Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Daddy Issues

Seeing as I already devoted a post to the so-called “Deconstruction” of the Amazons, and I made a passing reference to it when DC Failed Me, Yet Again, I should weigh in on the other major Nu52 retcon Wonder Woman’s been subjected to.

Zeus is now Wonder Woman’s daddy.

For decades, the circumstances of Diana’s birth were that the gods told Hippolyta to mold a child out of clay and they then made it a flesh and blood, living girl.
One of the big “shockers” of DC’s Nu52 reboot is that was a lie. The truth, it turns out, was one day Hippolyta and Zeus met and banged…for some reason. I guess no reason is really necessary—those who follow Greek mythology know Zeus was notorious for his inability to keep it in his pants, as it were.

The clay origin, in actuality, was a ruse to prevent Hera—who had a tendency to take out her frustrations with Zeus’ man-whoring on everyone except Zeus—from swearing eternal vengeance on the Amazons, and Diana in particular. 'Cause them bitches be crazy, I guess.


I got a few problems with this. I suppose the most obvious of which is the mess it makes of Wonder Woman’s backstory (again). See, there have been many stories which—without going into it—make it impossible for Diana to have not been born from clay.
Now, you might say those stories are simply not in continuity anymore, and that would be true except the Nu52 is only a quasi-reboot of the DC universe and, frankly, we just don't know.

So we’re kind of going back to something I’ve mentioned in previous posts: I have no fucking clue who Wonder Woman is anymore. Is she the same character I’ve been following all these years…or should I regard this as a completely rebooted, new version of the character? As said before, we have no frame of reference.

This is actually a problem with the DC universe in general now, post-Nu52. They’ve been very lousy with establishing what’s still canon and what isn’t. For instance, they declared major events like Crisis on Infinite Earths are no longer canon...but that Green Lantern's Blackest Night is. Problem there is certain events in Blackest Night are dependent on Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Somewhere, Doc Brown is crying.

More significant is the stated reason behind this change to Wonder Woman’s origin.
According to DC, Diana being born from clay makes her “inhuman” and a “thing,” and therefore, “un-relatable” to readers. So Diana having a biological father should now make her easier to relate to.

Oh, goody. We’re back to the "relatable" issue.

But okay…let’s play by their rules for a moment. I, the reader, can’t relate to Wonder Woman because she was made out of clay. So riddle me this: how, in holy blue hell, does she being Zeus’ daughter rectify that? If I can’t relate to a woman that was brought to life from clay, why the hell should I relate to a woman that’s half-god?

Maybe I’m just stupid, but that strikes me as semantics that fly in the face of some very basic principles of writing and storytelling. I know people who relate to R2-D2 from Star Wars, and he’s a rolling trashcan that doesn’t talk. Don’t fucking tell me Wonder Woman isn’t relatable because she was made from clay.
It's not an issue unless you make it an issue. If it is an issue…if fans are not relating to her because of that…then it’s because the writer isn’t doing his (or her) freaking job.

Better example than R2-D2: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Those who’ve read and studied the book (and movie, to an extent) will probably be aware that a great deal of its praise and strength is our ability to empathize with the monster.
By the logic of DC Comics, this should not be. Because Frankenstein’s monster was forged from body parts. If we're declaring Wonder Woman a golem, then Frankenstein's monster must therefore be a golem as well. So, by DC’s thinking, we can’t relate to him, and there’s no way Frankenstein’s monster would have a place in DC Com…OH, WAIT.

The insistence Wonder Woman isn't human because she was made from clay, and is therefore un-relatable, reveals a complete misunderstanding of the character, and the person who says it has no business writing her. Or Frankenstein's monster, for that matter.

If the issue is making Wonder Woman more “relatable” because she’s apparently “not human,” how does anchoring her to the Greek gods by making her a family member help matters? Making her directly related to the gods only drives her further away from humanity, and if the point of this whole thing was to create some kind of conflict where Diana must choose between her extended family and humanity, it fails.

One—the conflict was already there. Further, the conflict was already addressed during John Byrne’s run on Wonder Woman, where Diana indeed became a goddess and ultimately gave up her god-hood because she wanted to live among mortals.
Two—the conflict fails when the gods are, and always have been, pretty much dickwads. Not much of a choice on Diana’s part when her relationship with the gods is strained at best.

