Nerd Factor: Hera, Give Her Strength

Dr. Mike Robinson, LC Communication Studies Professor~

A while back, the Nerd Factor lauded the abilities of Wonder Woman.

Although Princess Diana has many powers, there was one superpower that was deliberately left off the list. It’s a power that she’s only recently had call to use.

While Wonder Woman’s physical might is indeed impressive, super strength is an ability found on many superhero resumes. This trait is more than just car tossing and villain punching. This is a new kind of power for her—the ability to carry an entire genre.

Some characters in popular culture become role models over time. Some are designed to be that way from the outset. For her comic book debut, Wonder Woman was deliberately created to be an archetypal character, a powerful female presence in a genre that was already dominated by male characters in its first few years.

She leaped onto the four-color comic book page in order to inspire young readers, particularly young girls. It is therefore not surprising that, over the last 75 years, the greatest of the Amazons has faced the challenge of representing her entire gender.

The challenge that lies ahead of Wonder Woman now though is considerable. In fiction, Diana of Themiscyra draws upon the ancient magic of the Greek pantheon. But in reality, she is up against a greater myth, the idea that a female character cannot carry an action movie.

Although Katniss Everdeen recently shot down that idea in the commercially successful “Hunger Games” franchise, and there has always been great love for Lieutenant Ripley from “Alien” and other “final girls” in sci-fi/horror, over in the superhero genre the myth has yet to be truly defeated.

Superhero movies have been around for a long time, but the true cinematic boom started with “X-Men” in 2000. In the past 17 years though, there have only been two films for solo female characters.

According to Box Office Mojo, “Catwoman” (2004) had a domestic gross of a little over $40 million, which is pretty bad considering the film’s estimated production cost of $100 million. Catwoman is famous for wearing black, but even the film’s $82 million worldwide gross didn’t get the project out of the red.

“Elektra” (2005) had a similarly weak performance, a bit over $24 million domestic for a $43 million price tag.

Before that, the only other movie of note was “Supergirl” (1984). No production budget is listed, but it seems unlikely that the $14 million gross covered it, even back in the day.

While the track record is poor, there is interest in these female characters. Excuse the pun, but there was good buzz about Hope Van Dyne becoming the Wasp for the next “Ant-Man” project. There also seems to be much enthusiasm for Black Widow to get her own movie, and Harley Quinn was one of the few bright spots in “Suicide Squad.” Meanwhile other female characters, like Captain Marvel, wait to see what doors will open.

That’s because, as is often the case, Princess Diana charges in first. There is reason to be optimistic about “Wonder Woman” this summer. “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” may have left fans squabbling and critics unimpressed, but our Amazon’s major cinematic debut was widely acknowledged as a high point of that film.

The movie trailers for this summer’s blockbuster look amazing. Hera be praised, Wonder Woman may just prove strong enough to save the day again.