Monday, October 4, 2010

Ally McWonderWoman?

Over the weekend, it was announced by just about every single superhero news outlet that David E. Kelley is working on relaunching Wonder Woman as a TV series.  Fans reacted immediately with a range from curious to full out nerdrage.

Myself?  I'll go with skeptical.

Ignoring the fact that approximately 0.003% of the tv/movie projects somebody is "working on" ever make it to the screen, I have other reasons for my skepticism.

When I was still an undergrad working on my ultimately-useless degree, I spent a lot of time analyzing media and pop culture.  For one class, I wrote (what I thought to be) a particularly inspired paper comparing Ally McBeal to The Mary Tyler Moore Show in terms of their respective portrayals of a "progressive" woman.  I'm pretty sure my argument was that Moore was more progressive, despite being two decades earlier, because she was more focused on defining herself as an individual, independent woman while McBeal was trying to find a date.  I'm sure it sounded better under the sleep-deprived, caffeinated haze I wrote it under.

Lots of critics will argue until the end of time as to whether or not Ally McBeal was a positive or negative depiction of a woman and feminism.  In my somewhat-educated opinion, she was an excellent example of a professional woman headlining a TV series successfully.  Not every woman on TV is going to match a feminist ideal.  Ally probably didn't, but she was still important.  The worry is that Kelley (using Ally as the point of reference and completely forgetting his entire body of other work) can't portray a feminist icon without it getting more than a bit silly.  Perhaps one should argue that Ally was a bit of a feminist parody at times.  Also conveniently ignoring the fact that the last time we saw Diana Prince on TV, her portrayal was often downright goofy... most fans would hope that Kelley can take Wonder Woman, portray her with the strength and without the silly, and give her the gravitas that people expect from modern superhero adaptations.  That's something a lot of people seem to be concerned he can't handle: a strong and serious leading woman.

But is that the true source of my skepticism?  Not at all.

The real problem I have is that nearly every series Kelley has won his acclaim for is about people in a professional setting wearing suits.  There are lots of cute heels and silk ties.  How is the man going to handle a patriotic, eagle-emblazoned bustier and all of the adventures that ought to be oh-so-inappropriate for the suit and tie set?

Mythology, fantasy and kick ass fight scenes are really best when they travel outside of the office.  And THAT is what Kelley has not proven he can do.

... but yeah, I'd watch it.

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