Little girls should never look up to Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman is strong,determined, and remains undistracted by men; she knows her mind and fights for what she wants — that is the opposite of how we want young girls to think and act. Fredric Wertham also puts Wonder Woman in a small box — lesbian and violent; a violent lesbian. In his book, “Seduction of the Innocent,” he fails to acknowledge the importance of her character to not only young women, but also young men of the period; in the same fashion he ignores the way in which comics are not just an art form or a medium of literature, but also how they are able to describe the human experience, in all of its complexities, through the multiple personalities of its characters. But these two ideas are one same. Wonder Woman, a single woman encapsulated in three personalities, illustrates the constantly changing and developing mindset of young girls in this period. While Wertham suggests that Wonder Woman is a bad example for young children, she embodies the value of comics by illustrating the complexities of human behavior through her three personalities, otherwise understood as a maturing id, ego, and superego.
Wertham focuses mainly on the danger of Wonder Woman, giving little divergence to this idea unless he is mentioning her affinity for lesbianism. In his book, “The Seduction of Innocenc,” he mentions how “Superwoman (Wonder Woman) is always a horror type... While she is a frightening figure for boys, she is an undesirable ideal for girls, being the opposite of what girls are supposed to want to be” (Wertham, 34). Fredric Wertham puts forth an idea that
"“Wonder Woman” is an anti-men comic — a character boys fear and girls should fear to become. He ignores not only the positive message behind a woman in comics being more than a love interest but also the fact that during the 1940s, when “Wonder Woman” debuted, receiving the right to vote had been a relatively recent event for women. They were respected more and were being given new leading titles every day. Seeing a women in power in comic books was inspiring to young girls and helped make this site a cultural norm. Gloria Steinem, follows this thought pattern in her Wertham critique, concluding that,“Wonder Woman symbolizes many of the values of the women’s culture that feminists are now trying to introduce into mainstream: strength and self reliance for women; sisterhood and mutual support among women; peace and
fullness” (Steinem, 205). Wertham does Wonder Woman a gross discredit by subjecting her to simple terms, completely ignoring the depth to which she provides mental solace for young girls. Constantly interchanging between three different women, Wonder Woman is an example of the ever changing minds and personalities of young girls in the face of male opposition during this time period. Debuting only 20 years after women receive the right to vote, many are still uncomfortable with the idea of women in power. Looking at “Wonder Woman” psychoanalytically, one can see that her three personalities symbolize the id, ego, and superego of the transforming women of the 1940s.
Wonder Woman symbolizes the id. The id represents a human’s unconscious desires. The id tends to be seem as the more brutal, blunt, and caveman-like version of ourselves. For young girls in the 1940s, learning that it was O.K to aspire toward grand dreams was new for them. They were born into a newer generation of possibility, and learned along the way what to do with this new power. Similarly, when Princess Diana turns into Wonder Woman, she is given the opportunity to help a group of former slaves — other women who had fallen prey to another telling them what they could and could not do. The women do not know what to do with their freedom, and Wonder Woman muses that, “if girls want to be slaves there’s no harm in that. The bad thing for them is submitting to a master or to an evil mistress like Paula! A good mistress could do wonders with them” (Marston, 44). She has this new power as Wonder Woman, and seemingly suggests that the slaves would be better off in her care than Paula’s. She is confident in a way that she wasn’t fully before, almost unconsciously wanting to lead and rule over these women, which she believes would put them in a better situation. Similarly, girls of this time period were given new found responsibilities and with them came the power and desire to lead others.
Diana Prince is the opposite of Wonder Woman. Diana Prince is Wonder Woman’s “human-passing” form. She works in an office as a secretary — a stereotypical role for a woman. She listens for her male boss, and answers to his rule. This version of herself is the superego. The superego is an overbearing, exaggerated opposite of the id. It aims to keep the id in control by overcompensating in strictness. When being chided by her boss for losing papers, Diana Prince explains, “Why — Colonel! It’s gone from my desk — I thought you took it” (Moulton, 20). She has come far from the warrior princess we know her to be when she wears her costume. This version of herself coincides with the woman of the 1940s in the work place and around dominating men. Though the young women have this new found responsibility that is legally meant to be respected, they did not always garner that respect. And so some women came into themselves, shrinking still under alpha men, even though they had an alpha woman, a wonder woman, inside of them.
The ego balances the id and the ego, trying to find a way to be happy with the unconscious desires that are both met and not met, while still satisfying the need to keep those desires in check. Princess Diana, Wonder Woman’s true self, is the ego. She is neither a woman whose main purpose is to fight crime and use her strength, or a woman who easily falls under the guiding presence of a man. Princess Diana knows only what she wants, and that is to do good in her life — with regards to her mother, her friends, her people, and even a fallen man. When she is on a walk one day with a friend, she comes across a man for the first time in her life. Instead of running — which would have been reasonable considering she was taught all her life that men were evil — she immediately sought out to help him. When her friend warned against it, she said, “I will take him to my laboratory — that’s outside the city, and don’t tell mother!” (Marston, 10). She respected her city’s rules by not allowing the man within their walls, but also respected the life of her supposed enemy. Many women in this time balanced between wanting to take on new and daunting roles, and falling under the dominating supervision of the already established man. Young girls, however, grew up in this new world of footprint-less paths, and only knew that they wanted to be good, maybe even great. And that balanced the two other mind sets.
While Wertham suggests that Wonder Woman is a bad example for young children, she embodies the value of comics by illustrating the complexities of human behavior through her three personalities, otherwise understood as a maturing id, ego, and superego. Superhero comics are an exaggerated form of everything we as humans wish we could be — the strength, the wits, the mystery and the intrigue. The heroes we see are humanoid, meaning that they are modeled after ourselves, and from them, we see our own mental psyche — ripe for the understanding.