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  1. #1
    Wonder Woman Museum AndyMangels's Avatar
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    Default Bondage themes in WW

    OK, so probably opening up a can of worms here (or tightly sealing a can, as per the title), but I had prepared this as a response to a posting in the Mark Waid thread and thought "Let's not derail Mark's thread into this category. Just make a new thread." Et voila.

    In response to Mark talking about "what Marston was trying to say about men and women and their roles through the symbols of bondage and light s&m that peppers the first years of that strip in a way that's quaint and innocent because we're seeing it from a distance but which would be inflammatory today," many people brought up the kinkier side of WW.

    Trina Robbins has made the point before that the WW comics were not nearly as kinky as people read into them.

    At that point in time, villains didn't kill, rape, or torture heroes on panel. They tied them up, and then PLANNED to kill them. The amount of times Batman and Robin were tied up? Thousands. Ditto many other characters. Or they would get knocked out, or exposed to kryptonite. Anything that would incapacitate/imperil the hero/heroine was fair game except outright sexual degredations. The serials were full of the same thing, whether it was Red Ryder or Perils of Pauline.

    What made it more sexual in nature for comic book heroines was the manner in which the bondage was done. Men would be strapped to a chair/buzzsaw/deathtrap without their crotches being highlighted. Women would be strapped to the same things, but in ways that emphasized their breasts and sometimes splayed their legs to make their crotches highlighted. WW was different in that she was rarely spread-eagled, and the only reason her breasts were emphasized while in bondage was because they were "out there," not because HG Peter was doing "headlight comics."

    I've argued back with Trina that the main difference in WW bondage versus other comic bondage was the frequency of it. In some stories, there's hardly two pages go by without bondage in them, often in multiple panels. It's interesting to note as well that many of the bondage situations in which WW was put predated John Willie's more fantastical and clearly SM/fetish-themed illustrations in Bizarre post-1946. I don't recall if Willie was ever interviewed about whether WW influenced him, but it certainly influenced many fetish artists through the 1950s and 1960s (or Eric Stanton's Blunder Broad in the 1970s).

    There was definitely fetish-oriented kink in the mind of Marston, as has been shown in public papers (and some private ones I have), but it was all in support of women (contrary to what other writers were doing), not in a way that turned them into victims. Marston definitely felt that women should be dominant and men subservient -- not just sexually, but throughout all aspects of society -- and the attitude is prevalent in his work.

    But to say that he was purposely being kinky in the comics in a sexual manner is to grossly misjudge his intentions; it's like saying that bra-burning's purpose in the early 1970s was to allow straight men to see more nipples. That wasn't the point, in either case.

    Hopefully that didn't ramble too far into a wall, but I'm on deadline and really should stay off the board! Writers are the masters of "oh, let me just get to this one thing and then I'll get my work done." Maybe we should be tied to our chairs?

  2. #2
    Veteran Member Retro315's Avatar
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    I commented a nice, long post in the long-winded thread about keeping Morrison away from Wonder Woman (Something I think has no base) but at any rate ... I'm of a similar mind.

    It was more about bucking the curb, and female dominance rather than any kind of S&M fantasy. I should probably dig up that post and reprint it rather than trying to paraphrase myself.

    One thing I did notice though, that'll be quick enough - is the relevance of Wonder Woman being a woman representing fair-minded democracy and balance, the way you see "Lady Liberty" and "Lady Justice" ... and in a flip of how you could perceive America as a "lady" and showcasing American domination (via "the truth"). Also the inevitible "cowboy" comparisons. American heroes being so firmly rooted in the Western genre, a lasso wasn't exactly anything uncommon to see in the earlier half of the 20th century.

    I'll endeavor to dig up that essay of a post.

    EDIT:

    Look, bondage elements to Wonder Woman are not as one-sided and chauvinistic as everyone is making it out to be.

    The REAL interesting psychological profile is the COMPLETE reverse of the entire "woman bound" argument going on here.

    We're talking about a woman with tall boots with heels, an America themed one-suit and a tiara, who is going around tying up men with a magic lasso that releases all their inner secrets and thoughts, then makes them submit and does the classic "stand with one foot on the defeated enemy" routine, with a high heel.

    Anything Morrison is interested in "bondage-wise" is the complete reverse of what everyone is thinking, and is more in line with the fact that for all intents and purposes, Wonder Woman is a dominatrix without the black leather Catwoman has.

    She's an America-natrix. Or more accurately, a Democracy-natrix.

    As in ... submit to America ... trust us, world ... once you're wrapped in our magical golden lasso of truth, on the ground, and looking up at our flag standing tall and proud and, well, sexy, above you, you'll be happy you gave in to Democracy!

    And there's a huge "Democracy" theme as well. Why else would Wonder Woman's thematic imagery be that of Classical Greek mythology - Greece is the origin of Democracy. And here we constantly also see Wonder Woman trying to defend her personal freedom, and the freedom of Themyscira, from the machinations of the Olympian gods like Ares or Zeus who are determined to remain the "top male", or for all intents - the Monarch. After all, classical Monarchies are systems designed to keep men as rulers, oppressive ones at that.

    Wonder Woman came onto the scene well after the 20's brought the flagpole sitters and the women's rights movement, and a bit before the 50's tried to ruin that. She's always been a strongly feminist character, meant to flip the idea of submitting to men's rule on its head with themes of powerful women, justice and equal rights through democracy, and sex appeal not being something to be ashamed of.

