Saturday, February 5, 2011


DI: I’ve heard David E. Kelley, whose work I’m a general fan of, is working on a Wonder Woman project. I’ve heard there are some issues with his script, and I’d like to talk about the idea of a series based off of Diana.

B: First off, I haven’t read the script, so I’m not passing judgment, so much as reacting to some of the things I’ve read that are in it. And let me say first that Diana’s tough to nail down. Because she’s a very nuanced human being.

DI: But is she even human?

B: Technically, maybe not, but neither was Clark. And if you set me, a genuine human being, beside the two of them, I’m the one who looks inhuman.

DI: But you’re one of the world’s most prominent philanthropists; even setting aside your costumed work, you’ve done a lot of good in the world. Aren’t you being a little overly critical of yourself?

B: No, but I’m not down on myself. I think I have a reasonable perspective on my humanity. And some of that, I think, is me compensating for being a cold bastard- and some because it’s what my parents would have wanted. On balance I’m not saying I’m a bad person- just that there’s no comparison.

I get frustrated. I get angry. If you surveyed the League I’m sure you’d find I can be pretty damn mean. And Clark, and Diana, they can be frustrated, and angry, but they’ve always been decent. Not just to me, but to everyone, probably everyone they ever met. Clark and Diana represent what the rest of us should want to be.

DI: But aren’t you a fairly impressive specimen of our species? And aren’t the things you describe, don’t those make them not more human, but superhuman?

B: Maybe. I think it would probably be unfair to hold anybody to that yardstick, and when found wanting declare that they’d failed, but I think that’s the goal we should set, the bar we should reach for.

And that’s the part of the script that rings hollow for me. Clark Kent was Superman, but really all Superman was was Clark with a spit-curl, no glasses and a stoic expression. Diana doesn’t have a Clark Kent. Diana is Diana. Wonder Woman is like the suit and tie I wear to the office. I’m the same man in the suit as I am at home in my bathrobe, I just look more authoritative, more professional.

And I know you’ve made jokes about her uniform, before, but there are strong customs and traditions behind it, going back centuries. But Wonder Woman is just an artifice; Diana is always Diana.

DI: But isn’t it true that for a while she did have an alter ego similar to the Kent persona.

B: When she first arrived in “the patriarch’s world” she did adopt the name “Diana Prince.” But she did so as part of a fact-finding portion to her mission. She’s always been an ambassador, but she was also her nation’s first contact with the outside world. So before she opened her home to the world, she wanted to know what kind of world she was opening up to.

And I think, for a while, having that small, quiet, meek person to retreat into helped her. It’s easy to forget that Diana was still very young when she left Themiscyra. She needed a place, emotionally, to call her own. But it’s been a very long time since she’s made peace with the fact that she is both a representative of her people and a very strong personality in her own right.

DI: Okay, but what about the Sex in the Cityness of the script? Presumably she has female friends, but…

B: Diana has female friends; it’s hard for anyone who meets her not to be friendly with her. And I know she’s spent a good deal of time with female League members. I think she’s very conscious of the fact that the League, at least under normal circumstances, can be a bit of a boy’s club. It’s not really anyone’s fault, there; there’s just a gender bias in the costumed community. It’s been a while since I had Oracle do a head count, but last I checked we had the same ratio of women in the League as there are on the streets. But my point was I know she’s organized ladies nights. On Huntress’s first night on the Watchtower they had a sleepover.

DI: You don’t smile often, but for the record, that was a smile, there.

B: I smile when I feel like it. I’m just not that emotive a person.

DI: Fair enough. But ladies nights, sleepovers- how is that not Sex in the City?

B: Well, the thrust of that is that Diana’s a woman. Sometimes she does talk about men- and more often she listens while other women talk about men. But she also talks about other things. She’s a fan of talking shop, fighting styles, tactics. She’s also very cognizant of things like human rights, current events like the protests in Egypt or the Southern Sudan independence referendum.

DI: So she’s very political, then.

B: Right. I would have thought her work through the UN would have made that common knowledge.

DI: Yeah, but so did Ginger Spice, so that’s hardly a barometer.

B: Touché, though I don’t think that’s particularly fair to Geri.

DI: Geri? No way. You’re not going to confirm or deny that, are you, just leaving it hanging there. I hate you.

B: I know, and I treasure that. But Diana’s worked very extendedly with the UN, particularly on women’s and children’s initiatives. I think it concerns her greatly that outside of the Western world women and children don’t have the same status as men.

I hope Kelley can stay on the project. I think, once some of these early trajectory issues are solved, he could really find her voice. He’s very good at getting to the heart of difficult political issues, asking hard questions without imposing moral truisms. I think he could capture her complexity well.

