The 1970s TV version of Wonder Woman taught me a lot of things. It taught me that shiny fabric is fabulous. It introduced me to the wonders of a good pair of boots. But, coming as it did on the heels of my crossing of the Mexican border into the U.S. at the age of 8, it gave me other gifts, too. It made me consider that a woman might have power – sure, power in a glorified bathing suit, but still power – and that she might be the hero of a story. It proved a gateway drug to the comic books, which introduced me to other cool ideas, like the concept of a matriarchal society, mythology being merged with modern life, and the United States’ role in World War II. Sure, it was glorified and simplified. Sure, the good gal always won in the end, unlike in real life, as I was already beginning to learn. Still, she imbued me with a certain sense of possibility.
My love of Wonder Woman was not without its complications. One of my most humiliating memories is of standing in the street during recess in the fourth grade (they closed off a short block of side street for us to play on) and spinning a la Wonder Woman, only to spin too fast and reveal my Wonder Woman Underoos. Apparently, Underoos were a pretty bad social faux pas by that age, and the boys made fun of me about that without mercy for several days (I would never wear my Underoos to school again).
She also brought up complicated body image issues I wouldn’t fully unpack for years. It was hard to look like Wonder Woman in underwear, but a little part of me would always wish to try, starting at eight when I first started watching her. Lynda Carter really played a big part in helping me discover boobs, since hers were always threatening to explode out of her outfit. Would it be possible for my own flat chest to ever get that big? (Spoiler alert: it was possible).
Still, I always held on to a little love of Wonder Woman as I got older and she seemed to disappear from public view. I kept all my old comic books. I’d buy a little trinket here or T-shirt there when given the chance. My kids gave me a card with a magnet that still sits on the inside of my front door. I put her picture up on my bedroom door. She became a talisman of power, a woman making her way in the world, not waiting for the boys to handle things. She was strong and resourceful. I wasn’t always that woman, but she reminded me to strive to be.
So when I heard the movie was in production, I was beside myself, of course. It would be nearly forty years since I’d first found her, and she’d come to mean other things in the intervening time. Where once I’d been too flat to be her, now I’d be too soft. Where I’d once longed for a life full of the kind of justice she would provide, now I relished in the wish fulfillment of that impossibility. But it had never been about her reflecting my reality, of course, but my aspirations.
The Underoos are long gone, but I’ll still throw on my Wonder Woman gear and head to the theater to sit with an old friend. And we will be a wonder together, each in our own way.