Maureen Callahan objects to the de-Americanization of Wonder Woman.
The long-awaited â€œWonder Womanâ€ has generated more buzz than any movie this year, and rightly so. Sheâ€™s the most beloved and iconic female superhero ever, yet itâ€™s taken decades â€” the filmâ€™s been in development since 1996 â€” for a Wonder Woman movie. Itâ€™s the first to pair a female director with a big-budget, comic-book film meant to be a franchise. In Gal Gadot, it has a star who served in the Israeli army and brings authority to her fight scenes.
â€œShe is the ultimate symbol of strength,â€ Gadot said in 2015. â€œNever in my wildest dreams did I think Iâ€™d grow up to be in a movie playing someone who influenced as many women as she has.â€
Whatâ€™s curious about this version, coddled and crafted over decades, is the near-total absence of America. Wonder Woman was born during World War II, created by American psychologist William Moulton Marston, and her debut on the cover of DCâ€™s Sensation Comics in 1942 depicted her in red, white and blue, storming into battle. Sheâ€™d left her home, Paradise Island, to fight the Nazis in â€œAmerica, the last citadel of democracy and of equal rights for women!â€
This new Wonder Woman, however, has almost nothing to do with America. The film is set during World War I, in London. Steve Trevor, the pilot Wonder Woman rescues and falls for, is American in name only â€” here, heâ€™s working for British intelligence.
Most tellingly, Wonder Womanâ€™s iconic costume has been leached of all color. The bald eagle on her chest, the white stars on her blue bottom, the red-and-white striped boots â€” all have disappeared. Sheâ€™s no longer vibrant and strong; sheâ€™s sad, a pacifist whose armor resembles mourning attire.
Wonder Womanâ€™s global box-office appeal, it seems, depends on no longer being American. According to a piece in the L.A. Times last year, 70 percent of box office revenue is generated overseas, and those markets now take precedence, no matter how closely your superhero is identified with the United States. In 2010, director Joe Johnson said that his Captain America â€œwould not be a flag waver . . . just a good person.â€