Monday, January 7, 2008

"Strong, female characters"

This weekend I had a massive copy job to finish- over 50 pages of music to input into Sibelius by Sunday. Since the Hungarian Pastry Shop was still closed for renovation, I decided to just stay at home to do the work- I’m faster on my desktop anyway. Plus it would give me to a chance to watch (listen) to my newly acquired Wonder Woman Season 2 DVDs.

I was a bit apprehensive about Season 2; I didn’t want my childhood favorite to be tainted by watching through grown up eyes. That is what happened when I eagerly bought Season 1 a couple years ago when it was first released to DVD. I remember popping in that first disc, and 5 minutes into the pilot thinking, Who are these boring WWII military dudes, and when are they going to show Paradise Island?!? I’m sorry, but that first season is BORING. How did I love this show as a kid? I don’t even have the attention span for it as an adult! And what’s more, Diana is annoying! Will she ever stop swooning over Steve Trevor and doesn’t she find his swooning over Wonder Woman a bit demeaning? To be honest, I found that season to be a bit sexist! (and that is a word I use sparingly; as a female jazz musician, I have experienced too much testosterone to cry “sexist” at every small offense).

Nonetheless, I hoped that with the revamping of the show out of the 40’s and into the 70’s, there would be improvement. And after watching (listening to) almost the entire season on Saturday, I was not only pleasantly surprised, but greatly relieved. THERE was the Diana Prince and Wonder Woman that inspired me as a child. Sure, WW’s costume was a bit skimpier, but Diana Prince was just as bad ass as WW! For starters, she was no longer Steve’s assistant, but his associate (love that Themyscirian hypnosis!). She no longer bat puppy dog eyes at Steve, and while he still held an infatuation for WW it is balanced by his respect for Diana. I appreciate how Diana/WW was the same character from the first season and this story just literally toke place 30 years later. And while I feel like the comic’s version of Wonder Woman is more serious, down to business, and even a tiny bit jaded, I love that the TV series portrays Diana and Wonder Woman as very optimistic and eager to find the good in every person or villain (which were constantly getting no more than hand slaps!). It’s just refreshing.

Watching this season brought a wave of nostalgia and realization of how strongly this show influenced me and is at least partially responsible for my current career path. Like many whose childhood was spent in the 80s, I grew up on those WW reruns. I idolized Diana Prince and thought Wonder Woman was the most beautiful woman in the world. I wasn’t really into TV, but I have distinct memories of running next door to my neighbor’s house to get my friend Jay because “Wonder Woman was coming on.” I remember forcing Jay to play “Wonder Woman” with me. I would make him be Steve Trevor (I was a very bossy little girl) and I would be Wonder Woman and would save him from whatever bad thing our 5 year old minds could think of (as we lived on a military base, I’m sure we were able to think of many “bad” things). At the time, Wonder Woman was just a fun game, but looking back as an adult, I see how strongly the show and more over, the character of Wonder Woman influenced me.

To begin with, she was someone I felt I could relate too. I remember fretting that because I had brown hair, I could never be as pretty as those with blond hair (lets blame Barbie for that!). But here was this woman with brown hair and blue eyes, just like me, and she was beautiful! And not only beautiful, but strong, kind, and a hero. The daughter of a Marine, and living on a Marine Base at the time, I was very aware of “heroes” and the concept of saving lives. But, the majority of the Marines I knew were men. To see a female hero, and at a such a young age where I didn’t completely recognize the difference between fiction and reality, taught me a sense of equality between men and women that I never bothered to question thereafter. Of course, I would be remised if I didn’t point out that my mother was also a very strong, independent woman and growing up, it never occurred to me that women could be viewed as lesser beings than men.

That crucial exposure as a child set a precedence: I still today find myself being influenced by strong, female characters. Any given day, I may gain motivation from characters such as Buffy, Sydney Bristow, Veronica Mars, and Lara Croft as well as Black Canary, Oracle, and Donna Troy (whose history of having to restart her life repeatedly I could relate to the most, as I was constantly restarting my life every 2 years as a military brat, and whose story inspired the partially autobiographical song “Serenade for Donna Troy”).

It’s not that I feel oppressed or heavily discriminated against, in fact, most men I know and associate with are very comfortable with women and our role in society. But as someone who loves finding reality in art, I can’t help but be inspired when I read about Oracle out-smarting the Calculator, complete the Bolivia level of Tomb Raider, or watch River Tam beat down the Reavers and Diana Prince spin into Wonder Woman.

It used to be that I only had those fictional characters to look up to, but now my world has been opened to the genius of Maria Schneider, Asne Seierstad, Gail Simone, Joan Stiles, Ingrid Jensen, Paula Radcliff, Deena Kastor, Twyla Tharp, and Pam Pietro, to name a few.

A few years ago I had the privilege of attending a benefit for Equality Now. The organization was honoring men who made an impact on women’s equality. Joss Whedon, among others, was being recognized. Joss’s speech on “strong female characters” brought chills to my arms and tears to my eyes (as did the incredible stories of the ordinary men who were also being honored). Afterwards, I sheepishly introduced myself to Joss, got a photo with him (below), an autograph on Astonishing X-Men #1, and slipped him a CD of my Infinite Crisis inspired Master’s Recital (hear it here). He was a super nice guy whose sincerity in his beliefs were clear by his willingness to meet and greet all of his female fans.

If you have a few minutes, watch this video of his speech:

Living life, male or female, and pursuing art, can be extremely challenging. I feel lucky that I have such a large bag of inspiration to pull from when it is needed. I will always feel grateful that I was exposed to a strong, female character at such a young, impressionable age, whose influence continues to assist me down this sometimes cold, NY, coffee driven path.


K. D. Bryan said...

Hi! I found your blog through Occasional Superheroine and I just had to say that I LOVE your music. Infinite Crisis is amazing and Villains United I & II is now living in my head.

And congrats on meeting Joss! I'm incredibly envious.

D0nnaTr0y said...

Wow! Thanks so much, K.D.! I really appreciate hearing that! :)

And meeting Joss was indeed, AMAZING!!!!!

Baron V said...

Hi, also saw your site through Occasional Superheroine and I dig your music as well as your sisters music.

I just got the WW Season 2&3 to go with my S1 set since they were on sale here. My wife doesn't dig the 70s show but along with WW, the David Banner Hulk series and the old Superfriends toons I can't help watching stuff that used to fuel my kid hero needs from back in the days.

D0nnaTr0y said...

Hi Baron!

Thanks for the checkin' out my music and for the kind words.

Yeah... I'm finding myself to be in the minority with my preference to WWW Seasons 2 and 3, but I can't help it! I think they present a stronger, hipper Diana Prince, and I just love the "techonology" of the super computers!

And the old Superfriends cartoons are great!