As a long-awaited ‘Wonder Woman’ movie spins into cinemas, longtime super-fan of the original ’70s TV show, Jon Weir says he wouldn’t be the gay man he is today without Diana Prince and her star-spangled, kick-ass alter ego.
This article was originally published in the June 2017 Issue of GCN (Issue 330) which is available to read online here.
I only wrote to Jim’ll Fix It once. I asked him to turn me into Wonder Woman. He didn’t of course. The world may have been ready for her, but it wasn’t ready for me, a ten year old stick insect of a kid, to appear clad in star-spangled knickers on BBC One. They did turn a girl into Wonder Woman and she used her ‘super powers’ to clean her bedroom at super speed. I remember hissing at the TV in envy.
A long time has passed since then and Wonder Woman has remained mostly as invisible to TV and movie audiences as her famous invisible plane. We finally got a brief glimpse of her much-anticipated big screen debut in last year’s testosterone punching match Batman v Superman where she stole the show with barely 15 minutes screen time. But Wonder Woman finally spins into her own solo feature in June, played again by Israeli model and actress Gal Gadot. As the most important superhero movie of recent years, and backed by a tidal wave of hype, there’s a lot riding on the film. Female superhero movies have traditionally tanked at the box office but I’m willing the movie to succeed because I owe Wonder Woman a lot. I doubt I’d be the gay man I am without her.
The character has long been a feminist role model but it was her most famous incarnation in her ’70s TV show, brought to life by the beautiful Lynda Carter and a gloriously campy theme tune, that revealed her as a true LGBT icon and cemented her queer appeal for me. Growing up in a grey, Northern town in England where I was teased and bullied for my tiny frame, or my disinterest in sports, I never felt special or extraordinary. I was in permanent super-hero alter-ego mode; unimportant and underestimated like Diana Prince, the alter-ego of Wonder Woman (utilising that old super hero trick of a simple pair of glasses). The day I saw the Wonder Woman TV show, and its most iconic sequence, dubbed the ‘wonder spin’, my life was changed.
I’d spin around when no one was looking, hoping that in a flash of light I’d become someone stronger and more glamorous. Wonder Woman’s transformation was transformative to me as that young gay kid. I know it was the same for so many others. Watching as a golden explosion changes her from her dowdy, unassuming persona into a vision of stars, stripes and huge hair sent a shiver down my spine and a smile to my face. It still has the same effect on me and today it’s not difficult to see that famous quick-change spin (invented by Carter herself) as the ultimate ‘coming out of the closet’, the reveal of the true powers and beauty she was usually forced to hide from the world.
But Wonder Woman has never been about her looks and despite the risqué costume the producers squeezed Carter into, Wonder Woman’s greatest attributes were not her physical ones.
Hailing from an island of Amazon women, her real weapons were equality, compassion, love and truth, ideals the LGBT community have always embraced. She was invented in 1941 by psychologist William Moulton Marston who wanted a feminist hero to counter the violent male comic book heroes of the day. Marston was a supporter of women’s rights and Wonder Woman’s origins were heavily influenced by his keen interest in feminist values. He developed an early version of what became known as the polygraph test, aka the lie detector, and this certainly influenced Wonder Woman’s most famous accessory, the lasso of truth. He also gave her bracelets on her wrists to block bullets (and bullshit: get you an accessory that can do both!). And on top all that she was an actual butt-kicking princess way before Leia or Xena.
It’s no wonder this little 10-year-old queer kid wanted to be her. In many ways I’m still that 10-year-old-kid and drop that lasso around me, I’d probably tell you I still want to be her too. These days I channel my Wonder Woman love into collecting: my spare room at home holds my Wonder Woman collection, an array of dolls, action figures, toys, books, comics and vintage memorabilia. Much of it is centred on Lynda Carter’s version of the character and the enduring legacy of both her and the show means fans have more merchandise to buy than ever before. It’s a great, if expensive time, to be a Wonder Woman fan. (It’s also the first time I can ever remember it being cool to say that out loud.) I was lucky enough to meet Lynda many years ago in London after one of her musical shows. They say never meet you heroes, advice I’m glad I ignored because the memory of those moments with her is the best part of my entire collection.
In many ways, Gadot’s Wonder Woman is very different to Carter’s: she’s swapped her bathing suit for more practical battle-armour and flat heels, and added a shield and sword to her armoury. She’s also a little more hard-edged, having tired of the human race and its violence. The movie follows her mission to man’s world as leaves her idyllic island home for the trenches of WW1, deep into the dark heart of the conflict. It’s a more modern twist on the character, bolstered by big-budget action that the TV show could never have hoped to pull off, but still owes much to Carter’s trail-blazing casting. Gadot grasps the character and her core values as much as Carter ever did.
So while it’s Gadot’s face we’ll be associating with Wonder Woman for some time to come, if it weren’t for Lynda Carter and her iconic interpretation, it’s not a stretch to think Wonder Woman could have disappeared from the collective culture over the decades. While for some she was just a sexy poster on their bedroom wall, Carter’s Wonder Woman was a gay icon when many of us were too young to understand what that meant or that we needed one. Today, Lynda is a vocal supporter of the LGBT community but back in the ’80s, as I sat glued to my TV every Saturday afternoon, she unknowingly helped me to realise that being your true self, super powers or not, was pretty cool.
A new generation of kids are about to discover the reason Wonder Woman has been around for 75 years and counting. And what if, when they come home from the cinema, they decide to try that famous spin for themselves, just in case something magic happens? The truth is, though I’m no longer that little boy who wrote to Jim’ll Fix It, I’ll still be spinning with them. Because it never hurts to wonder.
‘Wonder Woman’ spins into cinemas nationwide on Thursday, June 1.
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