Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Tragedy of WONDER WOMAN’s Steve Trevor

I just learned about Wonder Woman’s debut on the animated series, BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD. In the following clip, she comes to the rescue of Batman and her boyfriend, Steve Trevor. Not in a good way, either.

Behold the lameness of Steve Trevor, x10:

It’s obvious that the creators are poking fun at Steve Trevor’s history of being a rather useless (and in this case, clueless) character. In fact, I’d argue that he’s a bona fide placeholder hero, a dubious role often reserved for romance heroines. I’ll concede that it’s a little bit funny that he’s not at all self-conscious about being 100% reliant upon Wonder Woman to save his butt and is so laid back about the whole affair.

What’s not so funny is the subtext that a man whose woman comes to his rescue is somehow emasculated (note Batman’s expression of disapproval/scorn) when Trevor giddily announces that Wonder Woman will save him, as well as the line, “What does she see in that man?”

Yeah, so Wonder Woman is now an idiot because of her choice in men. Ugh ugh ugh!

I understand that the problem is primarily rooted in Trevor’s placeholder status (meaning he's a flawed character to begin with), but I still think this is a harmful message to send to kids. It’s gender stereotyping at its worst. The clip could have redeemed itself by showing how Wonder Woman valued Trevor as a Beta hero, but it didn’t. No, it was happy to play harmful messages for laughs.

The emasculation issue in particular is one of the factors preventing the creation of a Wonder Woman film. Additionally, no one has figured out a way to rescue Steve Trevor from his placeholder status.

Here’s another problem I had with this scene, specifically, this line by Wonder Woman to the Baroness:

“As a woman, you should know that the path of violence is a barren one.”

To which the Baroness replies: “Bah! Your Amazonian dogma sickens me!”

Sing it, sistah!

The implications of Wonder Woman’s statement made me grit my teeth. If you’re female, engaging in violent behavior=infertility. And if you’re infertile, you are a flawed woman. W. T. F.? If I’d been a writer on that show, I never would have written a line like that. (I perused the writing credits for the show and it’s a big ol’ boys club. Le sigh.)

What kind of message does that send to kids? It’s especially surprising coming from Wonder Woman. Frankly, I thought the villainess was far more interesting (she’s got a shapeshifting robot suit!) and would rather see a story about her as an anti-heroine.

What this clip showed me is that we need more women (and enlightened men) writing shows like BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD, or a future equivalent. It’s entirely possible to feature action, adventure, excitement, and romance without resorting to toxic messages and stereotypes.

Hence, that is why I love science fiction romance and look forward to the subgenre realizing its true potential.

Joyfully yours,