The popular Birds Eye View Film Festival (now in its 12th year) is back again this April. Dedicated to showcasing work by female film-makers from around the world, there’s a special Gala screening to tie with International Women’s Day this Saturday. The BFI Southbank are screening the super entertaining documentary, Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines.
This informative and reverential hour-long film uses the famous DC character as a springboard to tackle modern feminism in a wider context. Using some nice pop art-infused comic book graphics to tell her story, director Kristy Guevara-Flanagan has gathered together a number of key figures as interview subjects, including 70s TV Wonder Woman Lynda Carter, and renowned political activist and women’s liberation movement figurehead, Gloria Steinem.
Created in the early 40s (seemingly as a response to both the desires of female comic fans and a propaganda-led, fascist-fighting device) Wonder Woman represented a turning point for strong female characters in popular fiction (frustratingly, she was still relegated to the role of ‘team secretary’ when she joined the Justice Society of America during this period). The film offers some fun historical insight into the character, discussing her Amazonian back-story and how some males at the time were worried that she may help spawn a matriarchal society. The idea of bondage and submission are also touched upon, and it’s clear that Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston (who also doubled as the inventor, coming up with the modern polygraph test, of all things) was having fun with the socially-accepted boundaries of that time.
The US Conservatism in the 50s brought about a whitewash to the character, suppressing her more overtly feminine traits. It’s interesting, however, to see how Wonder Women has managed to remain an extremely popular and enduring figure throughout the many decades since her creation, even resonating with that younger, cosplay generation of fans. No stone is left unturned here, and addressing the dearth of female heroes and role-models, the latter part of the documentary offers a welcoming look at the 80s cinematic female action scene, and the underground feminist punk rock movement Riot grrrl. Bikini Kills lead singer Kathleen Hanna addressing the changes to female empowerment at this time and the dubious, media-spun ‘girl power’ rhetoric during The Spice Girls era.
Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines is a serious must-see for both comic book fans and those with an interest in the development of modern sexual politics.
The Birds Eye View Film Festival 2014 runs from 8-13 April. Check out the film’s official website.