SU­PER POWER

FOUR DECADES AF­TER HER ICONIC POR­TRAYAL OF WON­DER WO­MAN GRACED TELE­VI­SION SCREENS, LYNDA CARTER IS STILL STOPPED BY FANS ON THE STREET

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - By WENDY TUOHY

Won­der Wo­man’s Lynda Carter re­mains as pop­u­lar as her al­ter ego.

Some­times, peo­ple want to stop Lynda Carter in the street, or at the air­port, or in a hos­pi­tal cor­ri­dor to hug her. And they do. She has had to get used to that.

Carter only played the ar­che­typal fe­male jus­tice fighter Won­der Wo­man for three sea­sons, but nearly four decades later the still-gor­geous actor, jazz singer and fem­i­nist re­mains the “Elvis” of fe­male power icons to her fans.

“It’s al­ways a sur­prise to me how en­dur­ing the char­ac­ter has been, and I’m con­stantly amazed when I go through an air­port or some­thing and some­one will stop me. I was just at the hos­pi­tal with a fam­ily mem­ber and peo­ple would stop and say they just wanted to hug me,” Carter says, sound­ing not un­like her old Ama­zo­nian princess al­ter ego on a good phone line from New York.

“It re­ally is touch­ing, [ Won­der Wo­man rep­re­sents] some en­dur­ing place where fans feel con­nected and safe – and want­ing to hug me. How cool is that?”

The 65-year-old is reg­u­larly stopped, too, by peo­ple just want­ing to tell her how the char­ac­ter’s strength made them feel. Women tell her that Won­der Wo­man, with her bul­let­proof power bracelets and golden lasso of truth, did them a world of good at a time when they were strug­gling in their youth.

Men tell her how they fan­ta­sised about her or had her pic­ture on the wall of their room, or “their bath­room”… but she’s not quite as keen to hear about that.

“There’s some kind of phe­nom­e­non that’s part of the [last­ing] ap­peal,” Carter says of the char­ac­ter she played in the orig­i­nal TV se­ries from 1975 to 1979.

“There have been times when I think I’ve fig­ured it out, then some­thing comes along to stun me that some­one has said [about the im­pact of the char­ac­ter]. I re­ally do en­joy to this day hear­ing peo­ple’s sto­ries.”

Carter hit head­lines again late last year when she was asked to rep­re­sent Won­der Wo­man – along with Gal Gadot, the star of the up­com­ing movie re­boot – as an hon­orary am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions. It was in­tended as a sym­bol of fe­male em­pow­er­ment and “to fight for gen­der equal­ity”. Hardly con­tro­ver­sial, you may have thought? Well, think again.

The ap­point­ment of an an­i­mated char­ac­ter was re­garded as in­sult­ing by the 44,000 peo­ple who signed a pe­ti­tion stat­ing the fic­tional Won­der Wo­man could not rep­re­sent all women as she was “overtly sex­u­alised”.

The protesters, many of them UN staff, wrote that Won­der Wo­man’s “shim­mery, thigh-bar­ing body­suit with an Amer­i­can flag mo­tif and knee-high boots” meant us­ing her as a global role model was also cul­tur­ally in­sen­si­tive in many parts of the world.

The feisty cus­to­dian of Diana Prince’s fine pins wasn’t im­pressed. “It’s such BS,” she tells Stel­lar of the de­ci­sion to with­draw Won­der Wo­man as an am­bas­sador. “I think [the protest] was more about them not pick­ing a wo­man to run the UN; it was more about that than about a fic­tional char­ac­ter.”

She finds the claim that non-white women may have felt ex­cluded from the em­pow­er­ment mes­sage Won­der Wo­man was in­tended to spread as

“IT’S THE UL­TI­MATE SEX­ISM TO SAY AS SHE HAS BIG BREASTS AND A COS­TUME ON, THAT’S WHAT REP­RE­SENTS HER”

ridicu­lous, be­cause, “I’m half His­panic and the other girl [Gadot] is Is­raeli.”

Carter’s mother, Juanita Cór­dova, had Mexican, Span­ish and French an­ces­try and her fa­ther, Colby Carter, is of EnglishS­cot­tish and Ir­ish de­scent. Carter was born in Ari­zona in 1951 (a decade af­ter the Won­der Wo­man char­ac­ter first ap­peared in comic book form), and started pur­su­ing singing while in high school. Carter also won Miss World USA in 1972, rep­re­sent­ing Ari­zona.

Though she was voted the most beau­ti­ful wo­man in the world in 1978 by a beauty in­dus­try and press panel, Carter is be­mused by the crit­i­cal fo­cus on Won­der Wo­man’s looks. She par­tic­u­larly ob­jects to the fact Won­der Wo­man, as em­bod­ied by her, was knocked back by the UN protesters be­cause she had “big breasts”. “Well, ex­cuse me, women have breasts!” is her heated re­sponse.

