Season 1, episodes 4 and 5: “The Feminum Mystique” Parts 1 and 2
Original airdates: Nov. 6 and Nov. 8, 1976
Naveen: What’s your take on this episode, Kerensa? The episode from the previous week was quite disappointing, but I believe the show managed to redeem itself with these two episodes.
These episodes delivered action and humour.
Although I found some aspects of the second part rather frustrating from a superhero perspective, I, on the whole, thoroughly enjoyed this pair of episodes.
I need to quickly correct my previous statement where I mentioned that Barbara Avedon and Barbara Corday co-wrote this episode.
In reality, they contributed to the storyline, and it was Jimmy Sangster, an experienced writer from the early days of Hammer Film Productions, who wrote the actual teleplay.
I was misinformed by Wikipedia. damn you, Wikipedia!
Nikita: I thoroughly enjoyed it. However, I did find the conclusion of the second episode a bit slow for my taste.
To be honest, I felt that anything would be an improvement over last week’s episode. Nevertheless, I truly appreciated gaining a deeper understanding of Paradise Island (we miss you, Cloris).
The dynamic between Diana and Steve is becoming less frustrating for me, which is a welcome development. And the amount of twirling was remarkable! I took a sip every time there was a twirl, and it was fantastic.
Now, let’s dive into the most significant plot point of this episode—the introduction of Diana’s sister, Drusilla. What were your thoughts about her?
Naveen: Well, the comic enthusiast in me couldn’t help but be a bit irked that she was named Drusilla when Wonder Woman’s sister is supposed to be named Donna.
But, honestly, that’s just a minor nitpick. I genuinely enjoyed Drusilla and Debra Winger’s performance, which marked her first major role, as evident from the ‘Introducing’ credit she received.
There’s an innocence to the character, and Winger’s portrayal infuses the episode with a lot of light-heartedness.
Her love for ice cream, her desire to fit in with the other teenagers, and her child-like curiosity when interacting with Blankenship all bring a breath of fresh air (not to mention her questions, which still carry an Amazonian and feminist undertone, but we can discuss that further), and they’re genuinely amusing.
Moreover, the natural chemistry between her and Carter makes them feel like sisters, despite this being our first introduction to her.
What were your impressions of her? Did you join me in taking a sip when she twirled, or perhaps just half a sip?
Nikita: The chemistry between Winger and Carter was truly remarkable; they had fantastic on-screen rapport. I thoroughly enjoyed Drusilla—her innocence was absolutely endearing.
The whole ‘teenager’ aspect of the episode was a real highlight for me (because, of course).
I appreciated Drusilla because I felt it offered a glimpse into what Diana might have been like before becoming Wonder Woman, almost like her origin story.
Seeing Diana’s world through Drusilla’s perspective was intriguing, as I believe it, in some ways, mirrors the audience’s viewpoint, especially regarding relationships with men.
And, yes, I definitely took a sip every time she twirled. It’s a given. I’m really hoping to see her return in future episodes.
Now, let’s discuss Drusilla and her attitude towards men in comparison to Diana’s, especially in the context of Peter Knight using his ‘masculine charms’ to obtain information from her.
By the way, Peter Knight was undeniably attractive. It’s a bit of a peculiar feeling, isn’t it?
Naveen: This isn’t premature at all. How do you personally perceive this contrast?
Drusilla does come across as more assertive and willing to employ her beauty and charm to achieve her goals (remember the line, ‘There are still three flavors I haven’t tried yet!’), but she still retains an element of naiveté.
Diana, on the other hand, is decidedly different in those aspects, but it’s important to note that she’s also older.
Or am I misinterpreting the situation?
Nikita: No, not at all.
I believe you’ve hit the nail on the head with that assessment. I actually appreciate Drusilla’s more upfront and assertive approach to her feelings.
While we are well aware of Diana’s affection for Steve, she tends to keep her emotions to herself, which is undoubtedly influenced by the complexities of secret identities and her upbringing on Paradise Island.
However, it would be refreshing to see her be more open about her feelings.
And, as you mentioned, her older age plays a significant role in this dynamic.
Regarding Diana and Drusilla representing different waves of feminism, I’d say yes to that.
What else did you find appealing about the episode? I’m also curious to hear about any specific superhero-related issues you had with the second half.
Naveen: I appreciate that Drusilla wasn’t entirely conscious of how her feelings operated and often spoke impulsively (I couldn’t help but laugh at the ‘I shot one of those [a stag] once.
