Date of Graduation

Spring 5-2015

Level of Access

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department or Program

History

Number of Pages

138

First Advisor

Calhoun, Claudia

Abstract

Wonder Woman, the most recognizable female superheroine of all time, was created in 1941, on the eve of American involvement in World War II. How did Wonder Woman become popular at this time, 20 years before the feminist movement embraced her as an icon of women’s power? This thesis argues that Wonder Woman’s popularity can be attributed to the comics’ internalization of contradictions of wartime feminine identity in popular culture, which spanned from the temporarily empowered Rosie the Riveter to ultra-feminine pin-up girls. The character also reflects the paradoxes of her creator’s philosophies: Dr. William Moulton Marston, a Harvard-trained ‘pop’ psychologist and polyamorous genius/charlatan, believed that women should rule the world because they were innately more loving, more nurturing, and more capable of luring men into willing submission through sexual domination – ideas that managed to be simultaneously unbelievably strange and completely stereotypical. I argue that Wonder Woman’s popularity was the result of the perfect combination of familiarity and novelty within the gender politics of World War II, which is further demonstrated by her deterioration into a boring shell of her former radical self after the war and Marston’s death.

Components of Thesis

1 pdf file

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