But it’s true—Wonder Woman accessorizes. She is, after all, a very savvy woman. But as we all know, form follows function. Everything she wears has a purpose: Her golden bracelets deflect bullets, her Venus Girdle endows her with superhuman strength, her tiara boomerangs and her lasso holds others to the truth that she, herself, lives by. And that’s just what we can see. Wonder Woman’s intellect is her real power. She’s honest and disarming, and she kicks butt.
I was like every other little girl who loved to read Wonder Woman comics. At the time, there weren’t many strong female role models. There was Archie’s Betty and Veronica, and then there was Wonder Woman. And they actually offered to pay me to play her on television. Imagine that! I would have done it for free. I’d been in Hollywood studying acting and was a fresh-faced innocent in that town. I was just 24, and putting on that costume—the American flag high-cut bathing suit—was the thrill of a lifetime.
That said, her costume and accessories don’t define the essence of Wonder Woman. She is the “Secret Self” inside every woman—the beautiful, unafraid, tenacious and powerful woman we know resides within us. She is the antithesis of “victim.” She is the single mother working multiple jobs, the unsung heroine, the supportive sister, the devoted daughter, the loving wife. She is the archetype of the Liberated Feminine, and that part of us is not confined by any societal role.
Wonder Woman stood apart from every woman of her time. She was always looking for—yearning for—a connection to others in this new world. To whom could she turn? Not only was she separated from her family and her roots, but she also had her alias to protect. It’s this need to connect that, in my mind, has always made her a human, likable and complex character.
I never tried to dumb her down or treat her as a two-dimensional comic book character; I had too much respect for her to do that. I played her for real. She had two faces she showed the world, but she’s one person. Diana Prince is Wonder Woman. They’re different aspects of the same individual.
In truth, I never played “Wonder Woman”—I played Princess Diana (Diana, a.k.a. Artemis, goddess of the hunt and of wild things). She came from an island of women where she wasn’t necessarily the prettiest or the strongest. She wasn’t overly impressed with herself. She was intrigued by Steve Trevor and fought for the chance to be the one to take him home. When she found herself in this other world, the America of the 1940s, her heroic reactions flowed naturally from her values and her powers.
While I am forever identified with the role, Wonder Woman belongs to us all. She lives inside us. She’s the symbol of the extraordinary possibilities that inhabit us, hidden though they may be—that, I think, is the important gift Wonder Woman offers women. Perhaps our real challenge in the 21st century is to strive to reach our potential while embracing her values.
Wonder Woman is fearless. She sees the good in everyone, convinced they are capable of change, compassion and generosity. She’s kindhearted and hopeful, and she has a great sense of humor. These are just some of the important gifts the Adaptable Empowered Feminine has to offer. In an age when femininity is casting off restraints around the world, Wonder Woman remains an important archetype.
I loved Wonder Woman as a kid, I loved Wonder Woman when I played the role, and I love Wonder Woman to this day. She is the goddess within us all.
If Einstein is right, and imagination is more important than knowledge, then maybe what we need is to “wonder”…to open our minds and our hearts, to believe in what we cannot see.
Who knows? Maybe Wonder Woman can save the world.
This essay moved me tremendously. Not only do I greatly admire Carter
(she was a childhood idol,) but this so beautifully and eloquently sums
up everything I love about the character and her hope.