Angela Robinson, an out lesbian whose credits include TV’s The L Word, brings this mesmerizing biographical drama to the big screen. Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is now playing at a multiplex near you.
As the film opens, it’s 1945, around five years since Wonder Woman made her debut on the pages of comic books. Good, God-fearing Americans are burning piles of WW comic books in bonfires while Dr. William Moulton Marston, who created the character, fights with the Legion of Decency. His creation is considered “obscene.”
The story then flashes back to 1928, where Marston and his feminist wife, Elizabeth, enter into a polyamorous (three-way) romantic relationship with Olive Byrne, a student of Marston’s. The film follows them over the years into the 1940s, during which time the details of their relationship are revealed.
For a time they experiment with BDSM, and a leather outfit worn by Olive serves as the inspiration for Wonder Woman’s costume. The trio moves to a suburban neighborhood, where both women have children with Marston. Out of necessity, Olive is introduced to the neighbors as Elizabeth’s widowed sister. This charade eventually becomes Wonder Woman’s secret identity. The two women make love to each other, which leads to lesbian undertones in the comic book.
Is it any wonder that the Legion of Decency was horrified by Wonder Woman during the more repressive 1940s?
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is a superb film, a fascinating look back at a time which was very different from our own. It’s a true-life portrait of three very passionate, sensual people who could not bow to the conservative values of their era. In following their hearts, they created a legend, a role model for young girls. Boys had Superman and Batman, and now girls had Wonder Woman, a powerful female who dominated men and who walked to the beat of her own drum.
Director Robinson takes viewers back on a journey to the past as she beautifully evokes the 1920s, ’30s, and 40s. It’s a haunting trip through time.
The cast is superb. Luke Evans commands the screen as Marston, a most unusual man who loved women, was willing to take a back seat to them, and also to learn what they could teach him. But it’s Bella Heathcoate who steals the show as Olive Byrne, a somewhat naive young woman who finds herself drawn into the strange world of the Marstons, a world which both frightens and fascinates her. Heathcoate plays both of these emotions brilliantly.
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is one of the year’s best films. Thanks in part to this movie the rumors about Wonder Woman’s status as a lesbian and bisexual icon are finally proven true.