wonder woman

How Did This Even Happen?

Anyone watching this extended pilot in 2017 has to wonder how it even earned network approval. But at the time, this version of Wonder Woman wasn’t so off-the-mark.

The Wonder Woman comics had fallen into a weird rut after the creator, William Moulton Marston, died from skin cancer in 1947. First, Diana was retooled into a more submissive, doting damsel to Steve Trevor – the kind of dainty woman who needs to be carried over streams. This Wonder Woman better reflected the postwar era, when women were urged to step down from the jobs they’d taken during World War II and let returning soldiers have them instead. They’d done their duty, but now it was time to return to domesticity. Why should Wonder Woman be any exception?

Even as restrictive gender norms eased slightly in the 1960s, Wonder Woman suffered from nonsensical new revisions. By 1968, she’d completely surrendered her powers to remain in the mortal world. She got a mod makeover, opened a clothing store, and basically did whatever her martial arts mentor I Ching told her to do. Maybe that explains the failed 1967 Who’s Afraid of Diana Prince? pilot, which pitches Wonder Woman as a clumsy, delusional woman who “thinks she has the beauty of Aphrodite.” Her mom chides her constantly about getting married The pilot was never aired or completed, but you can watch five miserable minutes of it on YouTube:

This utterly antithetical Wonder Woman was not well-received and a small army of second-wave feminists stepped in to save her. Gloria Steinem was a lifelong Wonder Woman fan. She read the comics with a flashlight under her covers as a girl, and ran the superhero on the cover of Ms. magazine in 1972. Steinem and the other editors at Ms. wanted to put together a book celebrating the original Wonder Woman, so they set an appointment with the men at National Periodical Publishers (the forerunner to DC Comics). According to the Los Angeles Times, the women of Ms. got much more than their blessing; they convinced the publishers to take Wonder Woman back to her roots.

Since the comics had already changed Wonder Woman back to her old self by 1974, when this TV movie premiered, the Crosby series arrived somewhat dated on arrival. But ABC was only a year away from the second, more successful attempt at the superhero. Carter’s famous series debuted on November 7, 1975. When Wonder Woman stepped into the frame this time, she was fearless, powerful, and keenly aware of her origins.

The Legacy of Diana Prince

Crosby’s Wonder Woman has been largely forgotten, erased as a minor error on the way to a full-fledged Wonder Woman television series. But the failed experiment laid out an important lesson for future adaptations: misuse Wonder Woman at your own peril. She is not a stock lead character who can fit neatly into any genre show of the moment. She’s a distinctive heroine who only works when she’s allowed to be an unapologetic Amazonian princess – with bracelets that aren’t just for show.

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