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March 22, 2011

Hey, If You Thought Wonder Woman Was Lamesauce Before, Wait 'Till You See What David "Ally McBeal" Kelley Has Planned For Her

A script leaked last month, and it's weak.

Wonder Woman has a sort of odd backstory: She is literally an Amazon from Greek myth, from a hidden Amazonian island called Themiscyra, and she literally was created from clay.

DC's always had a problem with pushing her as a property outside of the comics due to the weirdness of her kitchen-sink origin tale. The DC Animated Universe approach is to deal with this strangeness by simply embracing it, full on, and just committing to it. It actually sort of works. Weird, yeah, but once you accept it, it's no weirder than any other superhero origin story.

David Kelley's solution to all this seems to be making up other weird stuff to weigh the character down with. And then giving her a Carrie Bradshaw weeping-for-Mr. Big vibe.

The Daily Beast has obtained a copy of Kelley’s draft of the Wonder Woman pilot script, dated December 16, 2010—and it’s laughably bizarre. In Kelley’s vision, Wonder Woman is presented as a weepy career woman-slash-superheroine with three identities (Wonder Woman; Diana Themyscira, the chairman of Themyscira Industries; and mousy assistant Diana Prince) to juggle.

What? I can only imagine this is David Kelley's attempt to at some kind of psychographic cleverness, attempting to show the three sides of every woman -- like, who she is, who she wishes to be, and who she is in her dreams.

It's gotta be that. Because, if not that -- then why? The superhero secret identity is already dumb (but obligatory) but now you're going to compound that by giving her a third identity?

The pilot episode, which Kelley notes is designed to run “without commercial interruption,” revolves around Los Angeles-based mega-billionaire Diana—who collects planes and a multitude of transforming aircraft called “Ultimates” (no invisible plane in sight here)—as she attempts to take down an evil pharmaceutical company run by morally corrupt scientist Veronica Cale, who is mass-producing a human-growth hormone that is causing its users, mostly black inner city youth, to die. Along the way, she tackles criminals, a Senate subcommittee, and a broken heart, the latter courtesy of lost love Steve Trevor.

Okay, whatever. Apparently she just can't be a clerk in her everyday life because that's not feminist or something.

The writer ticks down the eight stupidest things about the script. Here are some lowlights:

The irritating conceit of Diana having three identities gets even more irksome when it appears that she has not one but two places of residence, including a poky West L.A. apartment.


Pages 26-28: One of the most gasp-inducing moments in the script is when Diana has a meeting about the “Asian Wonder Woman” doll that her company is about to go into production on. Yes, Wonder Woman admits to being uncomfortable with the doll’s ample anatomy, leading to a discussion of the size of her breasts and how people are let down when they see her in the flesh. But she seems to understand that the merchandise division helps pay for crime-fighting. “Big tits save lives!” she says, joking, I think. (Yes, read that bit again for good measure.) But the image-conscious Diana draws the line at a fat Wonder Woman. Har har. If you thought this laughable script was missing fat jokes, well, now you’ve got them.


But the worst has got to be the way Diana addresses the group, saying, “OK, class, we got ‘bidness.’”

Ah well, at least she didn't give some stemwinder speech in which she offers a bunch of Mary Sue liberal pieties.


Pages 38-47: In the script’s most painful sequence, Diana is subpoenaed by the Senate Judiciary Committee and forced to give testimony about the events in Hollywood. She ends up filibustering about everything under the sun for several pages: the politics of the LAPD (name checking ex-police chiefs Daryl Gates and William Bratton), the economy, stimulus funds, pharmaceutical companies, Roger Clemens, the FDA and the FCC, and how networks will air commercials about erectile dysfunction but not for condoms. It’s clearly meant to be a showcase scene for the actress playing Diana, a calculated bid at awards and social relevance. Congratulations, David E. Kelley, the transformation of Wonder Woman from superhero to personal mouthpiece is now complete. Adding further insult to injury: real-life California Senator Dianne Feinstein is described as giving Diana a thumbs-up.

I've said this about comic book properties before: They are what they are. Attempting to change them into something they're not results in both commercial failure and professional embarrassment.

As dopey as it was, the old Lynda Carter series seemed to understand the thing was what it was: a dopey power fantasy for girls, with a hero that punched out poachers, counterfeiters, bank robbers and spies.

Is this is the script they're going with: I can't wait. Seriously, I love watching grand spectacles of professional failure.

Bring it on, baby. Bring it on.

You Know... Once you've made the decision to basically re-write the whole character, why not go towards simplicity and plausibility, rather than making up new stuff that's even more implausible than the original story?

Real simple: A government-connected corporation like Rand has gone rogue and is creating female super-assassins on a private island. It's called Project AMAZON. Why only females? Because the gene therapy that makes super-assassins fatally damages the Y chromosome. So only women, with their XX, can survive the process. That's why.

Our heroine is an amnesiac due to Project AMAZON's mind-programming method of teaching. She can only remember bits and pieces of her life, and usually it's filtered through Greek mythological imagery, for some reason. Maybe because the codenames in the project were draw from Greek Mythology so when she thinks of the evil cad who tormented her to increase her resistance to pain she imagines Hades.

She escapes the island. Since she's programmed to do a bunch of spy-type things, she creates the alias "Diana Prince" and hacks it into US military records, assigning herself the position of clerk in a military base, where she figures she'll be safe.

Oh, she escapes with a pair of silver bracelets and a lariet whose function she doesn't understand. Later on she'll realize it's some kind of neural-cord that allows her to weaken and stun enemies (and compel them to tell the truth, but that's later, after people have accepted all this other craziness).

Later she'll steal a prototype partial invisibility stealth F-22.

There, done. Now she has flashbacks to her "Greek mythological" origins and kicks ass with all sorts of super-strength and super-agility and dresses up in the American flag when fighting evil. Plus there's an explanation for a series of female assassin villains for her to beat up.

Anyway, even though that's obviously not her actual origin story, it's simple, mostly.

Instead, David E. Kelley's making her CEO of Themiscyra Industries and giving her two, instead of the customary one, secret identities.

posted by Ace at 06:50 PM

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