Saturday, 28 January 2012

Is New Frontier's Wonder Woman a Hypocrite?

Ah, Wonder Woman. An Amazon who left an island that remained magically isolated from the rest of the world for thousands of years, before coming to "Man's World" to spread a message of peace, and bring a message of love and compassion to the rest of the world.

This task has been interpreted in a number of different ways over the years, from straight up punching Nazis, to working as an Ambassador to the UN, to writing a book about her beliefs to spread her message one reader at a time.

But in Darwyn Cooke's excellent mini-series New Frontier, a story based during the late Fifties/Early Sixties and how superheros of the time interacted to things like the Cold War, amongst many other things, there was an instance that appeared to make Diana seems something of a hypocrite. After all, under what circumstances would someone who presents compassion and peace allow a group of unarmed men to be murdered and show no remorse for it?

Keep reading to find out my opinion...
First, a bit of context. Diana and Superman have been working with the US government since World War 2, but in order to be allowed to continue their superheroics they had to sign an pact with the US government to assist them where necessary. The government wouldn't outright use Diana and Clark to go all Dr Manhatten on the communists in South East Asia due to them both being seen as the personification of wholesome American values and their personalities wouldn't allow themselves to physically murder people directly... But when Diana goes missing retrieving a plane that crashed on the wrong side of the border, Superman goes to look for her, and finds...

How does this sit with her being a being of compassion and the spreading of peace?

Well, it could be argued that her actions here were partially justified as she was both from an ancient warrior culture AND the only previous conflict that she'd been in was during WW2, where depending on where she was deployed she might not have seen that happen before.
Not NF, but you get the idea.

From her logic, she was there to bring her idealised version of American democracy to people who were being oppressed as part of her mission of peace, and to her that translated as freeing women from sexual slavery by the men who killed their male loved ones and burnt down their village. And then teaching them how to defend themselves so that it wouldn't happen again, and allowing them to revenge themselves against the enemy combatants who had wronged them to "reclaim their dignity", as she put it.

Her actions weren't meant to be a black and white case of right and wrong, see Superman's reaction, but to her in this case they were justified. She'd helped the women reclaim some stablity in their lives, and effectively taught them to be Amazons.

Since she wasn't technically meant to be in the country in the first place (she was retrieving a downed US plane that crashed the wrong side of the border), she couldn't turn the men in to any authorities even if they weren't in the middle of a civil war at that point in time.

Diana's belief in the ideal of America, how they're there to free people who are being oppressed to improve their quality of life and bring peace, was something that she seemed to have picked up from the period that she arrived in Man's World in this continuity (as I said, she thought in WW2 so presumably she debuted here in 1942 or so like her comicbook version).

I mean, that idea is all well in good when you're fighting against the forces of fascism and genocide (WW2 was a lot more black and white compared to some more recent wars, although the methods on the "Good" side weren't always Right) ,but even in story there seemed to be a general embarassment about just how fervent Diana was.

But while she was willing to support the American Dream wholeheartedly, when the situation became more morally grey, with the War in Southeast Asia not being a war of peace like the previous one she got involved in, but a war of differing ideologies, she chose to speak out against it. It was one thing to get involved with the village, as that was a legitimate case of Evil being done that she had to stop, but she couldn't legitimately continue her mission to bring peace to the world if her involvement just continued wars that otherwise are just wars for the sake of war.

Their decision to give her a medal, honourary citizenship and an unofficial deportation order back to Paradise Island when she decided to publicly give her opinion about Vietnam etc. was what lead to her realising that she was being used more as a propaganda tool for America than the administration using her message of peace to stop wars against those that threaten the ideals she had adopted.

This is probably why, in the epilogue, she decides to change the world by taking up teaching children as opposed to getting involved in armed conflicts, as she had come to the conclusion that those would be better, more genuine ways to bring about world peace instead of just perpetuating the cycle of warfare.

It's not as direct as Superman publically saying that he'll be working to help mankind from now on, instead of specifically for the US government, but just as with Batman's move from his Golden Age persona to his Silver Age one, but Diana undergoing character development, reevaluating her mission, and deciding on a different gentler, kinder solution to her goal.

So it isn't Diana being a psychopath and a hypocrite, it was her seeing evil, stopping it via her Amazon upbringing, and then changing her method from bringing about peace through physically fighting for it, to bringing about peace through love and teaching. A move from her punching metaphorical Nazis to saving the world, to her more recent interpretation as a diplomat, teacher and author.

No hypocrisy, just character development.

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