With my crossbow.’ moment, Kerensa). It seemed like she wanted to gain attention from boys but wasn’t entirely sure how to go about it. It appeared to be more a reflection of her teenage years rather than her Amazon background.
And I must say, one can’t help but question the depiction of boys in the 1940s as presented in the show.
How does a young girl in a barely-there Amazon gown lose to another young girl in a baggy sweater, a long skirt, and saddle shoes? I call foul play!
I’m intrigued by the idea of different emerging waves of feminism and where we might place Diana and Drusilla within them.
It could be beneficial to explore this concept further because Diana’s thoughts on men (‘They’re like children, they’re like gods, they’re like geniuses, and fools. They are all things.’) warrant discussion.
Additionally, I thought about how Drusilla questioned Blankenship about the reasons for the war. He insisted it should be obvious to anyone, but Drusilla (and perhaps Hippolyta as well) doesn’t conform to or agree with this hegemonic thinking, presenting a distinctly different perspective—one that Diana seems to have partially internalized in her conflict with the Nazis.
Nikita: I completely agree. The remark about shooting the stag was a real comedic highlight. It’s quite amusing.
And you’re absolutely right. She’s wandering around in that flimsy dress, and yet some of those guys are oblivious to her. However, she did get plenty of offers to buy her soda.
In terms of feminism and how they align with different waves, I can see Drusilla as more of a representation of the 3rd wave, while Diana embodies the 2nd wave.
Drusilla’s inquiry to Blankenship about the war, and the way she and Hippolyta might approach making changes, seem to be more alternative and non-institutionalized methods.
On the other hand, Diana takes an entirely different approach by working within the established structure. She essentially explains this when discussing her secret identities.
Drusilla’s response, ‘You work for a man? He tells you what to do and you do it?’ is quite telling and reflects the contrasting political ideologies between them.
However, we didn’t see much of Diana on Paradise Island, so it’s possible that her experiences in America have shaped her perspective and methods of activism.
Naveen: Now, let’s delve into the book we’ve been immersed in, Elana Levine’s ‘Wallowing in Sex,’ for some insights. Levine examines Diana and Drusilla’s perspectives on men and their respective reactions.
Allow me to cite a relevant passage from page 142:
“Although Diana and Drusilla were raised to distrust men and their difference from women, one of the lessons Diana learns from her work in the United States is that men’s sexual difference is not all bad. In fact, she learns that men’s difference from women is what makes them such fascinating and likeable creatures. In Wonder Woman, sexual difference is kept from being the kind of lesbian separatist difference espoused by some cultural feminists through its links to heterosexuality. While Wonder Woman values women for their essential femaleness, she also learns to value (at least some) men for their essential maleness, a celebration of sexual difference more in keeping with anti-feminist than with cultural or “difference” feminists.”
Nikita: There’s much to unpack here (employing some humor typical of graduate school discussions).
I partially concur with Levine, especially when she later delves into how these ‘sexual differences’ in men are often attributed solely to the individual rather than recognizing the larger influence of the immediate patriarchy as the catalyst for these ‘differences.’
What piqued my interest was Diana’s constant critique of the negative impact of the Nazi regime on women (an obvious point), yet she seems to overlook the inherent issues within the democratic process and how it adversely affects women as well.
The moment you brought up, with Drusilla challenging Blankenship, is the antithesis of Diana’s stance; it questions a political process that Diana fervently supports but can’t critically scrutinize.
As for that quote from Diana about men being akin to gods, I couldn’t help but groan. What are your thoughts on this quote?
Naveen: So, could it be that Diana’s attraction to Steve has somewhat clouded her judgment?
One could argue that a similar situation might be unfolding with Drusilla, even if she’s primarily using the boys as an excuse to indulge in as much ice cream as she can (which is entirely understandable).
It brings to mind the fact that Hippolyta believes they can reason with the Nazis, but Diana firmly disagrees, taking a notably aggressive stance to repel them, a departure from the rest of the Amazons’ behavior (some of whom were playing jacks – yes, jacks! – while on guard duty).
Diana seems to see some merit in utilizing that ‘masculine destructiveness’ she mentioned to Fausta a few episodes back.
I’m not entirely convinced that Diana is incapable of critical thinking, but she simply hasn’t engaged in it yet.
Part of me wonders if this conveniently aligns with the 1940s setting, where the Nazis pose a far more severe threat compared to the inequalities occurring in the U.S.
