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Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines (3 stars)

Thought provoking documentary examining female action heroes in popular culture

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Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines

This documentary posits the question: why are there so few female action heroes? It’s a fair point and one that has been raised before, and is told here mainly through the history of the most famous female superhero of all time - Wonder Woman (perhaps unsurprisingly though, WW was created by a man - William Moulton Marston, who curiously also helped invent the lie detector). What we find is that the history of female superheroes is inextricably linked to the history of women’s rights and the feminist movement.

Alongside the academics, artists and historians, Lynda Carter gives her own views on portraying the iconic character on TV (the show’s popularity led to more programmes that focused on strong female characters such as Charlie’s Angels and The Bionic Woman) and the dichotomy inherent in playing a ‘sexy’ character that also represented a strong independent role model every week on prime time. During the 80s comic characters like Power Girl, Storm (X-Men) and Jean Grey/Phoenix were powerful popular figures alongside Ripley from the Alien movies and later Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The disparity in the numbers of male action heroes and comic book characters sadly doesn’t come as much of a surprise, but it is nicely illustrated with examples. The film is a little dry in places; it sorely misses contributions from some of the key players (Sigourney Weaver and Linda Hamilton are used as examples but are conspicuous by their absence in terms of interviews) and some conclusions we have heard many times before, but are still worth reiterating.

Wonder Women is showing at the GFT, Glasgow, Mon 18 Feb, as part of Kapow! at the Glasgow Film Festival.

WONDER WOMEN! The Untold Story of American Superheroines

Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines

  • 3 stars
  • 2012
  • US
  • 79 min
  • Directed by: Kristy Guevara-Flanagan
  • Cast: Lynda Carter, Jane Espenson, Kathleen Hanna

Documentary asking the question: why are there so few female action heroes? What we find is that the history of female superheroes is inextricably linked to the history of women’s rights and the feminist movement. A little dry in places and some conclusions we have heard many times before, but are still worth reiterating.

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