By Kerensa Cadenas and Noel Kirkpatrick
Season 1, episode 6: “Wonder Woman vs. Gargantua”
Original airdate: Dec. 18, 1976
Noel: We’ve talked fairly extensively so far about Wonder Woman from the perspective of its representation of women and feminism and how it may or may not navigate the challenges of being set in the 1940s but attempting to espouse a 1970s perspective on women’s lib. But with “Wonder Woman vs. Gargantua” we get a decidedly different sort of episode, one that ties into the animal liberation movement that was also gaining a great deal of traction in the 1970s.
What’d you think of the episode as whole?
Kerensa: This episode was completely ridiculous. But I agree it definitely delved into looking at animal rights–and I would say some power structures in general. There were a couple moments that dealt with power imbalance that stood out for me in particular, but we can get to that later. But in general, I wasn’t a huge fan of this episode. It was kinda meh. Also, meh is Steve. I just don’t understand how he stands upright.
What did you think?
Noel: I’ve tried to avoid reading ahead about re: plot summaries for the episodes, and so when I saw this week’s title, I thought, “Hey, maybe they’re doing a Giganta riff. She doesn’t have to grow to the size of a building, but she could just be a super-strong circus woman — like she was initially in the comics — that the Nazis recruited, and that could be cool.” Giganta’s origins even involve apes, as she was actually an ape turned human! So a bit of me, through the entire episode, kept waiting for a mind swap between Erica and Gargantua so my comic book geeky brain would be satisfied.
Alas, it was not to be, and we ended up with the first time I felt that the show descended into a camp. I mean, it’s hard for the entire thing not to feel campy when you have Lynda Carter dressed up as Wonder Woman and then she’s wrestling with a guy in a gorilla outfit. The entire plot is very comics Golden Age-feeling, but while something that might’ve worked on the page, wasn’t something that was going to translate well to the small screen.
Tell me about these power structures.
Kerensa: Agreed entirely. It was so, so campy. The scene when Gargantua is sent into the apartment to get Steigler, I literally thought I was watching a B-movie. Also, I was pretty into the location descriptions in this episode: “deserted oil refinery,” “waterfront warehouse,” “that following day in Africa.”
So, the main thing that stood out to me, was the interaction between Erica and those two annoying Nazi dudes who kept giving her shit. I mean it is completely the same dynamic that we’ve seen between the woman “mastermind” and the crony dudes. I feel like all our Nazi ladies have to come up with some sort of insane plan in order to retain or gain any power at all and they ultimately end up being plans that fail. And usually when the plan is first told, the dudes laugh and laugh about it–like Erica’s plan to use Gargantua to destroy Wonder Woman. Then the plan is never successful and obviously any shred of power these women had they probably don’t have anymore. I mean I guess this has always been really obvious–but for whatever reason watching this episode made me feel really sad about it. Basically that these women can never win.
However, in the context of the show that’s the point as Diana would say because fascism is a system that will always fail women because it doesn’t give a shit about women. But you can obviously make the same argument for democracy, while it’s not as blatant as the Nazi interactions–Steve’s continual undermining comments to Diana and Etta as well serve the same purpose.
Am I reaching here?
Noel: I very much do see where you’re coming from, but I sort of disagree with you in what could be a very minor way…
Yes, these Nazi ladies do come up with brilliant plans that they have to fight tooth and nail to implement, Fausta and Erica being the prime examples. But here, I feel like Erica sort of overreaches. Yes, she’s trained Gargantua to destroy Wonder Woman, but those weren’t her orders, so she sort of went off the reservation a bit. It’s hubris that brings her down. Kind of.
I think the other thing that thwarts them, both Erica and Fausta, is Wonder Woman’s message, though. It’s compassion that wins the day against Erica, turning Gargantua against her. (Fausta is undone by a combination of the dynamics she’s experiencing and Wonder Woman’s feminist message.) So, can we have a Nazi woman win in this show, given the genre trappings? I mean, we can argue that Fausta wins by leaving the Third Reich, but there’s not much chance of another one winning, as you note within the context of the show.
So I think we get stuck in this conflict between powerful women in the Third Reich being undone by a bit of compassionate feminism that’s wrapped up some strains of nationalism….Yes? No?
Kerensa: Yes. I think that you are pretty spot in that. And yeah again in the context of the show we will never get a Nazi lady win.
Anything of other intellectual value that you found in this episode?
Noel: Not really. I was pleased to see Robert Loggia (Hans) and Herb Voland (Dr. Osmond). Two excellent character actors. Gretchen Corbett from Rockford Files played Erica, so a nicely populated episode.
What did you think about Carter here? I think this is the first time her earnestness didn’t serve the episode well.
Kerensa: Agree entirely re: Carter’s earnestness. That one scene where she basically gives Gargantua that weird earnest look and he melts.
Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. My obvious philosophical thoughts. Anything else you liked about the episode? Didn’t like?
Noel: No, I think that’s about all I may have to say about this particular episode. You?
Kerensa: My closing thought is that Etta seemed to be hitting on Steve majorly in this episode. OTP?
Noel: Gosh, I hope not. I’d hate to start hating Etta because she’s getting in the way of my Steve/Blankenship ‘shipping.