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Great Hera!

Lynda Carter Talks Real Talk About How Hollywood Doesn’t Understand Wonder Woman


With the release of a long awaited and well produced Wonder Woman fan film today, the discussion of why she hasn’t had a feature film adaptation, while her counterparts Batman and Superman have had nearly twenty between them, has been riding high. Lynda Carter, the last woman to play the Amazon Princess in a live action adaptation, thinks she knows why Hollywood has struggled to adapt a version of the character that makes it to screens.

Carter, who is in the middle of partnering with DC comics in their We Can Be Heroes campaign against hunger in Africa, tells ETOnline:

I think they try to just make her a female version of a male superhero, and that’s not what she is. She is an Amazon Princess and she’s got really strong sisterhood values. She’s smart, and she just happens to be beautiful and super strong, and she has these great cool things like these bracelets and boomerang headband and non-lethal kinds of ways of dealing with people…

Maybe they need a female writer who gets it. I’ve often tried not to say that, but I think it’s the truth. It’s like, ‘Hellooooo guys, get a female that understands what that’s all about.’ You look at any society that suppresses women, and it’s violent. Look around the world. … There’s a humanity that they’re missing. There’s got to be a sweetness, a kindness, a goodness in the character. The rest takes care of itself.

I both agree and disagree with Carter. I agree with her when she says that executives who see Wonder Woman as merely a “female version of a male superhero” are kind of missing the point. There’s nothing “merely” about that definition when it comes to Wonder Woman, and it’s my only problem with her New 52 title. But while I do think that Wonder Woman is a great character to, as Marvel has done with Captain America, explore a rare completely non-cynical view of the modern superhero myth, I don’t think sweetness is the way to do it. What’s unique about Wonder Woman in the DC universe is that she’s a character who doesn’t hesitate to kill, once all other options, including kindness, negotiation, and second chances have been exhausted. She comes, after all, from a utopian society founded not just by philosophers, but primarily by warriors. Perhaps we’re so used to the “tragic” origin of the superhero that executives have trouble wrapping their heads around a superhero who doesn’t have dead parents, a dead planet, dead girlfriend, a drinking problem, an evil brother, or a giant green rage monster trapped inside them to motivate them to do good. Just the knowledge that there are improvements that can be made, and they have the power to make them. I mean, aside from the obvious reason why we don’t have a Wonder Woman movie.

Gail Simone, the female writer with the longest-running tenure on DC’s Wonder Woman title, noted today that most of the folks who seem to think Wonder Woman is “tricky” to adapt are of an older generation, and may have little experience with a version of the character more modern than the 1975 television show.

I am wondering if we have reached a generational shift and we aren’t really aware of it because the people doing all the talking are baby boomers with a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT FRAME OF REFERENCE for Wonder Woman.

They rethink Superman every few years. They allow for a dozen different interpretations of Batman at the same time. But I keep hearing about a Wonder Woman who is problematic for film, who hasn’t actually EXISTED for a long time. She has evolved, just like the other icons.

Simone posits that it may only be a matter of time before we get somebody in a position to adapt Wonder Woman who has had a modern experience with her character, whether in recent comics, video games, or the DC Animated Universe. I hope she’s right, and I think, knowing she’d agree, that we’ve already had to wait long enough.

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  • Michelle Par

    I want to know what happened to Joss Whedon’s adaption. He would have done a great job.

  • Matias Furia

    I don’t think willingness to kill is a defining chracteristic of Wonder Woman. It’s just something that happened in recent memory, and there were poeple who thought it was out of character at the time.

  • Anonymous

    Fair. But where most superhero movies implicitly accept violence as a solution to the story’s problems, any warrior philosophy is much more upfront and explicit with the generally held idea that there are some problems that only violence solves.

  • Anonymous

    I think at the moment DC has set a tone for their movies that they are fully devoted to. They’re unwilling to change that for anything because as far as they are concerned it’s worked (read: made them money) so far.

    The problem is that many heroes including Wonder Woman just do not fit that tone. THAT’S why they find her tricky, because they’re trying to force her into the mold they’ve chosen rather than create her own.

