Sound Off! Professor Marston and the Wonder Women

Welcome back to Sound Off!, a semi-regular column where members of Speculative Chic gather together to chat about the latest BIG THING in entertainment. This time, learn about the origin story of Speculative Chic’s favorite thing of 2017 and discuss Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, which premiered in the United States on Friday, October 13, 2017.

Sound Off! is meant to be a reaction, but not necessarily a review. After all, while we are all individuals, even mutual love of something (or hate) can come from different places: you may find everything from critique to fangirling to maybe even hate-watching.

Now, join Shara White as she talks about Professor Marston and the Wonder Women[Note: Spoiler free!]


Shara: Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is a movie I’ve wanted to see from the moment I saw the first trailer. Not because I have some great affinity or nostalgia for Wonder Woman and her origins, but because I had no idea Wonder Woman’s origins were so interesting. More to the point, I know people who practice nontraditional relationships, and it’s hard enough in this day and age. To see what it might’ve been like back in the day — and as the foundation for one of the most (if not the most) famous female superheroes ever — wasn’t something I was going to pass up.

I’m of two minds about this movie. Walking out of the theater, I loved it. I loved it for Rebecca Hall’s fantastic and nuanced portrayal of Elizabeth, who I swear is a woman modeled after my own heart, proud and intellectual and smart and direct and stubborn to a fault. I loved every moment of her on the screen. I also loved how utterly normal the triad was: the idea of threesomes or multiple partners can get so fetishized, but really, relationships are relationships. They take work and they take communication, and to see that played out on the screen was awesome. I loved how Elizabeth and Olive were the primary couple of the triad, with William being the third. I also loved seeing how the relationship and certain aspects of it influenced the creation of Wonder Woman and the comic itself. Sure, that was a bit obvious and heavy-handed, but I walked out with a new respect.

Yet, as with all biopics, I knew this had to be Hollywood’s rosy-eyed view of the real story, so when I got home, I couldn’t resist doing some digging. And let me tell you, there’s a lot of digging to do. One of Marston’s own granddaughters is adamant that a relationship between her grandmother Elizabeth and Olive never happened, and that Marston didn’t create Wonder Woman the way the movie portrayed. Yet, other accounts state there’s plenty of evidence to cite to insist Elizabeth and Olive were indeed lovers and chastises history for ignoring the obvious. Even director Angela Robinson had originally thought William Moulton Marston was a man with a wife and a mistress, until during her research she learned that Olive and Elizabeth lived together for 38 years after William died, and then decided this was a love story.

There’s more to be found, for sure. For my buck, a movie adaptation or biopic is successful if it catches my interest and makes me want to read more. I added Jill Lepore’s The Secret History of Wonder Woman to my Amazon Wishlist that very night, because inspirations fascinate me, as does what happens when a writer’s creations are unleashed to the world and the question is raised: does intent or interpretation matter more?

The film isn’t perfect. Ironically enough, the least developed character is William Moulton Marston, but Luke Evans’ portrayal of him works well enough, and he’s easy on the eyes. I found the framing devices of the story (there are two: the interrogation by the children’s media watchdog group and the DISC theory lectures) a little distracting, with the interrogation working better than the DISC theory lectures.

But for its flaws and inaccuracies, I still find I think of the film fondly, even a week after seeing it. I think it’s because the most powerful message it portrays is about love, and love doesn’t matter what form it takes. Robinson’s interpretation — what some call fantasy — is still a valid one, and an important one in a world where people are exploring what it means to love and what committed relationships really have to look like. Spoiler alert: they don’t have to look “normal,” and if anything, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women taught us that much, and I know plenty of people are grateful for it.

Screencap via CinemaVine

3 Comments

  • Lane Robins October 25, 2017 at 2:28 pm

    This is one I couldn’t get to the theaters for but I’ll definitely rent later.

    Reply
  • Casey Price October 28, 2017 at 12:51 pm

    It’s FINALLY playing here, so I think I might get a chance to see it!!

    Reply
    • Shara White October 28, 2017 at 4:36 pm

      Oh, awesome! I was worried the only people who could see it were those lucky enough to catch it opening weekend.

      Reply

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