Tuesday, March 10, 2009
My hero, the Killing Machine...?
GOSH, there's a lot of killing in the new Wonder Woman animated film!
Okay, to get it out of the way, yes, it was good, and yes, I liked it. Naturally; it's a Gail Simone story.
But GOSH, there's a lot of killing in it.
I guess I thought I had adapted to the Xenafication of Wonder Woman. During the period when my concept of Wonder Woman was being formed, Wonder Woman followed the same "code" as Batman and Superman: no killing. Lesser people have to kill. Cops, soldiers, et al.; regular people have to kill to defend themselves. But for superheroes, not killing was always part of the challenge. Killing makes heroing rather easy, particularly when you are a superhero. You just kill anyone who throws a punch at you, and let the Spectre sort out the rest.
It's not a question of "mere" morality. It's a storytelling issue. Heroes who kill are, well, they're cheating. When Superman killed the Phantom Zone villains (before the last few multiversal reboots), I wasn't so much shocked by the deed itself. He gave a kind of plausible excuse for his right to "execute" them according to Kryptonian law. I wasn't disappointed that Superman failed morally, but that he seemed to have given up intellectually. He failed to solve the problem at hand without killing.
You can say I'm showing my time period; that my perception comes from the Innocent Silver/Bronze Ages, that my brain is soaked in the Superfriends for too long.
I also remember that in the 1940s, Wonder Woman kicked all sorts of Axis patootie during WWII. Without killing anyone. It was wartime; she was, in fact, a soldier, and, based on that, had a "right" to kill the enemy. But she didn't. And comics weren't exactly delicate then. Bad guys died like flies in the Golden Age.
But, ever since Xena, it's been (apparently) paramount to show that Wonder Woman is a "warrior" (which, I guess, means really really ready to kill at the slightest opportunity).
William Moulton Marston was definitely a wacko. But he wasn't an idiot. He was trying to use Wonder Woman to show us a better way, to show that love can conquer war (as long as it's strong enough!). Wonder Woman is still good; she's still cool. But somehow Wonder Woman the Killing Machine has lost a certain superiority that I long for in my heroes...
P.S. Don't get me started on the fact that Etta Candy -- the ULTIMATE symbol of female self-reliance and empowerment in comic books -- was portrayed as the symbol of what is worst in the women of "Man's World". Just don't get me started.