Interview: Director Angela Robinson Told an Origin Story for Wonder Woman's Origin Story
Suffice it to say that Wonder Woman has enjoyed a big year at the box office, thanks to Patty Jenkins’ incredible (and woefully overdue) adaptation of the most iconic female superhero in pop culture history. But even if audiences now know about Diana’s world and how she became a champion for justice, few still know the story of where exactly the character came from – who created her, why, and under what circumstances. Angela Robinson’s Professor Marston and the Wonder Women answers that question, with the story of William Marston, the two women he loved, and the relationship that inspired his famous, groundbreaking creation.
Robinson, whose previous work includes D.E.B.S. and Herbie: Fully Loaded, said that she stumbled across the Marstons’ story because of her love for Wonder Woman. “Ever since I was a kid, I was really into all things Wonder Woman. And a friend gave me a book on the history of Wonder Woman maybe nine or ten years ago, and there was a chapter in there on the Marstons,” she told Wizard World. “It just blew me away –- just their story was so incredible, and I didn’t know about it and I didn’t know anybody else who knew about it. And I thought that was kind of extraordinary, and I became obsessed with trying to figure out how to tell it.”
Marston and his wife Elizabeth were psychologists at Tufts University developing William’s DISC (dominance, inducement, submission, compliance) theory about human behavior when they met Olive Byrne, an undergraduate with whom they both fell in love. Their relationship predictably clashed with the standards of the time period –- and truthfully, probably still would today –- but their persistence and dedication to that nontraditional union, and the discoveries they made about themselves and others, led to the creation of Wonder Woman. Robinson said she wanted their three-pronged romance to be sexy, but always driven by their love for one another.
“I set out to tell a very kind of simple and organic love story between these three people, and I didn’t want to come at it with any judgments or preconceived notions,” Robinson said. “I didn’t want to shy away from the sexuality at all, but to me, in the sex scenes there’s a dialectic between fantasy and reality; to me, the sex scenes are about fantasy, and kind of a world where they’re able to discover their true selves and be about freedom – which then linked to Wonder Woman.”
By casting Luke Evans, Rebecca Hall and Bella Heathcote in the three principle roles, Robinson knew that their romantic entanglements were almost inevitably going to heat up the screen. But she herself was fascinated by the way that William’s sexual proclivities not only influenced their relationship, but made their way into the earliest Wonder Woman comics, with portrayals of lesbianism, bondage and role-playing what he considered an important part of the storytelling. “I couldn’t reconcile how I felt –- I was like, is this guy a feminist, or is he getting his rocks off?,” she said with a laugh. “And I really explore that; I mean, I think that’s part of what the movie is about, really taking on that question.”
“There’s all of these ideas about feminism and sex and human behavior and politics,” she continued. “It’s all a mishmash, and I think Wonder Woman occupies, I call it the third rail of the American psyche, where Marston deliberately put all of these provocative ideas together in one pop culture icon. And that’s why she still resonates, because it’s not pat; you can’t reconcile it, and you go buzz in your brain, and you just kind of have to keep thinking it out.”
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women opens this weekend.