Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Why No Wonder Woman?

Published to Jackizehner.com on January 1, 2012

I am starting 2012 with a question that has been haunting me for the past 10 years. It was in 2001 that I began somewhat obsessively thinking about why there was no Wonder Woman feature film. I shared the whole story with a group of friends we had over for dinner last night but the punch line was that it was Wonder Woman, or lack thereof, that convinced me to leave my role as a partner of Goldman Sachs. I quit to write the screenplay! I took a screen writing course, accumulated stacks of notes, and sought out people in the industry to help. The product of all that labor has it’s own special box and I keep on adding to it. It is not that I ever gave up on the idea, but rather it is like the red wine I am sipping on this New Years Eve, the idea, my participation, needed time to age. Now, on the 70th Anniversary of WW ( first issue appeared December 1941), I figured it was finally time to try to make it happen!

Here is the freaky thing. So much of what is scribbled down on those pieces of paper I recently started leafing through again has come to be in my life. My story line was not just about a single woman with super powers saving lives and fighting for justice. Yes my WW, my superhero, had those powers, but she quickly realized that one woman could never save the world on her own. She tried it for a while but became frustrated and exhausted. Over one too many cocktails pouring her heart out to the bartender she helped her figure it out. She needed a gang, a tribe, to do it with her. So she began to recruit the best of – the best in each discipline – sports, business, politics - and taught them how to tap in to their full power and potential. They were already leaders, she just enhanced them.

In the alternate world she came from everyone was capable of greatness, they just had to tap in to it and the ticket was using that power for good. When she came to our world she was shocked that women were vastly underrepresented in positions of leadership, suffered from so much violence and when she experienced our media which portrayed women primarily as victims or sex objects, she was outraged. “Where is girl power?” she asked. “Why does this world not value human life and not fully value women and girls?”

I have been asking myself these same questions for over a decade and like Wonder Woman, I am trying to use my power to change it. Championing for the rights and potential of women and girls is my calling, my life’s purpose, and I know this with certainty. On this journey I have come to know countless women with incredible passion, skills, creativity and resources and are putting all of it to work for a more just and equitable world. They are Wonder Women. What I see happening now is that this community, this tribe is growing. These women champions of change are finding each other, nourishing each other, and more fully coming in to their power to use all their resources to make a difference. They too are shocked and outraged and are saying enough, things have to change! We may not have a true super hero as our leader helping us tap in to our inhuman superpowers, but we have each other.

The Wonder Woman in my screenplay knew that the world would only shift for the better if many people, but particularly those with power and shared values worked together and fully employed all the resources at their disposal. She knew that money, big money, was needed. At the time I wrote this in my notes there was no such thing as Women Moving Millions ( WMM). WMM was birthed in 2006 by two visionary sisters Helen LaKelly and Swanee Hunt, women I did not come to know until 2008. In phase one, which ended in 2009, WMM raised over $180 mm for women’s foundations around the world. Perhaps more important than that was that a community, a tribe, was formed. We are sisters ( and a few brothers) united with a common purpose. This year we will launch as a global movement to encourage and support not only large financial gifts to organizations and initiatives that work for the advancement of women and girls, but the thinking that a world that fully values women and girls is a better and more just world. We aspire to mobilize billions!

My WW sought to balance the masculine energy that had dominated for so long with the feminine energy that supported a different kind of power - “power to, not power over“. She knew that a world so out of balance was a world that would blow itself up. Her job in coming to our world was to help elevate the feminine and in doing so change the course of history. From her experience she knew that too much of one, or the other, had negative consequences. ( ok there is a heck of a lot more to it, but I can’t give the plot away now can I?)

So this is the year that not only will I continue to be a player in my real life Wonder Women story as Co Chair of Women Moving Millions, but also try to finally get a GREAT screenplay for the film in to development. Here is my plan on how to do it!

1) Produce a white paper of sorts, that poses the question “Why no Wonder Woman?” ( see below) that details the history of the character, why other attempts to bring her to the big screen have failed, numbers that show the power of the superhero franchises, who the players are and issue a call to action for fans of WW to contribute ideas. This paper is almost finished and together with my collaborator in this work, Laura Moore, we will begin sending the 30 page report to others for feedback.