  • http://runt.org/ Adrian

    Gail Simone has it right about the generational gap, I think. I think Carter is also right. But also, I’m so sick of being left to scratch our collective heads, wondering why the people in charge aren’t willing to do something.

  • Anonymous

    Well, Marvel’s going to keep him on lock for the next God knows how long, so I don’t know if his adaptation will ever see the light of day. It would be nice if it did though.

  • Suzanne Larsen

    well its not just the max lord neck-snappy thing. she’s been willing to kill in battle since the Crisis reboot in.. ’86, ’87? http://forums.comicbookresources.com/showthread.php?245103-Timeline-of-Wonder-Woman-s-Killings-Post-Crisis-%28First-Draft%29
    I agree that its not a “defining characteristic”, but I also think it shouldn’t be ignored. That’s (to me) a major part of her character. She always tries a peaceful solution, but when that doesn’t work (and realistically, it doesn’t always) she ends the conflict.
    “Hey, you should stop being evil.”
    “I’ll NEVER stop being evil mwah hahaha!”
    *thinks- well if I let him go, he’ll keep killing and prisons in this world don’t seem to work worth sh*t so…* *THUNK*

  • http://runt.org/ Adrian

    I’m not biased in your favor because you’re a killer tapir, but your theory sounds very plausible, even if it is just another excuse on their part. Get a creative team to figure it out, guys… MAKE IT WORK. Do you want to make money or not?

    Maybe this is a crass reference, but it reminds me of that movie Knocked Up when Paul Rudd (WB/DC execs) was being maudlin, hating life, swearing off love/sex, etc. and Seth Rogan (us?) kept flicking him really hard in the crotch until he knocked that shit off… tell me who to flick and if it will help, I will do it! Because at this point, they’ve run out of excuses for not doing a WW movie, so I’m prepared to counter their unreasonable hemming and hawing with unrestrained immaturity.

  • http://runt.org/ Adrian

    As far as I know, it was a work-for-hire, so there’s no reason they couldn’t use his work as-is.

    But like Killer_Tapir said elsewhere in this comments thread, they likely won’t use it as it might not fit with their semi-sorta possible vision of what they might like to do one day, maybe, assuming everything goes well, probably, if it makes sense, to a degree, and isn’t too tricky or complex, and they can get it right, or– BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZTTTT

    aaaaaaauuuuggghhhhhhhhhhhhh

  • Anonymous

    lol

  • Anonymous

    Hollywood needs to collectively sit down and watch the Animated versions until they grasp that one can have decent character development in the here and now, regardless of what as happened in previous adaptations.

  • Anonymous

    That’s very much the case. I believe a while back it was reported that they had a Shazam movie in the works (they even had Dwayne Johnson in talks for the villain role).

    It got fairly far along but then 2008 rolled around, and Speed Racer tanked at the box office while The Dark Knight made a killing, so they scrapped it. The failure of their lighthearted fare and continued success of Batman seems to have convinced WB that they need to get darker and edgier to be a success, which I feel is a mistake.

    The Nolan bat-films were a huge hit with mainstream audiences because a dark, dead-serious tone works for Batman. That isn’t true of every other hero DC and WB own, and it’s a huge mistake to think it does. My biggest gripe with Man of Steel was how goddamn overwrought and obsessed with being serious it was, and I say that as someone who usually doesn’t mind liberties being taken with comic adaptations. It’s just that in this case, making everyone and everything dark and serious is a really bad creative decision.

  • Anonymous

    Yes. I read this article as indicating she had a certain pragmatism, and this extended to her outlook on killing in combat. Her approach is that of a warrior; she’s going into combat, and one possible outcome is that her opponent will die. This doesn’t make willingness to kill a defining characteristic…it just means that an unwillingness to kill ( which we see in some characters) is NOT a defining characteristic. It’s the direct, pragmatic personality which is the characteristic.

  • Anonymous

    I think one of the big things is that right now, WB doesn’t have any clear leadership or vision for their films, and I feel having a think tank where they can get input from both comic writers and objective parties would help.

    One of the things the Marvel films have done right is they’ve found a balance between honoring the source material and jettisoning the bits that’d be too silly for a mainstream audience (IE Bucky being a Robin-like kiddie sidekick and Hawkeye dressed like a grape). And they got input from people actually working for Marvel comics as to what would and would not work (someone at Marvel suggested dropping Mandarin from the first Iron Man movie because of the racist overtones, and replacing him with Stane, which worked out great).

