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Independent Lens | Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines

Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines traces the fascinating evolution and legacy of Wonder Woman. From the birth of the comic book superheroine in the 1940s to the blockbusters of today, Wonder Women looks at how popular representations of powerful women often reflect society’s anxieties about women’s liberation.

The film goes behind the scenes with TV stars Lynda Carter (Wonder Woman) and Lindsay Wagner (The Bionic Woman), comic writers and artists, and real-life superheroines such as Gloria Steinem, Kathleen Hanna, and others, who offer an enlightening and entertaining counterpoint to the male-dominated superhero genre.

A film by Kristy Guevara-Flanagan and Kelcey Edwards, Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines premieres on the award-winning series Independent Lens, hosted by Stanley Tucci, on Monday, April 15, 2013 at midnight on WMHT.

Wonder Women explores our nation’s long-term love affair with comic book superheroes and raises questions about the possibilities and contradictions of heroines within the genre. Reflecting our culture’s deep-seated ambivalence toward powerful women — even in this socalled post-feminist era — women may be portrayed as good, or brave, or even featured as “action babes,” but rarely are they seen as heroes at the center of their own journey.

Tying the film together is the groundbreaking figure of Wonder Woman, the unlikely brainchild of a Harvard-trained pop psychologist named William Moulton Marston. From Wonder Woman’s original, radical World War II presence, to her uninspiring 1960s incarnation as a fashion boutique owner, to her dramatic resurrection by feminist Gloria Steinem and the women of Ms. Magazine, Wonder Woman’s legacy continues today—despite the fact that she has yet to make it to the big screen.

In our era of increased plastic surgeries and emphasis on “looking good” rather than acting powerfully, many psychologists, media and social critics have long decried the fact that women are bombarded with images of physical perfection and portrayals of their gender purely in terms of sexual attractiveness. Wonder Women counters this by reflecting on why our culture struggles with images of women triumphant beyond the domestic arena of relationships and family.

Exploring how our highly visual culture places more emphasis on girls’ and women’s looks rather than on their deeds, Wonder Women urges women to claim the action genre — and media in general— as their own, if they want to change how they are represented. Says director Guevera-Flanagan, “I loved the idea of looking at something as populist as comics to reveal our cultural obsessions, and in particular, how women’s roles have changed over time.

The narratives of our most iconic superheroes, told and re-told over decades, boldly outline our shifting values. For some it’s Lara Croft, for others it’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but we all need those iconic heroes that tell us we have the power to slay our dragons and don’t have to wait around to be rescued.”

To learn more about the film, visit the Wonder Women companion website (http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/wonder-women), which features information about the film, including an interview with the filmmaker and links and resources pertaining to the film’s subject matter. The site also features a Talkback section for viewers to share their ideas and opinions, preview clips of the film, and more.

Premieres Monday, April 15, 2013 at midnight on WMHT

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