2) Convene a meeting with women I know, many of which also happen to be iconic feminist leaders with a passion for Wonder Woman, to get their ideas about history, character, potential screenwriters and more. On the top of that list is Gloria Steinem, who I am blessed to know and is one of the world’s experts on Wonder Woman.

3) Meet with the Executive team at Warner Brothers who own the rights to Wonder Woman.

When I look back on my life, which I tend to do every year on January 1st, I want to know this. Did I do ‘what I could, with what I had’ to try to make the world a better place? I believe the universe, God, speaks to us all. If we are willing to both listen and work our passions will be revealed to us and in that we will find what it is we are uniquely called to do. It may become our jobs, it may be what we do in our spare time, it may be just how we affect the lives of a few, or the lives of countless we don’t even know. From the time I was a little girl I loved Wonder Woman, I loved superheros, and perhaps helping to show the world the Wonder Women who are among us every day, is just one of the many things I am supposed to be doing.

Why No Wonder Woman? ( from the white paper..)

Wonder Woman was created as a distinctly feminist role model whose mission was to bring the Amazon ideals of love, peace, and sexual equality to ʻa world torn by the hatred of men.ʼ” For 70 years, Wonder Woman has stood as an icon of female empowerment, the embodiment of feminine strength, and ultimately, a hard core superhero who fights side by side with Superman and Batman, superhero icons in their own right. With the release of Superman in 1978, superheroes emerged from the back shelves of dusty comic book stores and burst onto the mainstream. Today, half a dozen comic book films are released a year, with budgets reaching up to $300,000,000 and bringing in billions of dollars at the box office. Batman is on his second franchise reboot, as is Spiderman, while Superman is currently enjoying his third. Even second tier or little known comic book heroes such as The Hulk or Hellboy have managed to rack up a pair of sequels between them. Yet in spite of all this, Wonder Woman remains conspicuously absent. Where is Diana, princess of the Amazons?

Continually published since 1942, her popularity and place in pop culture can not be disputed, yet for all that she has achieved, Wonder Woman remains in that most hated of industry spaces: development hell. Created by William Moulton Marston in 1941, Wonder Woman has come to represent the best of the feminist movement. She is a strong, independent, and intelligent warrior of the Amazons; someone who fights for truth, justice, and peace. Wonder Woman is loyal, honest, and courageous, and seeks to improve the world of humans; leading by example as she teaches the values of her Amazon sisters.

Wonder Woman has allies, allegiances, villains, and some impressive gadgets in the form of an invisible airplane and bullet deflecting bracelets. Yet in spite of this treasure trove of rich material from which to draw inspiration, Hollywood claims to be unable to come up with a good script for the big screen. At this point, this is simply unacceptable. It is time for Wonder Woman to emerge out of the depths of development hell and take her rightful place on celluloid alongside her male counterparts. Whether it is studio indifference, sexual discrimination, or a simple but widespread case of writer’s block that is causing Wonder Woman’s delay, it is time for the excuses to stop. Superheros represent the very best of peoplekind; what we are capable of when we are held accountable to a higher cause. What better cause then to ensure that every superhero’s voice has equal opportunity to be heard?

( by Laura Moore)

I would add this… In a world that continues to be plagued by violence, economic hardship and environmental destruction, and a media landscape that continues to underrepresent women, particularly in empowering leadership roles, we need a GREAT Wonder Woman film in hopes that it could prove a turning point not only for media, but for our societies in general. We need superheros, but we desperately need female superheros. It is time to make the reasons for, the results of, and the solutions to gender inequality visible and actionable. The long term outcome will most certainly be a more just and equitable world for all.

Sending you all my best wishes for a great 2012 and beyond.

Jacki Zehner

* to read all my entries on Wonder Woman use the search function.

other articles/sites

Wonder Woman: The Missing Superhero EW.com

The History of the Universe as told by Wonder Woman - a documentary film in process

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c4U614Nv0ZU visual history of WW on YOUTUBE

A FACEBOOK group – Share the Wonder: The Marston Wonder Woman Message Project