One of my daughters once played the part of Wonder Woman in a humorous skit put on by our church youth group. This same daughter got on well with the popular girls in her middle school, and she relayed to me a revealing conversation she had with a couple of them. The word they used was “horrible” when they described the pressure of keeping up the right appearance – pressure to have their hair just right, their clothes just right, their conversation just right, their facial expressions, their skin… I think you get the idea.
You might wonder why I would choose this as a way to begin a post about the depiction of Wonder Woman by Adam Hughes. I think this will become evident later. Let me first say that I in no way mean to denigrate the work of this very talented illustrator. Here, for example, is his rendition of the first Wonder Woman cover ever done:
This is obviously clever and well executed, as are the following:
Here is a self portrait of the man himself.
In regard to my first paragraph, some of his images somehow strike me as glossier and perhaps more sexually overt than the work of Alex Ross. I won’t go so far as to call them objectionable because I respect the skill and imagination of the artist, and I like his work. But they do remind me more of the cultural stereotypes to which women are often pressured to conform in modern society.
By the way, and for those of you who were not aware, adherence to modern standards of appearance places a considerable amount of pressure on men to measure up as well. Stereotypes of attractiveness for men and women often distort the expectations of both sexes. This can have the effect of erecting barriers to healthier relationships, and I describe our current situation as isolation within association. We as individuals can choose to adopt more natural social standards that leave us and others feeling less threatened.
Without walking into the minefield of what is or is not appropriate when it comes to clothing, let me say that I do not criticize women who choose to conform to modern standards of appearance as long as this is what they genuinely like to do. Nothing else should be read into them at first glance. Rather, people should make the effort to get to know one another and to be more accepting. Reputations, good or bad, should be earned rather than conferred on the basis of surface impressions.
As a type of footnote to what I have said this week, consider the Venus de Milo:
For millenia, this was a standard for feminine beauty in western culture. I think a good many women resemble this sculpture in one way or another while feeling negatively self-conscious about how they look. I think we need to expand our definitions of beauty.