Saucy story behind Wonder Woman


A scene from the film

Director-screenwriter: Angela Robinson
Cast: Luke Evans, Rebecca Hall, Bella Heathcote, Connie Britton, Monica Giordano, JJ Feild, Chris Conroy, Alexia Havins, Oliver Platt
Running time: 108 minutes
Release date: October 13, 2017
Rating: R (for strong sexual content including brief graphic images, and language)

By Dilanka Gamlath

"She is an Amazon princess who lives on an island of old women."

"Paradise island."

"And a man crash lands on the island."

"Steve Trevor, the spy."

"And she wears a burlesque outfit."

"Well, it’s athletic."

"And silver bracelets."

"They deflect bullets."

"And all her friends and helpers are sorority girls who have spanking parties and everybody fights Nazis and rides in an invisible plane."

And that pretty much sums up Wonder Woman. The conversation is a clipped transcript from Professor Marston and the Wonder Women’s latest trailer. Did you know the esteemed psychologist, William Multon Marston, the inventor of the lie detector test and the creator of the Wonder Woman comics is one and the same? Well, he is and there is a lot more to this inventor-academic’s enigmatic life.

The release could not be better timed, with Wonder Woman, released back in June 2, 2017 and Alyson Tabbitha and our own Amaya Suriyapperuma garnering international repute for cosplaying the Amazonian beauty. But the true story is inspired by something entirely different; sexual liberalism.


As the poster quite provocatively puts it the movie, due to be released on October 13, is the true story of the ‘women behind the man behind the woman’. In a nutshell, it’s the story of Marston and the polyamorous relationship between him, his wife and their mistress and the controversy surrounding the creation of the beloved comic book character Wonder Woman.

Harvard psychologist and inventor Marston was in a polyamorous relationship with his wife and fellow psychologist Elizabeth Holloway Marston, and former student Olive Byrne, who went on to become an academic herself. As the story goes this relationship was instrumental in creating the character of the Amazonian superhero, Wonder Woman.

Marston combined his wife Elizabeth's and their lover Olive's feminist ideals to create Wonder Woman in 1941 under the pen name ‘Charles Moulton’, in the hope of creating a superhero character young girls could look up to. Marston died of skin cancer in 1947, but Elizabeth and Olive remained a couple raising their children together. Marston’s lifestyle was considered perverse and his progressive comic book that portrayed a woman ‘running around in a bathing suit’ was initially met with much negative criticism.

Although the nature of their relationship has been the subject of debate, this is the version on which the movie is based on. Director, Angela Robinson in an interview with Vulture admits that the three-way love affair storyline was based partly on research and partly on her interpretation of historical records.

Critical acclaim

The movie has received critical acclaim for its progressive portrayal of sexuality. Haleigh Foutch in his review of the latest trailer in Collider says that Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman was just the dose of positivity needed in 2017 and Professor Marston highlights the downplayed radical origins of a story that continues to inspire 75 years later.

In this sense, perhaps the two movies mutually benefit each other. After all Wonder Woman is the all-time highest-grossing movie directed by a woman. Perhaps the interest in the comic, newly revived by Wonder Woman the movie, will pique the interest of movie goers to delve deeper into the true story that inspired the comic icon.


Robinson in her Vulture interview revealed that, in the movie she discusses how Marston’s misogyny is embedded within his feminism. She also delves on the inequality between men and women in focusing on how Elizabeth and Marston are not playing on a level playing field.

Vince Mancini in his article titled ‘‘Professor Marston And The Wonder Women’ uses the safe biopic playbook to do something dangerous’ in Up Roxx, points out that Robinson has taken the artistically safest, the most tried-and-true format, what he refers to as the prestige biopic, to tell a story that’s anything but…prestigious.

Olive Byrne is the daughter of radical feminist Ethel Byrne who opened the first birth control clinic, with her sister Margaret Sanger. Olive was abandoned by her mother when she was a child. Ironically, one of the women who were the inspiration for Wonder Woman was a shy virgin. Doubly ironic is the fact that even a pioneer in feminism like Ethel Byrne is forced to abandon her child and, therefore, become morally flawed. The people in the movie have been instrumental in bringing about change. But, Robinson also makes no attempt to glorify their legacy, exposing them for the flawed people they are.

A movie about a three-way love affair between two lesbians and a man or two professors and a student maybe deemed unethical on moral grounds. But, the ingenuity of the biopic is such that, with its costumes, music, and attractive cast, the audience find themselves rooting for the three-way love story.


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