“Su­per­man has got a big pouch in his crotch, so does Spi­der-man and Green Lantern and their mus­cles are bulging – no one has a prob­lem with that,” says Carter, a mother of two adult chil­dren.

“If they have a prob­lem with a fe­male who is strong, they’re miss­ing the en­tire point; it’s the ul­ti­mate sex­ism to say be­cause she has big breasts and a cos­tume on, that is what you think rep­re­sents her and who she is.

“Women do have breasts and women can de­fend them­selves and fight back. Won­der Wo­man is about telling the truth.”

Though Won­der Wo­man is also about strength, courage and in­tegrity – and those are the things view­ers of a cer­tain gen­er­a­tion re­mem­ber about her (other than the rad boots) – the char­ac­ter’s body is still some­thing of an ob­ses­sion in pop-cul­ture land, too.

When it was an­nounced by Warner Bros. that Won­der Wo­man would star in a new solo movie, fan fo­rums went into over­drive spec­u­lat­ing who could or couldn’t cut it phys­i­cally in the ti­tle role. Carter’s ’70s image is still fetishised by some, some­thing she has not al­ways been com­fort­able with.

“I never thought a pic­ture of my body would be tacked up in men’s bath­rooms. I hate men look­ing at me and think­ing what they think. I know what they think; they write and tell me,” she has said.

A self-de­clared “fem­i­nist be­fore I knew what a fem­i­nist was”, she raised her chil­dren, James, 29, and Jes­sica, 26, with gen­der equal­ity as a fo­cus. “I think it’s so im­por­tant our voices unite and that we teach our sons as well as our daugh­ters the lan­guage of strength and of sol­i­dar­ity and right from wrong,” she says.

Carter was a vo­cal sup­porter of her friend Hil­lary Clin­ton’s pres­i­den­tial run – she and her hus­band of 32 years, Washington lawyer and me­dia CEO Robert Alt­man, have known the Clin­tons since the ’80s – and pub­licly en­dorsed her. She has also spo­ken out in favour of the le­gal­i­sa­tion of same-sex mar­riage and in de­fence of women’s re­pro­duc­tive rights.

“I have been speak­ing out all my life; I’m sure I was speak­ing out be­fore I ever got the part,” she says. “I was a prod­uct of the baby boom; when all the men went off to war, our moth­ers went to work and they re­alised, ‘We can do all these jobs,’ and Pan­dora’s box opened.

“They tried to put the ge­nie back in the bot­tle, but women said, ‘Wait a sec, we can do this, he-lloooo!’ They told their daugh­ters, ‘Go out there, you can do it, you can do so many things.’”

The many things Carter is still en­gaged with pro­fes­sion­ally in­clude a new Mother’s Day cam­paign for Aus­tralian sleep­wear tsar Peter Alexan­der. Shot along­side daugh­ter Jes­sica in New York, it sees the two pose side-by-side in flan­nelette PJS, vel­vet robes and knit­ted loungewear as a way of cel­e­brat­ing the unique bond be­tween the two women. Carter also still tours with her 10-piece jazz out­fit, is record­ing a new al­bum in Nashville and does voiceover work on video games, in­clud­ing Fall­out 4 – the 2016 game of the year – for which she also wrote five songs.

On top of this she re­mains po­lit­i­cally en­gaged, and ad­mits to be­ing at a loss for words when Clin­ton lost the US elec­tion to Don­ald Trump last Novem­ber.

“It was stun­ning, I have to say, there’s no other way to say it. It was stun­ning to more than half of us. I don’t even know what to say ex­cept I love Aus­tralia, and the prime min­is­ter and for­eign min­is­ter are fan­tas­tic, and we love Aus­tralia!”

Her po­lit­i­cal views some­times at­tract ag­gres­sion on her Face­book page, but in a style that her old char­ac­ter would ap­prove of, she says she con­fronts her de­trac­tors head on, rather than al­low­ing them to “spew hate” un­chal­lenged.

“I warn peo­ple that ev­ery­body needs to own who they are, I don’t just ban them if they are spew­ing hate lan­guage or call­ing women names, I say their name. I just say, ‘No, no, no, your friends need to know who you are’ – I out them and I think all celebs should.”

You might say Lynda Carter never quite lost her al­ter ego’s golden lasso of truth.

“I HAVE BEEN SPEAK­ING OUT ALL MY LIFE; I’M SURE I WAS SPEAK­ING OUT BE­FORE I EVER GOT THE PART”

DREAM TEAM Carter and daugh­ter Jes­sica in Peter Alexan­der’s Mother’s Day cam­paign, with the line in stores now.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.