    They manage to be fun and entertaining while still being serious enough that they don’t veer into total ridiculous camp territory, which is WB’s problem. They were burned so badly by the failure of and endless jokes directed at Batman & Robin, so they don’t really know what to do outside of making everything into a Nolan Bat-clone, which doesn’t work.

  • Thomas Hayes

    “executives have trouble wrapping their heads around a superhero who doesn’t have dead parents, a dead planet, dead girlfriend, a drinking problem, an evil brother, or a giant green rage monster trapped inside them to motivate them to do good.”

    Well, problem solved. I hear the New 52 Wonder Woman has Zeus for a Dad, is now the God of War and comes from a race of evil Amazons. *facepalm* Even the comics have fallen prey to this now.

    I’m sick of this angst formula too. I’m so glad the Captain America movie bucks this trend and plays his traditional character completely straight. Even Thor isn’t motivated by angst in his film, he finally realises that duty is more important, so it’s not like there aren’t heroes without manpain already.

  • http://runt.org/ Adrian

    In simpler terms, lady’s got a sword and she ain’t afraid to use it.

  • Thomas Hayes

    I don’t think you’re on point with that. Schumacher is an iffy director who made two bad films, but he was a bigger comic book fan than either Tim Burton or Chris Nolan and had read the character throughout the dark reinvention of Batman in the 80s. He wanted to adapt Batman: Year One to the screen initially before being told by the studio and producers to make a sequel instead, to make it less dark than Batman Returns and to make it more fun. The interpretation of Batman himself in Batman Forever is one of the stronger parts of the film – it’s the only one of the 90s films that actually has much character development FOR Batman as opposed to just the villains. I’m not going to absolve him of all blame for messing that film up or for the shambles that is Batman and Robin (again mostly because he was told to make it silly, cheesy and bright in order to sell toys so he did exactly that) but it’s not because he was stuck in the past.

  • Anonymous

    Indeedy.

  • Anonymous

    Well, I don’t know if all we need is a female screenwriter and all these problems would be solved. But what we definitely have to avoid is generic screenwriting! Don’t make Wonder Woman full of character flaws or give her a tragic backstory only because these kind of things are en vogue right now. But she shouldn’t be super perfect either.

    It’s a tight balance but I think it was very well done by screenwriter Michael Jelenic for the animated movie (he re-wrote Gail Simone’s first draft). But whoever writes it should KNOW Wonder Woman – and more than only one version of her.

    I don’t think when Lynda Carter speaks about WW’s sweet-, kind- and goodness that she means WW is just a goody-good all the time. But honestly, when I first got to know WW the first thing I noticed was that she ALWAYS tried to solve conflicts in a non-violent way rather than Superman or Batman. That didn’t made her a “softie” but I actually don’t connected to the idea of WW killing people, but yeah, it’s only a last “solvation measure”. That somehow implements the idea that Wonder Woman is ready for a kill (yeah, yeah, only last option, blabla) and that’s just not how I think she is based on the many comic I read with her.

    I see that her character is more and more shifting in today’s comics, less wisdom and more violence. It’s a shift I don’t like and don’t favour. And it also makes her become more of a generic action character than she used to be in my opinon.

    I think you can have great action without necessarily be overly violent but you know we live in a time where there is someone like David S. Goyer who has obviously absolutely no problem of inventing scenarios where Superman is forced to break some neck, so who knows… maybe I’m wrong. Maybe today heroes have to be violent, dark, tragic and all those things.

    On the other hand… I still favour Reeve’s Superman movies, like the Lynda Carter series and her portrayal of Wonder Woman more than say how WW is portrayed in today’s comic and prefer the lighter approach of some Marvel movies over Warners DC films!

    If Diana should one day see the light of the silver screen I wonder if I will be seeing a version that I will feel comfortable with. But you know, I have reached a point where I would already be very happy if they managed to come along with a fair and decent origin story.

  • Mina

    You know, people always say that, and I definitely like to think it’s true, but at the end of the day, we don’t actually know what his version was like. It probably would have been good, certainly better than some others’ and a million times better than the nothing that we have, but we just don’t know.

