Wonder Woman's Lasso And The Power of Submission
75 years after the first issue of Wonder Woman's self titled comic book was published, she's finally getting her own big screen debut. The world is clamoring for the Amazonian Princess, Diana, and reviews suggest the film is everything we've been waiting for.
Wonder Woman has gone through many cosmetic and philosophical changes throughout her impressive run in comics and television. One more notable change has been her weaponry. When Wonder Woman was first envisioned, her creator, William Moulton Marston, dreamed of a superhero who fought villains not with guns and swords or other masculine implements, but instead with love. With the help of his wife Elizabeth Holloway Marston and their live-in partner Olive Byrne, Diana Prince, demure army nurse by day and Amazonian protector by night, was born.
A psychologist and inventor by trade, Marston imbued Wonder Woman with his own passions, and the vivacity of his female partners. In her first appearances, Wonder Woman is armed only with her Herculean strength, a pair of bullet-deflecting bracelets that were a reminder of her birthright, bestowed by the goddess Aphrodite, and a Magic Lasso that compelled anyone bound in it to bend to Diana's will. If you think that a magic lasso that makes people submit to you sounds sexual in nature, you would be absolutely correct.
A vocal proponent for women's rights, Marston was an advocate of sexuality and being emotionally open. He hoped that young men reading the Wonder Woman comic would see strong, able men being submissive to Diana, who bested them in physical strength and see that there is pleasure in submitting to someone else's will. This is likewise why Wonder Woman is often seen bound by her captives and why, when the amazons are featured on a page, they can be seen binding one another in their training games. Marston's idea of conquering men with love was not the 'My Little Pony' version of love. For him, love and eroticism went hand in hand. The idea is more or less, with willing and pleasurable submissions from both sides of any opposing diametric, we could achieve an ideal human society.
Through Wonder Woman's early comic run, and all the way through the television series starring Lynda Carter, she fights only with these three elements - her strength, her bracelets and the Magic Lasso. In fact, fighting Nazis with American spy Steve Trevor afforded plenty of good plot opportunities for using a lasso that compelled bad guys to tell the truth. The first time Wonder Woman is stripped of her powers is in Mike Sekowski's embarrassing run of "New Wonder Woman" in the 70s. As has been demonstrated over and over, stripping Diana of her powers and history results in anger and ire from her fans. After all, she was built to be stronger than men during a time when the concept of a strong, independent woman was entertained only by the most radical thinkers in the country. While nothing has been quite so egregious as Sekowski's powerless, weaponless, boutique owning lady spy, since then, many writers have shied away from the Lasso and its message of sexual empowerment.
In 2016's Batman vs Superman, Zack Snyder included the Magic Lasso in Wonder Woman's attire, but it takes a back seat to a sword and shield. Snyder tries to play feminist (a role he has tried before and failed miserably at) by engraving the implements with a quote from Joseph Campbell about goddesses, but he completely misses the the point. A sword and shield are masculine fighting implements. Phallic in appearance, the sword was created for one purpose only: to kill other human beings. While it can be argued that the idea that females being non-violent in media is an antiquated trope, it is undeniable that Wonder Woman's decidedly non-masculine origin is what set her apart. She had the power of an Olympian, and battle tactics that emphasized submission, honesty and emotion. She was not one of the boys - she was better than them.
Personally, I can't help but feel disappointed by the lack of lasso Wonder Woman has suffered for a while now. The promo shots for Wonder Woman show her wielding her traditional weapon of choice. This could just be a little fan service for long-time Wonder Woman followers, or maybe they do make use of the Magic Lasso in the film. I certainly hope the latter is the case. Either way, I will not begrudge the new film. While the lasso is an important part of Wonder Woman's persona, it's not the hill I want to die on. The most important part of a Wonder Woman film is that we have one. Whatever comes next is all frosting on the victory cake because we've finally done it. Friends of mine who aren't superhero nerds are itching to go see Wonder Woman. Seeing how incredibly beloved Diana is to people from all walks of life touches my heart. For a long time Wonder Woman has played second fiddle to male characters like Batman and Superman (how many movies do those dudes have to their names) because editorial has been convinced she couldn't carry the kind of success her male counterparts could. Wonder Woman is already showing potential to be the most beloved superhero movie of all time, proving once and for all that brooding, sappy boy heroes are not needed in the background to make a lady successful in the box office. With any luck, from here on out, things will only get better.