the magazine of the columbia daily spectator
May 1 2013
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April 5 2013
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March 29 2013
Sex & Low Beach
Now that the novelty of the Pumpkin Spice Latte has worn off, it’s time we turn our attention to the harvest season’s greater virtue: Television premieres.
For the most part, we know what’s in the lineup: Blair Waldorf, singing misfits, and that B in apartment 23. What you may not have seen coming, however, is the impressive troupe of superhumans led by the CW and its collection of new paranormal dramas. Word has it Beauty and the Beast will be revisited with CW flair (the beast will be known for his good looks) and DC Comics’ Green Arrow will take to the small screen on Oct. 10, in the network’s Arrow. But most intriguing are rumors surrounding the production of a series based on another DC classic, Diana of Themyscira. For those of you who don’t speak comic, we’re talking about the one and only Wonder Woman.
The last time Wonder Woman had her own series, it was our parents who were watching from their retro college living quarters. In her classic garish blue-and-red unitard, Wonder Woman acted as a “defender of liberty,” running all too daintily from one disaster to the next, poor sound effects abounding. The New Adventures of Wonder Woman was a creative mistake of the ’70s that no one dared attempt to redeem—that is, until the spring of 2011.
That’s when writer and producer David E. Kelley (Boston Legal, Ally McBeal) pitched a new series to NBC that would follow our Diana not only as a superhero, but also as a domineering, pantsuit-wearing “corporate bosslady” in the modern world. A pilot episode was, in fact, produced, but then quickly rejected by NBC. Her character, critics felt, was all wrong: arrogant, short-tempered, secretly tortured by internal anxieties and loneliness.
Only a year later, producer Allan Heinberg rides in Kelley’s wake, this time for the CW, out to prove that Wonder Woman deserves a real second chance. If he’s feeling confident, he has good reason to: His past successes include Sex and the City, Gilmore Girls, The O.C., and Grey’s Anatomy. Heinberg is not only a wildly successful producer, he is also something of a comic vet- eran, having spent time working for both Marvel Comics and DC: He penned Young Avengers and a five-issue arc in the Justice League of America series, respectively. With a track record like his, Heinberg’s got the chops to restore Diana to her celestial glory.
Still, the ghosts of failed Wonder Woman series past are unsettling. The pressure is on to make a show that redeems the subpar portray- als of yesteryear. In short, Heinberg has quite a daunting task ahead of him—but one that will, of course, be all the more heroic if successful.
So how will he approach the legendary Diana? Superheroes, unfortunately, weren’t made for TV. They were born in print, and while their movie counterparts have certainly been well-received, television is a whole different game. There’s some- thing too vintage, perhaps, about the superhero that doesn’t translate well to the small screen, and when they are “modernized,” given new costumes and put up against a contemporary urban backdrop, the result sometimes comes off as forced, disingenuous, and uncomfortably out of place.
But never fear: Heinberg’s Diana won’t be fighting injustice in a 21st century metropolis. In fact, she may not be doing much fighting at all. Instead of relaying the stories of Wonder Woman as a gallant, recognized superhero, Heinberg will explore her humble beginnings as an Amazon on Paradise Island (aka, Themyscira), and as such, the show has been given the working title Amazon. As the original DC comic tells it, Diana is the offspring of the Greek goddesses. She spends the beginning of her life in the lush rainforest of Themyscira amongst her “legion of sisters,” until the gods one day request an Amazon emissary to restore peace in “Man’s World.” Diana accepts her mission, slips on a unitard, and presto-changeo, you’ve got Wonder Woman.
It’s unclear how true Heinberg’s series will stay to this original tale. Since DC left most details of Diana’s upbringing to the imagination, Heinberg will have great creative liberty, and the show could go in any number of directions. We could see Wonder Woman in her most vulnerable state yet: transitioning from a young, curious, and effortlessly ethereal Amazon to a citizen of the 21st century, discovering she has divine gifts. On the other hand, Heinberg could interpret the Amazon in her quintessential element: stern, scantily clad, Lasso of Truth in hand, ready to take on the mortal world.
There’s no question the CW will find a pretty face to play the part, but many are curious just how much the network will avoid or embrace the inherent sex appeal of Wonder Woman. The CW’s most successful shows (think Gossip Girl and Vampire Diaries) are also among its most risqué. They’re all about forbidden love, their characters as lethal as they are alluring. In this vein, and especially given her past characterizations, one might imagine Wonder Woman following suit as a femme fatale.
The closer Wonder Woman comes to a sex symbol, however, the less apt she may be to deliver the overarching feminist message that her character was originally intended to send. Of course, we won’t know for sure what Heinberg has resolved to do with Wonder Woman until next Fall, when the show is tentatively scheduled to premiere.
To Smallville fans, this may all sound familiar. It’s another modern-day origin story, another 21st-century-assimilated superheroine. But there’s comfort in these similarities: being like Smallville means potentially being as successful as Smallville. And if Wonder Woman can procure the same viewership as Clark Kent can, she may finally live up to her name.
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