    And she absolutely does surpass that kind of original vibe through the years of great storytelling and continuity, and ridiculous things like invisible jets and bullet-deflecting bracelets and such. She's as easily comparable to your "Lady Liberty" or your "Lady Justice" as she is any sort of more "male submission fantasies", and American history being what it is, that "lasso" of truth and her stern gaze and confidence equates her as much as with being a "cowboy" (well, "cowgirl") as anything else.

    ... and then in follow-up to some talk about her costume and her origins:

    Being made out of clay just means that Wonder Woman is a product of imagination, and is a piece of art. I'm not sure where anybody's getting that ... if anything it's kind of a classic Greek myth element which also implies that she's "the sum of Hyppolyta's creative ability".

    Her costume doesn't "imply" sexy, it IS sexy ... and at the same time where it's impossible to dismiss, it's also not that important. It's entirely possible to tread a line between not being repressed and a character having a healthy personal life, without crossing into "inappropriate for readers" territory.
    Last edited by Retro315; 09-06-2009 at 07:28 PM.
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  3. #3
    Wonder Woman Museum AndyMangels's Avatar
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    Without delving into personal slights, I'll say that I'd be happy to never again see Frank Miller or Grant Morrison allowed near Wonder Woman. I don't think Frank cares to "get" her except in the basest way possible, and Grant has said multiple times he doesn't know how to write her. I suppose there's something he can take for that... :P

  4. #4
    Senior Member shanejayell's Avatar
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    Is it bad I found the whole "Girls tying up girls" thing kinda hot?

  5. #5
    Elder Member Free-Man's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shanejayell View Post
    Is it bad I found the whole "Girls tying up girls" thing kinda hot?
    Nope, it's more common than you think. And I always thought it was a bit of a bait and switch on Martson's part. He got all these young kids to read the book because it had girls tying up people, and then they ended up being introduced to Martson's personal theories.

  6. #6

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    There's an allegorical way of looking at bondage in Wonder Woman, something that is still, sadly, still applicable today.
    Be careful when speaking. You create the world around you with your words.

  7. #7
    Senior Member suedenim's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndyMangels View Post
    There was definitely fetish-oriented kink in the mind of Marston, as has been shown in public papers (and some private ones I have), but it was all oddly in support of women, not in a way that turned them into victims. Marston definitely felt that women should be dominant and men subservient -- not just sexually, but throughout all aspects of society -- and the attitude is prevalent in his work.

    But to say that he was purposely being kinky in the comics in a sexual manner is to grossly misjudge his intentions; it's like saying that bra-burning's purpose in the early 1970s was to allow straight men to see more nipples. That wasn't the point, in either case.
    Yeah, this is the impression I've gotten reading his stories. I may be at a bit of a disadvantage analytically, in that I don't "get" bondage fetishism at all - it does absolutely nothing for me. But I think I *do* get Marston. I suspect Marston probably *was* turned on by bondage, but that wasn't the *point* of it. There's an actual philosophy there, with many aspects beyond the crudely sexual.

    Tying into this, Golden Age Wonder Woman stories were, even by the standards of the time, pretty darn non-sexualized. She was certainly no Phantom Lady, that's for sure, and even Black Canary (whose Archives I happen to have read recently), while quite mild, was drawn in a more "sexy" manner than Wonder Woman. Peters' art (and that of the other fellow whose name escapes me at the moment) strikes me as more like a pre-teen girl's notion of what a "pretty girl" should look like than an adult male's.

  8. #8
    Senior Member JKCarrier's Avatar
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    Super-heroes are kind of inherently fetishy anyway. I think Marston was probably more self-aware in that area than most comics writers, and was able to use that imagery to make a larger point. The phrase that crops up in his stories again and again is "submission to loving authority", which seems to boil down to people -- men and women alike -- keeping a rein on their selfish impulses for the sake of society. Channeling their urges in productive, rather than destructive ways. So in that sense, the physical restraints are just a metaphor for emotional restraint.

    It's also worth noting that unlike a lot of bondage material, where the subject is clearly in some kind of pain or distress, for Wonder Woman it's literally just a game. She often talks about how the Amazons play at tying each other up, and when the bad guys do it, she's likely to complain that they're not trying hard enough. For Diana, the thrill seems to be less in the act of being tied up, but rather in the challenge of breaking free, which she inevitably does within a panel or two. Marston rather slyly subverts the whole notion of woman-in-bondage, at the same time he takes advantage of the potent imagery.
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  9. #9
    Rotaredom! ryerye17's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shanejayell View Post
    Is it bad I found the whole "Girls tying up girls" thing kinda hot?
    Boys tying up other boys is more fun though
    "What, are you dense? Are you retarded or something? Who the hell do you think I am? I'm the goddamn Goddess of Fierce."

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  10. #10
    Elder Member Free-Man's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ryerye17 View Post
    Boys tying up other boys is more fun though
    LOL, remember, let's keep it PG-13 here.

  11. #11
    Senior Member shanejayell's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ryerye17 View Post
    Boys tying up other boys is more fun though
    Yet another vote for bringing in a Wonder Boy?

  12. #12
    I'm Rich. froinlaven's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jamesfreeman View Post
    LOL, remember, let's keep it PG-13 here.
    Have you seen a movie lately? That is PG-13.

  13. #13
    Member riddler72's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shanejayell View Post
    Is it bad I found the whole "Girls tying up girls" thing kinda hot?

    I don't blame you!So do I!!

  14. #14
    Dilf εnthusiast Justin K.'s Avatar
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    Any actual Scanz!

  15. #15
    Dilf εnthusiast Justin K.'s Avatar
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    Double Post!
    Last edited by Justin K.; 09-07-2009 at 06:08 PM.

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