Where’s Wonder Woman?

My love of Wonder Woman began with the 1970s Saturday morning cartoon, Superfriends. She wielded a magic lasso, flew around in an invisible jet, and wore some pretty kick-ass boots. I mean, what’s not to love?

When I was a kid, superheroes were often the inspiration for my annual Halloween costume and Wonder Woman was a clear, if somewhat obvious choice. If memory serves, I made several repeat performances as Batgirl and Wonder Woman on chilly October nights.

Intimidating bad guys is serious business.

Me circa 1980-something in my homemade Wonder Woman costume. Suitably warm and age appropriate, of course.

Those and Supergirl were pretty much the only gender-specific superhero options in those days. We had Christopher Reeves’ Man of Steel in the 80s and the Burton/Schumacher Batmen of the 90s, and of course both franchises have been re-reinvented more recently. With the upsurge of collective villain-fighting power represented in The Avengers, X-Men, and The Fantastic Four (and their respective spin-offs), a few more women heroes have become more mainstream: Phoenix, Rogue, Storm, Black Widow, Elektra, Invisible Woman, etc. but they still primarily fill supporting roles and/or function as love interests for their studly and emotionally distant counterparts. The live-action superhero genre is obviously Hollywood’s bread and butter – barely five years after Tobey Maguire’s reign as Spiderman ended, Andrew Garfield’s turn as the radioactive vigilante began. But if everything old is new again, it begs the question, where’s Wonder Woman? Pretty sure it might be time to revamp this:

It’s not like I’m the first to pose this question. Fans have been clamouring for an updated version of Wonder Woman and a reboot has been on the Hollywood radar for years, both for the big and small screens. Adrianne Palicki (Friday Night Lights) donned the red boots for an NBC pilot that wasn’t picked up this season for reasons that are unclear – with a heavyweight like David E. Kelley at the helm, there seemed to be potential.

Adrianne-Palicki-Wonder-Woman

Adrianne Palicki in the now defunct Wonder Woman series. (Source)

A studio release of a Wonder Woman project seems to be mostly theoretical at this point. Several years ago Joss Whedon apparently took a stab at a script and concept which he shopped around without success. Around that same time Whedon became attached to The Avengers franchise so he likely had his hands full developing that multi-billion dollar enterprise. The Wonder Woman character is supposed to appear in the new Justice League movie coming out in sometime in the next couple of years along with Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, The Flash, and Aquaman. Casting for the role is still up in the air, either for Justice League or a stand-alone blockbuster, but some names that are circulating on the interwebs include Christina Hendricks, Jessica Biel, Lindsey Lohan, Megan Fox, Cobie Smulders, Kate Beckinsale, and Jennifer Love Hewitt, just to name a few.

Most of the time, when possible directors, writers, or studio heads talk about the possibility of a WW revamp, their attitude seems to be one of extreme caution – like there’s a heightened sense of pressure to get the perfect take on the character. It seems she has to be just the right amount of “feminist” – not too much – just a splash of good old-fashioned girl power. Not being a die-hard comic book fan, I’m not really familiar with all of the origin stories for the Wonder Woman character but apparently at various times she’s been conceived as an Amazonian warrior princess, secretary of the Justice League, fashion boutique saleswoman by day/crime fighter by night, an ambassador for peace and love, and a Greek goddess. All of these different versions of her story seem to throw a wrench into developing a clear concept to bring to a feature film.

While all that may contribute to hitting the brakes on the project, respect for concept has never prevented Hollywood from making a buck where there’s a buck to be made. I wonder if the real reason doesn’t lie somewhere in the (hopefully) mistaken belief that audiences simply don’t want to see a female superhero in a leading role. (See Charlie Jane Anders’ Jezebel rant for some discussion on this). But I do. And I think lots of others moviegoers I know (and many I don’t) do too.

What do you think… is there an untapped market for leading superheroines in Hollywood?

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