Friday, April 5, 2013

The Star-Spangled Bathing Suit

Well, I suppose I might as well throw in some thoughts on Wonder Woman’s costume. That does tend to be a hot-button issue that always seems to come up when discussing her.

The subject of her costume has been a point of contention especially for the past couple of years.  Notably, the Odyssey story arc that had the audacity to put Wonder Woman in (gasp) PANTS. The pants/no pants issue was also a sticking point with the failed pilot from David E. Kelley. And right now, there’s the coming Wonder Woman XXX porn which features a very accurate translation of the costume that’s been fairly well-received.

And as the prospect of a future Wonder Woman movie—or more likely, an appearance in a Justice League movie—looms over the horizon, the debate of her costume and adapting it comes about more and more.

Speaking for myself, right off the bat…I have no problem with the “classic” costume. When I imagine Wonder Woman, this is essentially how I see her:

Now, having said that, I will admit...I can see how this can be a hard sell for some people.

The first and probably most obvious issue people take with the outfit is that it doesn’t fit with her background—being modeled after the American flag when she’s Greek. The most common explanation for Wonder Woman’s costume resembling the American flag is that the uniform was made that way to endear her to the people of the Patriarch’s World—which is…quaint…in this day and age, I suppose.

The idea of the Amazons feeling Diana should endear herself to the outside world makes some sense in theory, but it’s easy to poke a lot of holes in that logic. For one, Wonder Woman is supposed to be an Ambassador to the world—not just the United States. And parading about in such an American-looking attire kind of sends a jingoistic message.

One thing I’m a little surprised no one’s ever suggested is that red, blue, and gold simply be Amazonian colors and it’s a coincidence they share an American resemblance. I mean, if we’re willing to accept Superman’s logo is actually his Kryptonian family crest and just so happens to look like the English letter “S,” why not the possibility Amazon nation colors are predominantly red, blue, and gold?

Red, after all, is a warrior’s color. It represents passion and pride. Blue symbolizes peace and tranquility. And gold...or silver, if you favor her current Nu52 version of the outfit...of course, denotes nobility. All attributes the Amazons would favor and perhaps emphasize in the uniform of their Champion, no..?
Though the star-spangled bits still raise a question.

But when discussing the costume, I’ve noticed for the most part many are willing to look the other way on the similarities to the American flag. The real point of contention is the actual design of the outfit in itself. Specifically…she’s wearing essentially bathing suit.

I’m always resistant to the frequent idea she should be dressed in battle-armor, or like an ancient Greek soldier, or like a red & blue Xena.
I especially hate when those redesigns include her bare feet showing. Yes, I know the ancient Greeks wore sandals—but that doesn’t mean it looks good. I do find it hilarious how often I see people insist Wonder Woman’s costume looks stupid and impractical and those same people suggest she wear something that includes her bare feet showing.

I think my biggest issue with making her look like an ancient Greek soldier is that—while Wonder Woman is a warrior and an Amazon and Greek and all that—she is, first and foremost, a superhero. Say what you will about her current costume—you see it, you know who she is and what she is. Wonder Woman. Superhero.
And I’m sorry, but I believe she should look like one. Not some generic warrior woman that got lost of her way to the set of Clash of the Titans.

Furthermore, when people bring up the subject of the outfit being impractical—and insisting Wonder Woman should be wearing more body-armor—I think they’re forgetting something quite critical in my opinion: she’s freaking Wonder Woman.
Remember..? She’s super-strong and can go toe-to-toe with the likes of guys like Superman. And whatever damage she can’t withstand, she has her magic bracelets that can shield her from anything. It's like the shield thing I've discussed. What the hell does she need armor for? SHE IS HER ARMOR!

I rather like the explanation Gail Simone offered during her run on Wonder Woman.
During a flash-back to just before Diana was to leave Themyscira with Steve Trevor, several Amazons meet with Hippolyta to discuss what her uniform should be. They offer several sketches that all basically resemble something you’d see out of Troy or Clash of the Titans—to which Hippolyta says (paraphrased), “Someone dressed for a fight will only find one.”

The basic idea being they deliberately made Diana’s uniform look non-threatening and not like a warrior…because, you know, she’s supposed to be very diplomatic and peace-minded.
Makes sense to me.

And like I said, she’s a superhero. Gaudy, outlandish, and impractical costumes just come with the territory. I’m sorry, but if you think Wonder Woman’s brightly colored, garish, silly costume is any more or less ridiculous than the brightly colored, garish, silly costumes of Spider-Man or Superman or Captain America or Wolverine…you’re full of shit.

Ah, but now we come to the real issue. For many, it isn’t that she’s not decked out in full body-armor and it’s not that she wears brightly colored tights. The problem is how revealing her outfit is. And that, really, is big red flag for a lot of people.

First you have the school of thought that, being a dignified superheroine, she should wear something more “respectable” and that she can’t be taken “seriously” running around in a bustier and her bare legs showing.
Meanwhile, you also have the school of thought that says Wonder Woman, being a dignified superheroine, should own her sexuality and not have to hide it.

The sex appeal issue with Wonder Woman—and female superheroes in general—is a huge debate with so many sides. I’ve heard them all. It’s definitely a complex issue with no easy answer and to even attempt weighing all sides would take an entire series of blog posts in and of themselves.
All I’ll say is…it’s all about context. What character in what genre and how that particular character is being presented within.

And I won't automatically dislike a female character because she doesn't dress "sexy" enough—because I'm not shallow. But I also can take female characters seriously and regard them as dignified and strong even if they wear outfits that might show their bare legs or midriffs—because, again, I’m not shallow.

But then again, just because I prefer Wonder Woman with this costume:

…doesn’t necessarily mean I advocate said costume looking like this:

Same costume, but you'll note certain differences. There's a line there.

Finally, in regard to how Wonder Woman should look if/when a live-action adaptation ever comes about.
Even though I’m fine with Wonder Woman’s classic costume, I also am aware what works drawn on the page might not work in real life. As such, fans might have to accept Wonder Woman’s costume may have to be altered…maybe.
I say maybe because for a long time, I always thought Spider-Man’s costume would never work live-action.

Sam Raimi and co. proved me wrong on that one. So who knows…maybe it just takes the right director and costume designer to make it work.

1 comment:

  1. Okay, I just have to ask...

    ...Was it such a damn crime against Humanity to give Wonder Woman a nice pair of pants?