Where have all the heroines gone?
Take a look at television these days. What do you see? Teenage girls getting pregnant and allowing MTV to capture the train wreck on-camera. “Girls” in their mid-twenties getting drunk on the sand of the Jersey Shore. Perhaps even a Playmate or two — or at least a former playmate who’s trying to make a go of it in Las Vegas.
No offense to the cast of Teen Mom 2, Jersey Shore or Holly’s World, but these women aren’t what most would consider icons. An icon is something different. An icon is a woman who is empowered, intelligent and strives to overcome impossible odds to help others. Not since Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Jennifer Garner’s ALIAS have there been women that didn’t just play their characters, but truly embodied them.
Little by little, after the year 2003 or so, the icons disappeared. With the exception of Detective Olivia Benson on Law & Order: SVU, there simply aren’t any women who come close to matching the glory of Sarah Michelle Gellar or Jennifer Garner. Is that a bad thing? Yes — because what’s currently presented to young girls on television just isn’t acceptable.
Bella Swan, quite possibly the most popular female character to young girls in modern culture over on the movie screens, is far from independent and doesn’t even appear to have any redeeming qualities. What is really known about the girl from Forks, Washington, other than her obsession with a sparkling vampire? And this isn’t to say that a female icon must shun romantic partnerships altogether. Sydney Bristow had Michael Vaughn, Buffy had Angel, and aside from when Angel turned into Angelus, both of those relationships were still healthier than most.
Sydney and Buffy loved their men. They accepted their help when it makes sense. But none of these women needed their partners to sustain a meaningful existence.
Based on the paragraphs above, one might think that the current state of women on television is rather unrewarding. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the rumors began. Online, there was a collective groan from much of the comic fandom regarding the possibility of Wonder Woman returning to television. Could anyone truly upstage the magnificent Lynda Carter? And would the director be able to pay tribute to the source material while updating the mythos for today’s audiences?
NBC is betting “yes.” The pilot is currently shooting in Los Angeles, with Adrianne Palicki in the title role and Elizabeth Hurley as her nemesis. Photos have circulated online of Adrienne in full costume: red boots, blue tights, silver wrist gauntlets and of course, her golden lasso. Reaction to the series thus far has been mixed. A leaked script didn’t help matters either — particularly when it came to certain traits that Wonder Woman (aka Diana Themyscira) now has.
Lip-synching to Katy Perry while using a hairbrush as a microphone? What were the writers thinking?!
And yet, the return of Wonder Woman is an excellent opportunity to put quite possibly the original female icon back on television and in front of the masses. After years of Bella Swan, Snooki and the Kardashian sisters, Palicki could usher in a new wave of female icons to show girls that your sense of self-worth isn’t determined by your hair, clothes, ability to binge drink or, most importantly, whether or not a man likes you.
In order for Wonder Woman to reach today’s audiences, she would need to be strong yet relatable. I’m willing to bet that more than a few girls have lip-synched to Katy Perry at one time or another. And yes, allow Wonder Woman to pursue romantic relationships. Given her character’s god-like strength and extensive fighting training, it’s not as if any mortal man could really pose a threat to her.
In order words, Wonder Woman having a boyfriend would show girls what a healthy relationship is like. The man should not wield all the power. If it takes an Amazon from the island of Themyscira to articulate that to audiences, so be it.
One would hope that the negativity surrounding the series doesn’t prevent its success. Costumes can be augmented, scripts rewritten and consultants from DC Comics hired to ensure that the show remains faithful to the source material. But simply put, young girls deserve better. They need better. Stop giving them Snooki and let them see something inspirational for a change.
And who knows. If Wonder Woman is a success this fall, it very well might change the television landscape for the better. Just as raunch entertainment was ushered in, it can be pushed right back out.