Thursday, January 03, 2008
Dignity In Satin: Part Three
To be a Black man in this world is to know that with almost every new room you walk into, you will be upon sight sized up, scrutinized and possibly underestimated. I can’t say for certain but I have always imagined this to be a bit of what it is to be a woman.
Wonder Woman is the voice of the underestimated.
Wonder Woman, with every new room she walks into, imparts upon those around her the greatest of gifts: the understanding of dignity. In that, she stands apart from her super-hero brethren.
This character was decidedly born of wonder. In that, she is made unique. She came to, as she called it, "Patriarch’s World" (The United States) fully realized. With a mission. The world had need and Diana answered its call. How could she have done otherwise? She was the absolute of the gods, the greatest of their gifts.
With her ability to wrestle super-powered despots with her bare hands in fields of battle, the world bestowed upon her a new title, one she was who could practically lay claim to godhood, surely never would have chosen for herself. That name became her. She became the name. She became Wonder Woman.
Later on, in the field of government, as Themyscira’s sole ambassador and by utilizing Athena’s gift of wisdom, she would come to wrestle down despots through the conviction found in her words and manner. She became a champion of just causes, giving voice to those who’d had theirs quieted. In doing so, she further proved the name of Wonder Woman, to be one well-deserved.
With the power of the gods her birthright, a wonderful by-product emerged. In her choice of mission, she discovered her greatest ability: compassion.
And that I think is the key to understanding Wonder Woman. She, as a character and as an icon, in a philosophical or physical fight, would probably be the first name to leap, alliteratively, from the mouths of the heroic inhabitants of the DC Comics Universe as the one person most would want on their side in a time of crisis. In battle, you simply need someone who cares. A diplomat willing to find common ground with the opposition. A warrior brave enough to fire the first warning shot. A leader brave enough to back up their play with force, if necessary. Someone not entirely willing to bow simply to the idea of acceptable losses. You need someone willing to want to beat the odds, no matter how grave. Someone who wants everyone who stands at her side to return home to the ones who care for them most. If Wonder Woman should have to crush her enemy beneath her boot heel in order to accomplish this feat... those are the only losses she’s willing to accept.
Her track record doesn’t lie. Many the comics panel has been drawn where in the aftermath of battle, one character stands, head held high, alone and triumphant amongst the ruins of the defeated. Just as surely as Superman bursting out of chains has become comic book iconography. Just as sure as a horned silhouette has become symbolic with Batman, Princess Diana battered yet unbroken and presented as the last (wo)man standing, over the years, has become her very own comic book iconography.
Like any true hero, she strives to make things better. Unlike other heroes, Wonder Woman does not wait for things to get worse.