Wonder Woman and Philosophy really does what it says on the tin; it is a book that takes a deeper look into the philosophical questions that the female superhero poses, not only in modern day but also at her inception in 1941 during the midst of World War II. When this is taken into consideration, it makes the character more poignant as the first feature length film is smashing box office records in cinemas. The book is split into five sections; Part I ‘You Are a Wonder Woman’, Part II ‘Dispatches from Man’s World’, Part III ‘When I Deal with Them, I Deal with Them’, Part IV ‘God(s), Country, Sorority’, and Part V ‘Tying Up Loose Ends’.
To begin with, the first few essays look at Wonder Woman as a feminist icon, how her creator was a staunch advocate of women’s rights, and how the empowerment of women in wartime America (and the re-domestication that followed it) influenced the characters development and growth. For anyone unacquainted with Wonder Woman’s background, this is an interesting topic to explore as we are shown how the empowered Amazonian was not always as galvanising as we may have first thought. In the first half of the book there is a heavy focus on Simone de Beauvoir and her theories on women, which, although necessary, can become repetitive if reading in one sitting. Amongst this half of the book, we look at the anticipated categories of gender expectations, costume and sexualisation, and the timeline Wonder Woman has followed according to who was writing her, and America’s domestic (and sometime foreign) influences at the time. For anyone familiar with gender studies, most of what is discussed here is not surprising, but it is nonetheless an interesting read. One chapter in particular looking at the New 52 Wonder Woman comics and Diana’s now romantic relationship with the man of steel is a compelling read; offering a critical look at how by changing the dynamics of the pair’s relationship from platonic to romantic, it is a comment on societies need to place emphasis on romantic love over love for a friend as the ultimate definition of love.
Aside from the expected look into feminist theory which can often engulf Wonder Woman, there are some other interesting philosophical quandaries that Wonder Woman poses that do not initially come to mind. Chapters that look into the Greek mythology that Wonder Woman is born from provides an interesting look into the notion of God; the implications of being a God, their deaths, and how Gods reflect our own exploration into the meaning of life. This also stems into a look into Diana’s use of her Godly power and her unashamed willingness to kill if there is no viable alternative, unlike Batman and Superman who either refuse to or psychologically suffer from the consequences of killing. The final section of the book wittily titled ‘Tying Up Loose Ends’ looks at the lasso of truth and places particular emphasis on her creator, William Moulton Marston, and how his very personal preferences created and are still present within Wonder Woman’s character. This chapter not only highlights how Marston was the creator of the lie detector and how the lasso of truth mirrors this, but also his BDSM fetishism.
Wonder Woman and Philosophy proves to be an interesting read whether you are well versed in her comic history or not. It manages to explore deep philosophical thinking without losing readers who may be new to the theories debated. For anyone interested in the greater implications of Wonder Woman, especially now her influence has widened with her emergence on the silver screen, this book is a good basis to start.
WONDER WOMAN AND PHILOSOPHY: THE AMAZONIAN MYSTIQUE (THE BLACKWELL PHILOSOPHY AND POP CULTURE SERIES) / EDITOR: JACOB M. HELD / SERIES EDITOR: WILLIAM IRWIN / PUBLISHER: WILEY-BLACKWELL / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW