Friday, January 16, 2015

We Already Have a Great Wonder Woman Show - It's Called Agent Carter.

Agent Carter promotional television show poster

During Maggie Gyllenhaal's acceptance speech at the 72nd Annual Golden Globe Awards last Sunday, she mentioned how proud she was to see that women were gaining a voice and being represented, multi-dimensionally, in entertainment. On a recent commercial, ABC made claims to being a leader in representing women by showing a span of a few of their television shows over the last decade, including ALIAS, Scandal, and now, Agent Carter. To me, (and many others out there) one character comes to mind with whom most identify women's equality, and that's Wonder Woman. Agent Carter, now three episodes in, has surprised me. Because Marvel comics has accomplished something that the owners of Wonder Woman haven't been able to do in almost 40 years. They've brought Wonder Woman's essence back, and done it better than the company that owns the rights to the character.

Wonder Woman 1st appearance cover

Wonder Woman debuted back in 1941, and was created by industrial psychologist Dr. William Moulton Marston III, who is also credited for being the creator of the industrial psychological tool called the DISC profile (used by many Fortune 500 companies), and also the systolic pressure test, which was the precursor to the lie detector test. When Moulton created Wonder Woman under the pseudonym Charles Moulton, he mentioned that, "Women's strong qualities have become despised because of their weakness. The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all he allure of a good and beautiful woman." In essence, DC Comics' Wonder Woman is a character of supreme balance. She may be strong and powerful, but she knows the time and place to use said power because it is tempered by truth, love, and compassion.  Since 1979's Wonder Woman TV show starring Lynda Carter, DC has not been able to put out a successful live action Wonder Woman in either film or television format. They've had nearly 40 years to reintroduce the world to the most iconic female superhero ever created but it seems that Marvel has beaten them to the punch with Agent Carter. Here are the six reasons why I feel Agent Carter has given us a reinvented take on Wonder Woman:

The Time Period
Wonder Woman was a product of World War II. It is a time when women were not afforded the same rights as men, and were just beginning to find their voice. During our current er,a where there is growing awareness of women not being depicted in entertainment as well as they could be, the post World War era seems to be a perfect time upon which to hearken back and show a woman overcoming overwhelming adversity and showing their ability to do whatever a man can do.

Agent Carter poster by Marvel
The Look
Although Hayley Atwell who plays Peggy Carter is missing the crystalline signature blue eyes, one can't help but notice the unmistakable 'beauty of Aphrodite' which she embodies. Not to mention the traditional Wonder Woman statuesque-ness and dark tresses.

Screen capture from Agent Carter working in office.
The Dual Identity
This is where we really start to come around full circle. In the 1979 Lynda Carter television show Wonder Woman, she utilized her secret identity of Diana Prince to do reconnaissance work under cover, while fighting crime with a much stronger arm later as Wonder Woman. Showing the ability of the character to balance both raw power and grace, Agent Carter does nearly the same exact thing through her mild mannered secretarial endeavors in the office.

Screen capture from Agent Carter
The Strength and Power
As stated before Marston believed that womens' power was being dismissed in society. Wonder Woman showed that women can be just as strong as the most powerful of men. Agent Carter does the same thing. However, there is one thing that makes this show and character special...Carter shows her physical and mental prowess WITHOUT SUPERPOWERS! Hereby making her more relate-able to modern day audiences, and basically saying that women can kick ass and take names regardless of genetics.

The Visitor
Wonder Woman was a stranger from a strange land. Agent Carter although in America, is obviously not American due to her accent. While this has yet to be addressed, there are some clues which elude to her not being a native as she navigates her way around the countryside. I'm sure more will be revealed soon.

Compassionate moment: Screenshot from Agent Carter
The Compassion
To me, this is where it all comes together. This is the huge blaring pink elephant that has been in the room, and no one's wanted to mention it. It is that DC Comics has missed the compassion that makes Wonder Woman, well...Wonder Woman! In the Justice League cartoon she was hyper aggressive. In the Adrianne Palicki version she was an absolute bitch. In Justice League: War animated film she was basically a jock who was obsessed with fighting. In the previous Azarello run of the comic book, the Amazons were turned into butchers. The current New 52 run by the Finches have her depicted as a pissed off "...punch-first, ask-questions later" type. Last but not least, the upcoming Zack Snyder film has her donning a Xena: Warrior Princess-esque like battle armor. With all that being said, DC Comics seems to have missed the memo: Compassion and Kindness is what makes Wonder Woman special and unique. Remember what Marston said? The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman, plus the allure of a good and beautiful woman." I'm proud to say that this sixth and final point, Agent Carter has absolutely mastered. We have seen her ask questions and then kick ass. We have seen Peggy's compassion for human loss. We have seen Carter's ability to be vulnerable. We have even already begun to see Agent Carter's compassion for others. To me this is the icing on the cake and the proof that DC is missing the huge mark that Marvel is hitting dead on.

Marvel's promotional photo of Hayley Atwell as Agent Peggy Carter

As you can see, Marvel has already created a Wonder Woman-like character for the modern era. However, the question is this: Will DC, the actual owners of Wonder Woman, rise to the occasion with the new Gal Gadot character, or will they just allow another angry woman to be presented by Zack Snyder? I guess only time will tell.

Brian J. Patterson is an actor, writer and producer that splits his time between San Francisco and Los Angeles. His home is a shrine to comic books...but mostly Wonder Woman.

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