  • Anonymous

    The reason we don’t have a Wonder Woman movie is much, much simpler than that. There is a mythology that movies starring women don’t attract the much-desired young-adult male audience. Elektra, Catwoman, and Aeon Flux are considered busts because they didn’t bring in the same kinds of audiences as Batman, the X-men, and The Avengers. Nevermind that those movies share exactly the same problems as Daredevil and Batman and Robin — the unwillingness to commit to making a great character-driven movie.

    The other problem is the blinders Hollywood has toward what makes a superhero movie. Because Wonder Woman is in comics, making a movie about her must be a different thing than making a movie about a vampire-slayer; or a movie about a team of misfits rescuing a brilliant, tortured girl; or a movie about a woman astronaut discovering alien life.

  • Anonymous

    The reason we don’t have a Wonder Woman movie is much, much simpler than that. There is a mythology that movies starring women don’t attract the much-desired young-adult male audience. Elektra, Catwoman, and Aeon Flux are considered busts because they didn’t bring in the same kinds of audiences as Batman, the X-men, and The Avengers. Nevermind that those movies share exactly the same problems as Daredevil and Batman and Robin — the unwillingness to commit to making a great character-driven movie.

    The other problem is the blinders Hollywood has toward what makes a superhero movie. Because Wonder Woman is in comics, making a movie about her must be a different thing than making a movie about a vampire-slayer; or a movie about a team of misfits rescuing a brilliant, tortured girl; or a movie about a woman astronaut discovering alien life.

  • Anonymous

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  • Alexa

    When you think about it the Captain America movie was more of a Superman movie then Man of Steel in some respects. I mean in the sense that Cap was just a normal guy who had strong values, and just wanted to help people and did that, kind of like Superman is suppose to be. And an emphasis on the “help” part which it seems Goyer and Snyder kind of forgot when making MoS. Yeah sure punching people, defeating the villains (in the most destructive was possible) are all fine and dandy, but helping people pfft how boring…
    : /

  • Alexa

    Ha, how weird I just got my copy of Alex Ross’s and Paul Dini’s book Wonder Woman: Spirit of Truth in the mail today (which is a must read for anyone), and this comes up. But yeah what I think Miss Carter means in regards to WW being sweet is her compassion , which is one of her defining personality traits, but yes she could kill people, but what’s great about her is that she refuses to do so unless its the only choice, hence the whole drama years ago with Maxwell Lord and such. She’s kind of complex when you think about since she is very willing to use force but has a penchant to be very kind and gentle. I guess maybe they can’t wrap their heads around a person who can be like that, I suppose. She either has to be one way, but can’t be both I guess is their feeling, which is pretty stupid and makes little sense.

  • Anonymous

    Hm. I wonder if there was concern that a kind, compassionate Superman who believed in the basic good of humanity would too closely resemble Cap? Perhaps yhey felt the need to darken Superman in order to establish a difference and prevent audiences from experiencing a ‘seen it’ response.

  • Alexa

    Well regardless, what they came up with wasn’t very good. If you want things to be serious, fine, but don’t forget the the fundamentals of the character just because another superhero is similar.

  • Suzanne Larsen

    Spirit of Truth is fantastic!

  • MeatyStakes

    I agree with Carter, I would only replace sweetness with kindness. Sweetness as a concept feels more of a purposeful conceit rather than the honesty of kindness, but that’s the sort of thing that is just a couple of levels of semantics away between Nice Guy and a nice guy.

    I do think that Diana is tricky, on the sense she is complex and not a paint by numbers like the executives have grown accustomed to. WW has her very own, unique set of morals, there isn’t a “formula”

  • Anonymous

    Yeah. Might be nice if they’d worry less about producing a successful, competitive product and subsequent merchandise ,and bank on the decades of popularity and proven success instead.