By extension, Diana appears more focused on safeguarding the lesser of two evils, for lack of a better phrase, and at least an evil that offers some potential for change through the democratic process, even if it might take a considerable amount of time.
I didn’t react with a groan as much as I saw it as fitting for a woman who has had no prior experience with men, recognizes her own superiority, yet still finds herself enticed by them.
It has elements of both maternalism and nostalgia. Do you believe it undermines Diana’s message of sisterhood and female strength…?
Nikita: I believe it has indeed influenced her. Although, personally, I don’t quite grasp the allure of Steve Trevor.
Yes, I do think that the influence of ‘masculine destructiveness’ may have left a mark on Diana, particularly in the context of the Nazi attack.
It’s intriguing to ponder how this will continue to mold Diana’s views on the U.S. and men, and whether it will alter her interactions with the other women, should we return to Paradise Island in the future.
Your point about the 1940s setting is a compelling one. I’m genuinely curious to see if, in later seasons when the show shifts to the 1970s timeframe, it will address the issues of that era.
I agree that Diana’s attraction to Steve or men, in general, doesn’t weaken her message. Her response to Etta, when she remarks, ‘You aren’t a man,’ and Diana replies, ‘I’ve always been very happy about that,’ firmly reinforces her stance.
It feels oversimplified to attribute any potential weakening of her message of sisterhood to her attraction to men.
We, and I believe Diana would concur, are multi-faceted and drawn to various aspects of life that may not always align perfectly, but that’s what makes us intriguing.
Is there anything else you’d like to discuss on this topic, or any other nitpicky superhero-related matters you’d like to explore?
Naveen: I don’t envision Diana becoming much more aggressive than her current portrayal, which might be more due to concerns about TV violence during that time period than a reflection of her Amazon philosophy.
However, it does make me wish that the show had a more deeply serialized structure, allowing us to witness an arc where Diana grapples with these issues and how the world of men challenges her, influences her, and prompts her to question her beliefs.
I wouldn’t want her to forsake her core principles because they define her, but an ideological conflict is something I find appealing in my media.
I also don’t believe it weakens her message, but it could be connected to a point Levine raised in the quoted section (indeed, it’s a response to Diana’s words).
It appears to be an attempt to acknowledge the complexity of individuals and the intricacies of gender-related issues.
It’s a notably intricate feminist message, especially for the 1970s, and perhaps even today, where depictions of feminism could sometimes simplify matters and fail to portray men as potential allies.
Regarding Part 2, I did find it somewhat lacking (as you mentioned it dragged a bit). What puzzled me most was how readily the Amazons admitted defeat.
While I accepted the gas grenades as a previously established weakness, the sudden loss of their strength and power when they lost their bracelets felt a bit inconsistent.
I understand that Hippolyta was held hostage, but it surprised me that not a single Amazon could confront Radl without their bracelets.
Superhero media, especially in TV and film, often need to find ways to temporarily sideline their most powerful characters to maintain a compelling narrative.
But there’s usually an attempt to make it logically plausible. In this episode, it seemed somewhat lacking in terms of consistency.
As for other notable aspects, I agree that this episode was quite quotable. We’ve discussed Drusilla and the stag, but I also appreciated Rahl’s casual delivery of ‘The Third Reich needs living space.’
He had a distinct and delightfully villainous vibe unlike any other character we’ve encountered so far.
Oh, and as for Steven Knight, I didn’t mention finding him attractive; that might be an observation from a different perspective.
Nikita: I share your desire to see Diana confront these issues, and like you, I appreciate the complexity of an ideological conflict. Perhaps we might explore that in a future movie?
It’s undeniable that the show presents a complex and enduring feminist message that resonates even today.
Part 2 did indeed feel a bit sluggish, and I concur with your thoughts on the superhero elements, especially the reliance on the bracelets.
It does make you wonder if the Amazonian strength is solely derived from them. The frequent use of gas/ether in this episode likely put a strain on the budget.
I also found some moments in the episode to be both quotable and a bit silly.
For instance, the classic ‘deserted warehouse on the other side of town’ trope always gets a chuckle. The reappearance of the invisible jet was a nice touch, and I appreciated how Diana seemed more comfortable in challenging Steve at the end, which is a positive development.
As for Steven Knight, it’s interesting to hear that you found him attractive, although you mentioned his charms weren’t particularly effective.