DI: Let me see, here, there’s also been mention that Kelley’s Wonder Woman will be a CEO, and I think you took issue with that.

B: Diana herself doesn’t run any companies. Not because she couldn’t, but because the entire concept of capitalism is repugnant to her. She comes from a fairly close-knit society, where resources are pooled, a fairly egalitarian structure to it. So the idea of elevating herself in any way over “subordinates” is revolting. And that’s largely what capitalism is- it’s saying that certain people are better at utilizing resources, and so for the benefit of society we should give them greater resources to maximize our collective potential.

Philosophically she disagrees with that model. It’s an argument I’ve had with her before; capitalism, when it’s used properly, can ensure that the world gets better for everyone. But she takes a very harsh approach to the subject, and usually draws the line at the point where in practice capitalism often uses people as an exhaustible resource, as if they were a lump of coal. I’ve went round and round with her on the subject, because the best way to pull people up out of poverty is capitalism- albeit capitalism that has certain restraints. Regulations that make sure we treat the working class fairly, that make sure we don’t put strains on the environment that ultimately have the greatest impact on the poorest people.

And I don’t want to sound like I’m splitting hairs because she does operate nonprofit organizations under her Wonderment Foundation.

DI: Which you helped fund in its infancy.

B: I provided seed money, and I donate, occasionally. It was a tough sell to the Amazons.

But the idea of Diana running a company in the way that I do is silly; she directs the broad strokes of what the various NGOs she oversees are doing at any moment. But she also concedes that the day to day operations of charity, relief and advocacy organizations are beyond her purview. She doesn’t have the experience or expertise to do those things- which is no sleight against her. I think it takes a certain strength of character to admit skills you don’t have, and to recognize that finding people who have those skills to supplement you is the best course of action.

DI: And I think, just from a few pulled quotes we’ve read, that it sounds like Kelley hasn’t quite “got” Diana yet. How so?

B: She’s strong, unbelievably so, and I don’t merely mean physically. She may be the most emotionally resilient person I know. But there’s a tenderness to her, a femininity that neither betrays nor contradicts her strength.

DI: She’s soft?

B: To the touch, to the soul. She has a calming influence, a peaceful aura. I’ve spent cumulatively months of my life meditating with some of the world’s deepest thinkers, but none of that can rival a moment in her presence. It’s almost magical- and I’ve dealt with enough actually magical things that I wonder if there’s something in her, another gift from the gods, as it were, that gives her that effect on people.

But she’s passionate, too. Intense. We’ve nearly come to blows several times.

I think we agree more than we disagree, but there are some areas, economics, martial law, where we differ. And I think sometimes it’s just a matter of perspective, our divergent origins and how those shape our worldviews. I mean, I’m rich. I’m male. I’m white. I’m getting older. I’m a fairly easy stand-in for the class that controls a lot of the political and economic fate of the world at this moment. I think, and I would say she would mostly agree, that I use that position of power for good as much as I can. But I think it’s fair to say she doesn’t like that I, or anyone, is in a position of so much power. And from her perspective, my power comes at the expense of the powers of others.

DI: So she has a bit of that old feminist rage, then?

B: I don’t think rage is the right word, though. She’s passionate. Because her ideas, and her ideals, are things she believes strongly about. But despite her upbringing, which I would be tempted to describe in impolite terms, I think she’s worked hard not to be a zealot. I think she takes new ideas and information in, and she has been known to reevaluate her position.

We just don’t always agree. And sometimes things can get a little heated.

DI: Back up just a little there: come to blows? So you’re admitting to hitting a woman?

B: First, that’s a fairly sexist idea you’re implying, that it’s acceptable to strike a man and not a woman. Second, violence is never something to undertake lightly, but I’ve hit many women in my lifetime. Hopefully always in a context where the benefits, usually stopping them from committing some larger harm, justified it. But no, domestically I’ve never thrown the first punch.

DI: But you’ve hit back.

B: I have defended myself against attacks before. Proportionally.

DI: Against Diana?

B: Hitting Diana is a bit like punching a tree. I wouldn’t advise it, so no. I find with her jujitsu, or other martial arts designed to counter strength and reroute momentum are best. But I don’t think we’ve ever actually thrown punches at each other outside sparring. There’ve just been a few discussions I think I was lucky to walk away from with my head still on my shoulders.

DI: And on a final note, I’d like to mention that Kelley is married to Michelle Pfeiffer, who portrayed Catwoman in that Burton Batman.

B: Michelle is a lovely, intelligent woman. But she’s no Selina Kyle- though in fairness to her, there’s only one of those.

DI: Unless you count Anne Hathaway. Me-ow.

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