Culturally appropriating Wonder Woman


Some time ago I blogged about how the communist China censors the Hollywood blockbusters we see, or rather how Hollywood preemptively censors itself in order to gain access to an already significant and growing movie market in the Middle Kingdom. But it’s not just China, although China is the most blatant and worrying example. The rest of the world doesn’t particularly like “America” – which is fortuitous because Hollywood doesn’t like “America” either – and so what otherwise would have been a typical American cultural product bemoaned by the left worldwide as “American cultural imperialism” and an attempt to drown the world with American trash is now routinely sanitised to appeal the international movie market. American movies are being de-Americanised to make them safe for international consumption.

“Wonder Woman” seems to be the latest example of the trend.

As Maureen Callahan writes in “The New York Post”:

Wonder Woman was born during World War II, created by American psychologist William Moulton Marston, and her debut on the cover of DC’s Sensation Comics in 1942 depicted her in red, white and blue, storming into battle. She’d left her home, Paradise Island, to fight the Nazis in “America, the last citadel of democracy and of equal rights for women!”

This new Wonder Woman, however, has almost nothing to do with America. The film is set during World War I, in London. Steve Trevor, the pilot Wonder Woman rescues and falls for, is American in name only — here, he’s working for British intelligence.Most tellingly, Wonder Woman’s iconic costume has been leached of all color. The bald eagle on her chest, the white stars on her blue bottom, the red-and-white striped boots — all have disappeared. She’s no longer vibrant and strong; she’s sad, a pacifist whose armor resembles mourning attire.

It seems that Wonder Woman, an American pop cultural icon and part of the great American folklore, has been culturally appropriated by the bland, limp wristed, progressive global culture. Hollywood has taken a quintessential American female comic book superhero and wrung every ounce of distinctiveness out of her. What’s left is basically the name; the rest is a blank slate to write a new narrative over it. Wonder Woman is a female Jason Bourne, waking up with a cultural amnesia of who she really is, and this time it’s not the CIA who’s done it.

It is not just that Hollywood doesn’t like “America” – and by that I mean the melange of political, economic and cultural values that in the past made the United States so distinctive (patriotism, religiosity, belief in freedom and enterprise, global leadership, etc.) – and it’s not just that the rest of the world increasingly – or at least increasingly openly – doesn’t like that America either. There is another confluence of interests – commercial and cultural – at play here. I wrote about the former before when discussing Hollywood’s self-censorship:

Some could say this is merely capitalism pure and simple – Hollywood, like any other business, is chasing the might dollar wherever it can find it, and does what it needs to do to catch that dollar. This is true, as far as it goes, though Hollywood doesn’t seem to care too much about maximising its profits when it consistently, year after year, produces output that in all sorts of subtle and not subtle at all ways ridicules and denigrates about half of its own domestic audience – the half that isn’t as cosmopolitan and sophisticated as the coastal elites, and which votes Republican, goes to the church, and believes in an old-fashioned patriotism and other American values.

It is rather dispiriting then that Hollywood finds it easier and more appealing to pander to the communist Chinese government that it does to large parts of its potential domestic audience.

The latter part – the cultural aspect – is the pervasive SJW conceit of making the whole society walk on eggshells to try not to offend anyone about anything (except, as I mentioned above, half of your own domestic market). Thus, as Maureen Callahan also notes:

Among the most important markets is Germany, which is responsible for nearly 30 percent of foreign revenue. Still sensitive about World War II and its Nazi past, German audiences brook little discomfort, and this new “Wonder Woman” is hardly the first to concede.

“The Imitation Game,” the Oscar-winning 2014 biopic of Alan Turing, the British genius who cracked Nazi codes, was swiftly rebranded. “We toned down the hero aspect and sold it as an emotional drama,” the head of marketing said. As for the film’s raison d’etre, “We toned down the whole World War II backdrop.”

Same with “Lone Survivor,” the 2013 film based on a real-life Navy SEAL’s escape from Taliban forces. “In Europe we toned down the patriotism and made it into a thinking man’s film,” said the head of Germany’s SquareOne Entertainment, which specializes in such re-branding. “It was more nuanced than the US campaign.”

In his recent GQ cover story, Brad Pitt implied that his WWII drama “Allied” underwent similar repositioning last year, and the larger implications concerned him. “The European posters had the American flag in the background and it came back from the marketing department: ‘Remove the flag. It’s not a good sell here.’ I was like, Man, that’s America. That’s what we’ve done to our brand.”

“Don’t mention the war” is not merely an old “Fawlty Towers” joke anymore; it’s now an unofficial creative policy in Hollywood. We’re not removing just the Confederate flags, we’re also now removing the American flags. Pretty soon we won’t know who the Union fought in the Civil War, lest any mentions of the Confederacy trigger someone; the same in World War Two, because we won’t want to offend the German and the Japanese audiences; and further down the track, the War on Terror, because by that stage it will be well and truly Islamophobic to mention what had actually happened. Cultural self-loathing meets snowflake culture meets international anti-Americanism.

It is rather ironic to ponder again the decades-long global moral panic about the pernicious influence of American cultural exports, all the loud wailing and gnashing the teeth about how local cultures are swamped by American junk, how the world is getting culturally homogenised – McWorld – to the lowest common denominator (the American one, of course), how the United States is using the inherent appeal of its popular culture to brainwash the global masses into accepting its Christian-capitalistic-imperialistic creed; America as the Great Satan, tempting the good people of the world.

The reverse now seems to be true: Hollywood is conspiring with the rest of the world to make America just like the rest of the world. How sad.