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Review: Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines

Perhaps you might remember a Kickstarter from last year that was about Wonder Woman? Well, the final product is finally here! And it kicks ass.

"Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines" by Vaquera Productions premieres on Independent Lens on PBS April 15th (check your local listings) and it is a much watch.

Ella, my 9-year-old daughter, and I watched the preview DVD together on a Saturday afternoon during a study break. Bottomline? We loved it.

I grew up on the Linda Carter "Wonder Women," so I enjoyed learning about Wonder Woman's history. I knew she was created to fight the Nazis - that you could get from the show, but I also picked up that elsewhere. But I did not know, or forgot, that Wonder Woman was stripped of her powers at one point! And other lady comic book heroes turned away from saving the day to pining over men. Talk about feminist backlash!

Along the way, we not only learn more about our favorite Amazon princess (Sorry, Gabby), but we  hear from Linda Carter and Lindsay Wagner about how playing feminist icons changed them. We also hear from Gloria Steinem, Shelby Knox, and other women on their view of Wonder Woman. Thus, the title, "Wonder Women."

I tried to keep a tally of men versus women experts and that went out the window once Jack Halberstam, a queer* person, popped up on screen. I can't remember any other time seeing a documentary, even feminist ones, where someone was clearly not gender conforming. So yes, I cheered. Honestly, the overwhelming number of experts used were women, so that was good. I mean, come on, this is Wonder Woman, we need women's voices! I was disappointed in the lack of women of color voices though. I could only identify one Latina, one Asian-American and one African-American, Jamia Wilson of the Women's Media Center (founded by Gloria Steniem).

The best part of the documentary though was Kathleen Hanna's take on the "Spice Girls." I won't spoil it for you, because you must watch it.

Edited on 4/5/2013 to add:
One theme of this documentary is that Wonder Woman wasn't created to be a feminist icon and as I mentioned before, was stripped of her feminist agency at one point. But in the end, it doesn't matter. We made her the feminist icon. There are plenty of critiques, especially of her costume, that go along with critiques of Xena, Buffy, and every other kick ass feminist icon that is not a perfect icon. Perhaps Joss did set out to create a feminist character, but it is our fandom that really molded Buffy in a feminist icon. If we hadn't done that, would Joss still have given us such a powerful Season 7 finale? Perhaps. I'm rewatching Xena with my 9-year-old daughter and it is far more apparent of Xena's use of her sexiness to beat the bad guys. Does that negate her strength, courage and intellect? OK, I'm drifting into another blog post...Don't forget to watch "Wonder Women" when it comes to a TV near you.

Watch Coming Soon to Independent Lens: Wonder Women! on PBS. See more from Independent Lens.

* When I looked Jack up I enjoyed reading his struggle with whether to label himself transgender or not, as well as if he will transition or not. Jack also still uses women's locker rooms, which I presume as a safety issue with men's locker rooms. Thus I went with queer. If this is incorrect, please just let me know.


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