The Origin and Evolution of Wonder Woman: A Feminist Icon Emerges from an Island of Amazonian Women

Category: Women
Last Updated: 31 Mar 2023
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Her mission is to bring love, peace, and sexual equality to a world torn by the hatred of men. The heroine Princess Diana of Themyscira, more famously known as Wonder Woman, has gone through various reimagining and different retellings in both media and comic books. But all of these have the same basic origin. She was born and lived the majority of her life on the isolated paradise island of Themyscira, an island inhabited entirely of Amazonian women.

Everything changed one day when pilot, Captain Steve Trevor crashed on the mysterious island. Soon after he crashed, as he was being held and treated on the island, Queen Hippilyta held a tournament to decide who would have the honor of escorting Captain Trevor back to the United States. Against her mother’s wishes, Princess Diana participated in said tournament and won. At this point the narrative diverges depending on its retelling.

In the 1975 pilot, set in World War II, named, The New Original Wonder Woman directed by Leonard Horn, Wonder Woman fights Nazis during the World War II era soon after leaving the island. In the 2009 animated movie, Wonder Woman, directed by Lauren Montgomery, Wonder Woman fights to stop the reign of the Greek god of war, Ares and his army of undead Amazons. Wonder Woman has always been widely considered as a feminist icon, thus these movies are supposed to reflect such a message. Thus each movie shows how the times and sexual equality has changed over the years.

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These can be shown by the relationship between Princess Diana and Steve Trevor in which one movie portrays them fighting on equal footing against a common threat much like co-workers and the other not so much which is apparent in a multitude of fighting scenes; Wonder Woman’s behavior and personality through both movies but mostly with her passive behavior in one fight scene in the 1975 pilot and her aggressive behavior in the 2009 animated movie; and Steve Trevor’s difference in behavior and personality but mostly toward women and is most apparent in the 2009’s hospital scene.

In the 1975 pilot episode, The New Original Wonder Woman, the relationship between Steve Trevor and Princess Diana seems to be focus on the fact that Wonder Woman is more so smitten and dependent on Trevor in order to be happy. This can be clearly seen when she pretty much stalks him, after his safe return to the U. S. , by disguising herself as his nurse while he’s recuperating and at the end where she disguises herself as his personal assistant, Diana Prince.

This acts as a contrast to the 2009 DC animated movie, Wonder Woman where Steve Trevor is smitten by her but instead of being dependent on her, he acts as her sidekick, as they fight Ares as equals, but usually Wonder Woman showing her superior strength and fighting skills. This further shown when they are about to first encounter Ares and thus have to infiltrate a military base. They violently take down the soldiers silently but cooperatively, Steve with his combat knife and Wonder Woman with her boomerang like tiara.

Princess Diana of Themyscira is portrayed very differently in both adaptations of the same character. In the 1975 adaptation, Wonder Woman was rarely allowed to engage in hand-to-hand combat, instead relying on simply throwing bad guys around. But in the 2009 animated movie it embraces the fact that she is a skilled warrior and not only can she throw punches but more surprisingly allowed to receive them too. In the 2009 adaptation of the super heroine, she is a strong, smart, aggressive independent woman who needed no man.

For example in the 2009 animated movie, when Princess Diana and Steve Trevor are about to get mugged in a dark alley, the muggers say that if they do what they say, no one will get hurt; and she replies with, “Maybe I want someone to get hurt. ” But in contrast, the 1975 Wonder Woman was a soft-hearted, kind, naive, passive young woman who needed a man in order to take action. For example in the 1975 pilot, when Diana quit her circus job and is subdues her ex-boss after he tries to pull a firearm on her, she claims that she was taught to avoid conflict and did not like fighting or hurting others.

In the 2009 movie she is not in need of a man or in love with Steve Trevor right off the bat, but instead he earns her love by proving himself by helping in the hunt down Ares. She also does not stalk him like the 1975 counter-part but instead it’s him following her around but instead of stalking her, helping her; and in the end she is not in disguise from him as his assistant but instead in disguise from everyone else but as a friend, or possibly his girlfriend because it is never clearly explained. Captain Steve Trevor’s 2009 character differs vastly in comparison to his 1975 counter-part.

In the 1975 adaptation he was merely a flat characterized damsel in distress who tried to act as a symbol of the American ideal. But in the 2009 animated movie he was more fleshed out and given more characterization and more of a major role in the plot. The 2009 version of Trevor was a witty, brave, and a symbol of sexual equality. Also Steve Trevor in this movie more so acted as Wonder Woman’s sidekick in the fact that many of the times in which there was action they both worked cooperatively to defeat any threat.

In the 1975 movie, Steve Trevor never or rarely ever talked about sexual equality while Wonder Woman talked more so like a feminist extremist. But in the 2009 animated movie, after Wonder Woman keeps talking down about men and claiming Steve Trevor was a sexist, he had enough and expressed his mind more than his 1975 counter-part. In the scene, Wonder Woman wakes up in a hospital bed after their first encounter with Aries.

Then she starts berating him on the fact that he didn’t stop Aries and that he merely saved her because she was a woman and if she were a man he would have acted differently. This causes Steve Trevor to have enough of her ranting about men and himself, and thus he goes and pretty much sums up the theme of the whole movie. The outraged Trevor tells her, “Cutting yourselves off from the outside world was cowardly! Not to mention STUPID! [Yeah] like less communication between men and women is what the world needed.

And I didn’t save you because I thought you were some damsel in distress. I saved you because…because I care about you, Diana. And I’m not going to abandon a friend in need. Man or woman. ” This quote says a lot about Trevor in that the viewer’s view of him prior to this moment, being a womanizer, was not in fact his actual personality and that there was more depth to this man than meets the eye. This also expresses the change toward sexual equality we have strived for through the years since the time of the 1975 pilot.

Both movies featured Wonder Woman as a symbol of feminism and sexual equality. But both movies were vastly different in their take on the heroic icon, due to the time period they were conceived. Movies like these tend to come off as either overly preachy or decide to blame all the world’s ills on man. In the 1975 adaptation it tried to portray her as the heroine that was in the comic books, but in the movie they were successful in that feat but only in describing her background but was unable to show her tough-as-nails personality due to restrictions during the time period; and due to this, showing Wonder Woman acting as a contradiction in which she is in love with a man right off the bat, but is sexist against men and think women are more superior.

But in the 2009 animated movie they were able to take a more balanced view. Steve unlike his 1975 counter-part had a more active role and was a more rounded, fleshed out character that was witty and quirky but also loyal and brave.

The faults of men are shown in ample detail, as well as the faults of women were shown equally as examples such as Etta Candy’s overall flirtatious uselessness and Persephone’s final words of admonishment to Hippolyte. Both genders are represented as flawed and both movies themes are expressed through the 2009 Steve Trevor’s speech to Diana. In the end of it all, the world needs more understanding and congregation between men and women rather than isolation and distrust. In both media and literature, Wonder Woman will always be that icon of feminism and sexual equality.

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The Origin and Evolution of Wonder Woman: A Feminist Icon Emerges from an Island of Amazonian Women. (2016, Jul 16). Retrieved from

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