If you’re not a member of the fandom community, you probably don’t know about the growing criticism of NBC for choosing David E. Kelley to write the script for a new series about Wonder Woman. (Just Google “Wonder Woman David E. Kelley” and you’ll find out more than you really want to know).
As a more than half-century fan of Wonder Woman, and as a shorter term fan of Kelley’s previous tv scripts, there’s something I want to say.
It’s a matter of “awe.”
Kelley’s female characters, such as Allie McBeal, have been criticized for being anti-feminist. I maintain that those characters are not meant to be “archetypes” or “heroes.” Neither inspiration nor role models, rather they emerge from some small portion of female idiosyncrasies with which many of us identify and also recognize as not necessarily the best of what we are. Actually, his male characters develop the same way, portrayed as flawed and human in ways that make us smile with poignant understanding.
From her inception, Wonder Woman was not out to just stop criminals, but to reform them. On a small island off Paradise Island was Transformation Island, a rehabilitation complex created by the Amazons to house and reform criminals.
Armed with her bulletproof bracelets, magic lasso, and her amazonian training, Princess Diana was the archetype of the perfect woman from the mind of her creator, William Moulton Marston. She was beautiful, intelligent, strong, but still possessed a soft side. At that time, her powers came from ‘Amazon Concentration,’ not as a gift from the gods.
Wonder Woman’s magic lasso was supposedly forged from the Magic Girdle of Aphrodite, which Queen Hippolyta (Wonder Woman’s) mother was bequeathed by the Goddess. Hephastateus borrowed the belt, removed links from it, and that is where the magic lasso came from. It was unbreakable, infinitely stretchable, and could make all who are encircled in it tell the truth.
That was the Wonder Woman who inspired me as a 7-year old who felt that she never did fit into her family of origin, the pre-teener and teenager who yearned for a role as an adult that didn’t fit into the 50s mentality.
While Allie McBeal made us smile because we see part of ourselves in her antics, Wonder Woman makes us dream about what we might still become. Male or female, we need awesome and inspiring mythologies to propel us out of the ordinary and problematic parts of ourselves that characters like Allie so touchingly reflect.
Kelley’s “Harry’s Law” starring Kathy Bates is my new favorite show (even though the part was originally written for a male.) But Harriet is not an archetype either. She’s a very specific kind of individual with very human personality traits. We might find her inspiring, but not really “awesome.”
We females need Wonder Woman as the awesome myth she originally was intended to be — connected to other mythic females on Paradise Island more than she is to the mundane human world in which she has to find a place. Her struggle is to fulfill her destiny while still finding a way to make and enjoy her place in the everyday world.
Because isn’t that what so many of us still feel is our psychological destiny — to feel the power of our mythic history and to use that power to make the world a better place for others and for ourselves?
Maybe David E. Kelley can write Wonder Woman the way she deserves to be written. Maybe. But I can’t help feeling that Joss Whedon (who understood why we were awed by his Buffy) would have been a much better choice.
Please, Mr. Kelley, don’t dilute the awesomeness of Wonder Woman. She doesn’t deserve it. And neither do we.