rest. Not to mention her tits). Karen doesn’t even have a set origin to preserve. Kelley could say she got into a wacky science accident and I’d say “Yeah, okay.” But because Wonder Woman is a bigger brand name, she gets hacksawed into David E. Kelley’s Generic Superhero Lady.
Becca: Or you know, written a belated McBeal spinoff for Robert Downey Jr. For me to watch. Or put down my pants.
Kick: Didn’t being on Ally McBeal drive him to relapse? Or was that just me?
Becca: It was all of us. I woke up in a pool of lube to discover ten years had passed.
Kick: So, final thoughts?
Becca: Coming into this with a rudimentary knowledge of the Super Heroine herself, a passing understanding of David E’s way of work, an appreciation for television of every genre, I was eager to watch the show, analyze it, and figure out what didn’t work. But from the moment WW opens her mouth, growling about the criminal “lawyering up” – I realized that what didn’t work was everything -
Becca: Which made for
Becca: A tedious
Becca: Camp Experience that has
Becca: Me aching for a brainwash.
Kick: This must be what IMing with William Shatner feels like.
Becca: I’ll take your
Becca: Word for it….that one was intentional.
Kick: But as a fan, it just never felt like Wonder Woman. She was either a posturing “badass” or a sappy sad-sack, with none of the confidence or grace you’d expect from the character. So, having seen it, what’s your impression of the character? This was supposed to be an origin story of sorts, after all.
Becca: That baffles me – as a first-timer I have no idea – STILL – where she comes from or what she’s about. I found her to be an aggressive psychotic self-pitying sad sack with no respect for humanity or herself.
Kick: Maybe they were planning to backdoor pilot it on Smallville.
Kick: I think you now know less about Wonder Woman than you did when we started. You can now fill that mental real estate with something useful instead.
Becca: Excellent – this calls for fervent googling of “kittens to hug”.
Obviously, the pilot wasn’t picked up, leaving Wonder Woman the only one of the DC’s “Big Three” without a movie or show in production. Even Green Lantern has a sequel coming out and the Flash has a movie being developed (by the same writers who brought us Green Lantern, so you know it’ll be good). Nicolas Winding Refn has expressed a passionate interest in doing a Wonder Woman movie with Christina Hendricks in the lead, with WB saying they’ll pick it up depending on how well his upcoming Logan’s Run remake does. Because they like to bet on sure things like lantern-based superheroes played by Van Wilder.
For Fempop, I’m Kickpuncher and that’s Rebecca Jane. Now go stop a bullet cold and make the Axis fold. Whilst staying away from Kobe Bryant.