Why Captain America Is Seeing the Big Screen and Wonder Woman Isn’t

By  · Published on January 20th, 2011

Two WWII-era characters, glistening with Americana, fighting for truth and justice. One is getting a big screen adaptation by way of Marvel. The other is languishing in the development hell unable to even secure a television show. What’s the difference between Captain America and Wonder Woman?

Charlie Jane Anders over at io9 asks and answers the question with a sharp editorial highlighting the things catapulting one character and dragging down the other. All of her points are strong and valid – there’s no natural bridge for Wonder Woman from WII to present day; she’s too steeped in the Greek mythology of Gods and Goddesses; she has a questionable reason for going to America and dressing like she founded the country.

All great points (which should be celebrated for not pulling the sexism card), but the situation boils down to a simpler (also completely non-sexist) fact.

Captain America is a great character, and Wonder Woman is stupid.

I’d like to prove this using a thought experiment.

Imagine a woman desperate to prove her worth in a male-run society who falls under the military supervision of a forward-looking scientist needing a test subject for a serum that will create a one-woman army. Stacy Rogers undergoes the treatment and emerges on the other end a brutal fighting force for the United States during WWII. She infiltrates the Third Reich, who completely underestimate her, and destroys a vicious arch-nemesis in Red Skull while aiding the boys in beating back Hitler. She’s a fighter without peer, a brilliant military tactician, and she has a huge shield that she uses to attack as often as to defend. She kicks ass and doesn’t bother to take names.

This is an awesome character.

Now imagine a privileged, holier-than-thou man from a mysterious island who sets off for the United States after hearing about WWII breaking out (and deciding that his own mythical island needs protecting too). His main goal is to spread the message of peace and love. Although he has super human strength and great fighting skills, he mainly uses a rope that makes people tell the truth, unbreakable wristbands, and a resistance to magic to fight his foes. He’s never known true pain, has almost tangential self-interest in defeating the Nazis and flies around in a plane that no one can see. Oh, and animals really love him.

This is a lame character.

It doesn’t matter what gender you place into these outlines, one is going to sound like a well-rounded character with some great fighting skills and the other is going to sound like an idiot with a magic rope that gets confessions.

All of Anders’s points, spot-on as they are, stem from this simple fact.

Why is it so difficult to update Wonder Woman for the current time? To give her a good reason to come to America and dress jingoistically? To make her a superhero worth rooting for?

Because her base is so pointless and silly. Even her name is sort of uninspiring. Captain America – as ridiculously patriotic as it is – sounds commanding. Wonder Woman includes a main word that can either mean “Awe” or “vague curiosity” (as in “I wonder why she has American flag panties”).

It’s wishy-washy. It’s not bold.

Plus, as a side note, Captain America is seeing the big screen because Marvel has a bigger plan with The Avengers. He’s still a B-level superhero who probably wouldn’t have warranted a standalone movie without that master plan. With the Justice League movie falling apart, so went the hope of seeing Wonder Woman on screen at all. Still, it could have happened.

Double plus, there are plenty of other great characters in the comic universe that aren’t getting the big screen treatment. Characters far better (and more inspiring to women if that’s your concern) than Wonder Woman.

Catwoman is a bad but still better example of a rounded, interesting, dynamic female character. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The Monica Rambeau Captain Marvel. Emma Frost. Tank Girl. Jean Grey. Night Girl. Red Sonja. Hell, even Miss America is a better version of Wonder Woman than Wonder Woman.

And that doesn’t even scratch the list of all the comic book figures (regardless of gender) that the studios don’t have the insight or fiscal courage with which to create a solo movie.

There are still those that would point to gender as a major factor for why Wonder Woman isn’t on screen, and they may be 1% correct. Thankfully, there are minds like Anders who dig a little deeper to find the root cause.

Even if that root cause ends up being so simple:

Wonder Woman doesn’t deserve a stand-alone film because she’s a flimsy, boring character with weak powers.

What do you think?

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