  • Alexa

    I’m under the impression that anything drawn by Alex Ross, is fantastic. But yeah if they just adapt the story in that book, then they’d have a solid Wonder Woman movie. And I hope they keep the kangaroos… :)

  • Alexa

    Yeah I hear the statement in regards to MoS of “They made a Superman movie for people who don’t like Superman” here and there, and that statement isn’t wrong to a degree. I mean yeah Superman is over exposed, and yes there are people who don’t like him just like any other character, but there’s still a lot people who love the character as is but they seemed to think differently and made a product that badly represents the character, because a mopey, careless, kind of petty, and humorless guy is “relatable” apparently, all the while alienating the people who liked the character as he was, and in general just making a movie that wasn’t all that good unfortunately. All of it done in the hopes of making bank, which they did, and yet I heard in the end they were still kind of unsatisfied with the box office, ugh. > : P

  • Anonymous

    Still, if it’s Joss Whedon’s work, I’d prefer to see him at the helm of the project. But that’s just me being picky.

  • Anonymous

    Lynda Carter was the last woman to play her in a live adaptation? Oh Adrianne Palicki, how quickly they forget you! (Admittedly your pilot didn’t air. Which is something that we are all eternally grateful for.)

  • Anonymous

    Agreed – I’ve been saying this for a while. Greek gods and the Nolan-esque ‘gritty realism’ (I call it Gritalism!) don’t mix.

    This of course doesn’t justify why they’ve failed to produce one in the previous 30 years…

  • athenia45

    I feel like they could have went anywhere with Wonder Woman, but went with dudes instead—for example, instead of Captain America, we could have had a WW2 retro Wonder Woman. Instead of mythical Thor, we could have had a mythical Wonder Woman. But now that we have these two dude superheroes, where does Wonder Woman fit? Now she’s just going to be Superman’s girlfriend? Nice. /sarcasm

    At the end of the day, they could just be like, “screw it” let’s go for it. But no.

  • http://pontoonification.blogspot.com/ AverageDrafter

    Bat(ww)man vs Superman
    ^There she is!

    DC’s plan for Wonder Woman.

  • Anonymous

    I think they’re trying to hit the mopey bad boy trend (Snape and Loki on the good end, Twilight and miscellaneous teen villains on the other). There’s the challenge of trying not to mimic Reeve’s Superman, and, since Reeve pretty much nailed wholesome-confident-saves-the-kitten protector, deviating gives us a non Superman personality.

  • Thomas Hayes

    That might well be right, but it’s still wrong to insinuate that Schumacher couldn’t let go of the Adam West version, as he probably had a better idea of how Batman had been reinvented throughout the intervening three decades than the director who preceded him and possibly the one who followed him. He just liked camp. Kilmer does deserve credit, but let’s not be unfair to Kidman or O’Donnell either, they’re also playing it fairly straight. It’s the supporting roles and most significantly the villains who are OTT in Forever, as they try and outdo Nicholson’s Joker but take it way too far.

  • Thomas Hayes
  • Alexa

    Still its what the character is all about, if you want mopey bad boys watch Batman. Don’t get me wrong I love Batman, but there are times where I just want to watch a well rounded superhero do good, because that is the right thing, over a guy who just does it because he wants some retribution on his part. It gives people hope and that is what Superman is all about. And again not that Batman doesn’t give people hope, but you know what I mean.

  • Alexa

    Still if they made a Wonder Woman movie, I think Lucy Lawless would be perfect as Hippolyta, in my opinion.

  • javakoala

    There are a couple DCAU WW movies that are maaaaany times better than a hefty chunk of the live-action superhero movies that DC/WB have put out. If they’re so nervous about the “right script” or it being “too hard”, why don’t they just negotiate for rights and make a live-action adaptation/version of one of the existing DCAU WW movies? Yes, it may cause some Nerd Rage ™, but I’d bet money that it would be better and perform better than Green Lantern (yes, low bar).

  • Anonymous

    Amen. I’m tired of angst and gritty too. And compassionate doesn’t have to mean goody-goody. Kindness is not the same as weakness.

  • Alexa

    Oh I know, The New Frontier, which is one of my favorite DC animated movies. But yeah Xena and Diana may seem similar but are actually complete opposites. People seem to forget that Xena could have been perceived as evil as her back story would suggest, since she did some pretty terrible things and the whole show is her redeeming herself in some fashion. They just have two completely different personalities, but are still very awesome in their own right. Still Lawless as Hippolyta would be the perfect casting.