Or are we aiming for conflict between Diana and Zeus, in particular. So, daddy issues. Huzzah.
But you know what, devil’s advocate, let’s say we wanted to inject a father/daughter conflict of some kind into Wonder Woman. I believe I mentioned something about Ares representing what Joseph Campbell referred to as the Tyrannical Father. And we could’ve have that without boning Wonder Woman’s origin and backstory.
If it's conflict with the gods we want, Diana being created from clay and given life by the them—with her powers granted by them—actually makes her rejecting the Greek pantheon more powerful and heroic when she, due to the nature of her birth, should be subservient to them. Wonder Woman standing up to the gods and fighting them is far more effective when she was made from clay than when she’s just another one of them.
And if you're the type who places a lot of stock on Wonder Woman's power levels—doesn't her ability to fight and defeat gods when she's not one herself, or even a demi-god, reinforce how powerful she is?

Some welcome toning down the messiah overtones by removing the immaculate birth aspect of Diana’s origin—though I think that fails, too, considering Diana is now child of a god sent to save mankind. But I do find it amusing how certain pretentious writers and fans love to play up messiah sub-text with Superman…but we can’t have any of that with Wonder Woman.
And just for the record, I personally hate when people push the messiah thing with Superman, and I certainly would never support it being ramped up in Wonder Woman.

But let’s look at that sentiment I just mentioned: “just another one.”
That’s another big problem I have with Diana being Zeus’ daughter. It’s so dull. It’s mundane. People complain about Wonder Woman just being a “female Superman.” Well, now she’s just a “female Hercules.” Fuck-a-doodle-doo. Not even just Hercules...Perseus, Helen of Troy, Pollux, and more.
For that matter, Diana's sidekick, Wonder Girl, was revealed as Zeus' daughter. Think about that.

The clay origin made Wonder Woman and her station in life rather unique. As you might have gathered, I tend to begrudge the notion that Wonder Woman's somehow “not human.”
However, seeing as she’s an immortal, super-powered being that was given life by gods, it is fair to admit Diana isn’t entirely human in a purely biological sense. She's something a bit more.

But, at the same time, she is (was) not of the gods. She wasn’t even necessarily in-between. The definition of a “demi-god” is someone who is half-human, half-god. So Wonder Woman, not entirely human and not a god or even demi-god, is something else. Something outside both. Something unique.

And this factor plays into a fitting mythical nod that Diana had. A better one, I might add, than the mythical nod that she—like Hercules and dozens of other mythological characters—is the offspring of Zeus.
Pandora—the first woman, according the Greek myths—was created and given life out of clay. Pandora was also created by the gods, namely Zeus, as punishment for mankind.

There is (was) an interesting parallel in that Diana, born under similar conditions, serves to help and save mankind, unlike Pandora. People love to prattle on about how comic book superheroes are modern day myths—here we have (had) Wonder Woman, the preeminent, iconic, woman of superheroes created as a subversion of the mythical first woman that was born as a curse to humanity.
A similar subversion of how the Amazons, originally characterized as man-hating savages, are (were) a peaceful and utopian society. Or how Hercules, previously the epitome of heroism, is (was) characterized as an unreliable, chauvinistic douche.

Finally, I just find something very deflating about this whole thing. Basically, this revelation turns Wonder Woman, the spirit of truth, and her origin into a lie. Look back to What a Wonder Woman Wants and Not So Perfect, and that stuff about Diana's feelings about destiny. Her being given life by gods, raised as the only child of Themyscira played into that. It's part of her motivation and part of what made her special.
Now, combined with the Amazons being rapists, it's all bullshit.
Oh, I'm sorry...more "deconstruction," I suppose.

So in conclusion…fuck Zeus.
It’s an unnecessary, wrong-headed idea born out of ill-conceived, misguided logic that reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of Wonder Woman. It cheapens her, her character, and her mythology. It contributes nothing of real value to the character, and only takes much away.
There's nothing interesting in another bastard of Zeus running around.

I’m going to wrap this up with one last point. Just a little observation I've had.
I pointed out Diana's little bio in the upcoming Infinite Crisis video game—wherein the first thing mentioned about Wonder Woman is that she’s Zeus’ daughter. I also discovered a web-site related to the new Injustice: Gods Among Us video game, where Wonder Woman’s bio opens with: “The daughter of an Amazon and the Greek god, Zeus.”
I’m very amused by that, by the way. “An Amazon” and Zeus. Any Amazon…doesn’t matter which one; who cares.

Anyway, I imagine as time goes by—and this Zeus thing remains official canon—more little bios, blurbs, and summaries of Wonder Woman will begin with pointing out she’s Zeus’ daughter.
It used to be, when one encountered these things, the first thing mentioned about Wonder Woman was that she was the was the Champion of the Amazons. Or that she was Princess of Themyscira. Or she was granted life and powers by the gods.

Point is, Wonder Woman used to be defined by being an Amazon, a Champion, a defender, or something of that nature.

Now, she’s defined by who her daddy is.

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