Wonder Woman is an iconic figure in the DC Comics Multiverse, and despite what the universal panning of the latest DC Comics movie (Superman vs. Batman) may suggest, she continues to command a considerable fan following around the world.
Born Princess Diana of Themyscira, Wonder Woman lives in the realm of the Amazon Warrior Woman, an all female Order dedicated to protecting the world of man from all this evil. She made her first appearance 75 years ago (this October) as a star spangled, scantily-clad female hero in Action Comics during the fog of World War II, helping US soldiers defeat Axis powers in a number of theatres of operation.
Since then she has come a long way and apart from having a large global fan following has become an icon for a variety of movements ranging from feminism, women’s lib, pacifism, gender equality and even LGBTQ acceptance. Many of the themes of her stories have shown her as nearly all-powerful but not infallible to the manifold issues and choices (and the resultant mistakes and consequences) that women face in everyday life. This, say her proponents, makes her a perfect cause icon, not because she is perfect, but because she is relatable and rises to occasions that women and girls around the world find inspiration in.
Many sociologists agree that Wonder Woman became a phenomenon primarily because she broke so many cultural moulds. She was created at a time when American society had barely come to terms with the Suffrage movement and institutionalised patriarchy was still a fact of life.
Wonder Woman was created by psychologist William Moulter Morstan (known for inventing the polygraph or the lie detector) and his wife Elizabeth Holloway Morstan. The premise of Wonder Woman, turned the entire ‘damsel in distress’ concept on its head and showed a woman taking charge of life and battling evil – armed with her lasso of truth, indestructible bracelets, superhuman strength and projectile tiara.
As Wonder Woman’s popularity grew and American society became more liberal, DC Comics continued to push the envelope by showing Wonder Woman in more complex plots, managing careers, even poly-amorous relationships and a host of issues that women faced in everyday life. Wonder Woman continues to have her detractors who range from traditionalists who feel that she has pushed the limits of liberalism too far, to liberals who feel she is not liberal enough and at times even reinforces traditional standards for what passes for beauty and empowerment for a woman.
One thing however is clear, few female imaginary characters can match the level of impact that she has had over the years for women and girls.
It was perhaps fitting that on the 75th anniversary of her first comic appearance, the UN has made Wonder Woman an honorary ambassador for the “Empowerment of Woman and Girls”.
The appointment was announced at a ceremony at the UN attended by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, DC Comics President Diane Nelson, Lynda Carter (who starred as Wonder Woman in her first TV series) and Gal Gadot (who played the role of Wonder Woman in Superman vs. Batman).
Gardot will be reprising the role of Wonder Woman in an eponymous standalone movie currently in production and slated for release in 2017.
As part of her new role as Ambassador for Empowerment of Women and Girls, Wonder Woman will benefit from a social media campaign anchored by hashtags #WonderWoman #WonderWoman75 and #WithWonderWoman as well as two dedicated campaign websites powered by DC Comics and the UN respectively. The campaign will run in all six official languages of the UN which include Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish.