Essay about Literature - Feminist Criticism and Wonder Woman

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Feminist Criticism and Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman. To get a better picture of just who Wonder Woman is, I checked out some of her many websites last night and found a surprisingly rich archive. Wonder Woman, in fact, has a complicated, even schizophrenic, heritage. She’s been portrayed by such diverse actors as the perky Cathy Lee Crosby and Lynda Carter, who endowed her with both a competent, working woman aura and a dose of eroticism (Lynda Carter, I discovered, is the subject of a lot of Wonder Woman fetishist erotica on the Internet these days). An Internet poll about who should play Wonder Woman, if the series were revived today, uncovered equally diverse ideas— people suggested Cher, Lucy Lawless, Angela Bassett, and Demi Moore.
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Faced with evil or danger, she spins herself into a wild tornado and emerges in her glamorous (though seemingly impractical) star-spangled swimsuit and kinky, high-heeled go-go boots. She skillfully pilots an invisible airplane, wields a golden lasso, and fends off bullets with her wristbands made of a mysterious metal called “feminum.” In the name of the “forces of justice and freedom,” Wonder Woman will scrap with just about anyone— originally created to fight Nazis, she actually goes on to replicate their white-supremacist doctrines, killing off Japanese people whom her comic book portrays as demonic, and fighting to the death against her African double, Nubia. In a recent comic book, she completely abandons the apparently socialist tenets of the Amazons and emerges as a champion of capitalist entrepreneurialism, saving a trendy, financially lucrative urban bistro from the machinations of a computer geek. To quote the superhero herself, “Great Hera!” —can’t she get her politics straight?

Of course, all of these contradictions within Wonder Woman point to the evolution of and contradictions within our social constructions of womanhood. One of the founding principles of feminist criticism is the need to be conscious of the ways that gender is a constructed category, to realize that there is nothing inherent or essential about what we associate with the feminine. As first-wave feminist Simone de Beauvoir put it, “One is not born, but rather

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