From pretty much the first moment that the above promotional photo of Friday Night Lights’ Adrianne Palicki as Wonder Woman was released, this project has been mocked and scorned by half the internet. David E. Kelley, of Ally McBeal fame, had planned to reboot the popular 70s superhero series with Palicki in the title role, but this past week NBC passed on the pilot …
… and Mary Elizabeth Williams of Salon thinks it might be because America’s not quite ready for a female superhero who literally wears the pants and runs a corporation.
Apparently in Kelley’s re-imagining of the series, Wonder Woman’s alter ego was to be Diana Prince, a corporate executive — a departure from her origins as an amazon princess “whose mission was to bring the Amazon ideals of love, peace, and sexual equality to a world torn by the hatred of men.” Kelley’s version shifts Wonder Woman from a Superman to a Bruce Wayne, grounding her in more of a sense of reality and making her less exotic and alien.
While that description doesn’t sound awful, it’s hard to ignore the fact that the promotional photos for the show didn’t show Palicki in a skirt suit with her hair tied back motioning to things on a PowerPoint presentation — they were all either studio shots, like the one above, of Palicki in various versions of the Wonder Woman costume, or photos of her jugs a’ jigglin’ as she ran on set.
Williams places most of the blame on Kelley’s shoulders — arguing that a man who made waifish Callista Flockhart famous in a be-skirted rom-com legal show was perhaps not the best person to pen an ass-kicking, pants (or shorts)-wearing superhero program. That seems a little unfair, honestly — especially since by placing Wonder Woman in the corporate world, Kelley was moving the series in a direction he is perhaps more comfortable with.
Williams also questions whether, after several summers of success with the likes of Iron Man, Thor, Spider-Man and Batman, whether the cancellation might just come down to a network or an audience willing to accept a female lead as a superhero. That argument seems weak, given that the show was a huge hit 40 years ago. The other reason it seems weak is because all of the other examples are movie franchises, with the exception of Smallville that hasn’t done well in the ratings in years and frankly, most people are surprised to learn it’s still on the air.
But Williams jumps between a number of theories and the one I think most likely is that the show probably just wasn’t going to be that good. The costumes — all of them — looked tacky and Palicki seemed ill-fitted to the role somehow. What I dislike is the notion that if a female-centric movie or show comes out, its success will determine the probability that a studio or a network will allow a large group of women to star in something for a good long while. Maybe that’s true, but it’s also annoying because it makes it seem as though I’m being a bad woman if I don’t support any female-starring forms of entertainment. I may see Bridesmaids, but while I am glad that it seems to subvert a lot of wedding movie genre norms, I’m not going to go into the theater with my fingers crossed for womankind.
At the end of the day, I want to watch quality entertainment with interesting characters. The gender of the majority of the characters is irrelevant if the movie or show is good enough. And again, in the case of Wonder Woman… the project honestly just looked like a turkey from the start.
What’s your take? Would you have watched the show? Should women support female-centric projects just by virtue of the fact that they star women?