I wasn’t alive when Wonder Woman first debuted on TV. However, I do remember afternoon reruns on FX back in the mid-90s. I would put on Wonder Woman, and it felt magical. Watching Diana Prince morph into a superhero, one of the few female superheroes I can even remember, I wanted to be her. I felt like Wonder Woman was a superhero I could relate to.
I was allowed to watch the 1989 version of Batman as a young child. I loved Michael Keaton’s performance as Batman, and I would pretend to be Vicki Vale, but my brother got to be Batman, the hero. Vicki Vale, the intrepid reporter, was a reporter, a love interest for Batman, a woman who needed to be saved. Once introduced to Wonder Woman, I was able to change the dynamic. Rather than needing to be saved, I could do the saving.
For any of you asking why I didn’t pretend to be Batman, perhaps I did and don’t remember it, but more than likely the strict gender roles I was presented with in the South kept me from exploring that as a viable option as a child. Either way, I was eventually presented with a superhero who vaguely resembled me.
A key tenet of CBC is representation, and I can remember this representation and how it felt: empowering. Just like Kk exploring the representation he felt once he learned about King Shark/Nanue’s connection to his heritage, I am now remembering those same feelings and getting to explore them more fully as an adult. It is so important to see yourself as the hero. It changes how you perceive yourself and the world and how you see other people. Like Travis Rivas’ emphasis on representation for differently-abled folks or Pornsak Pichetshote and his representation of Asians in comics, everyone should see themselves as a hero rather than the person in need of saving.
In this way, Wonder Woman was a key figure for me. She allowed me, and many other future women, a way to shift the narrative. In some ways, she did a better job than some of her female counterparts because her womanhood was in her name. Batgirl and Supergirl were nice superheroes too, but I feel that their growth was stunted because they weren’t allowed to be women. They embodied idealistic and idolized female youthfulness, both in representation and name. Wonder Woman, both in her name and characterization, felt older and more mature. She is a superhero that can age with you.
More importantly, Diana Prince/Wonder Woman is a peer to Batman and Superman. She wasn’t relegated to the role of Batgirl and Supergirl; she was not the sidekick. She’s a strong hero on par with her colleagues in the Justice League. She is not wife to a superhero (Big Barda) nor the daughter of one (Zatanna). This means that she is one of the only female superheroes (in the DC canon at least) that is equivalent to her male counterparts.
But, I digress. Going back to the show I would say Wonder Woman was not nearly as campy as Adam West’s Batman, but it definitely wasn’t as serious as Gal Gadot’s interpretation of Wonder Woman. I appreciate both for what they are. I recently discovered that the TV show had been put on HBO, and I look forward to rewatching it soon. I want to share with my son, Max, a different type of superhero. He has grown up with so many superheroes he can relate to, and I love that for him, but I look forward to sharing my first female superhero with him. Hopefully he will enjoy the show and the character just as much as I did – and still do.