Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Pilot Error

DI: So you might be happy to hear that the Wonder Woman pilot was scrapped.

B: I’d heard rumblings. But of the many issues I had with the show, I think one of the most important aspects should be why she signed off on it in the first place.

DI: And why do you think that was?

B: You forget, I know her. And she told me. She’s unintentionally built up this persona, this almost allegation in the public sphere, for perfection. She chided me for perpetuating, it, actually. But she isn’t perfect.

She has thoughts. And fears. And even inconsistencies. She wanted people to be able to see what and who she’s really like. Because I think there’s a perception out there, either that she’s the Venus de Milo, perfection in stone, or that she’s just “superhero Barbie.” Even her activism is treated with the same derision that movie stars speaking about politics is.

DI: Hmm. I think I want to try something different. Between the two of us, I’m a writer, and you’re intimately familiar with her. So let’s give writing her pilot a shot. Right now. In real time.

The framing device, because I’m a uncreative journalist, is an interview setting. It creates an easy context for us to get viewers into Diana’s head without cheesy voice-overs or even cheesier girls-night-outing.

But we open on Diana, sleeping.

B: She’s mussed, but still oddly beautiful. Even asleep.

DI: Overlaid, we hear the voice of another woman:

Walk us through your typical day.

Diana’s eyes flutter open.

B: Diana
I wake up around 7 am.

DI: Cut to the interviewer, in smart business attire, sitting in Diana’s office, comfortable and even welcoming, but with an aura of respectability- after all, it’s also an embassy.

So you do sleep?

B: Diana laughs.

Five or six hours a night.

DI: We cut back to Diana, rising from bed.

B: Diana (voice-over)
I used to exercise in the morning, jog through Central Park. But these days, I jump right into business. My morning secretary, Etta, has been up since five, and she briefs me on my day’s activities, and anything that happened overnight.

DI: Etta enters, and they converse, unheard.

B: Diana (voice-over)
We eat breakfast together, usually something light, bagels and sliced fruit.

DI: We see the things you’re describing happen, so I don’t have to keep interrupting.

B: Diana (VO)
Usually by nine there’s important embassy work, meeting with dignitaries.

DI: We cut back for a moment to the interview.

B: Diana
My position as an ambassador means I get to help solve world problems. It’s gratifying, but it’s also necessary; that’s why it comes at the beginning of my day- it’s where I have the least give.

DI: Cut back to her day.

B: Diana (VO)
From there, I usually proceed to fundraisers or events. I usually spend the bulk of my daylight hours volunteering. Broken up occasionally by having to intervene in a situation.

DI: Cut back.

You mean fight crime.

B: Cut to Diana in costume, hoisting a gunman’s hands over his head, using her lasso thrown over a fire escape as a fulcrum, as a gray-haired woman he was mugging acts surprised.

Diana (VO)
Some might call it that.

The sounds of the interview fade away, and the background sounds of New York City fade in.

DI: I didn’t realize she operates out of New York.

B: She’s an ambassador to the UN. Where else would she be?

DI: Good point.

B: But we see Diana talking to the gunman, who is young, and nods his head. The sound fades in on Diana speaking. She’s soft, and intense a moment later.

Life is a gift. I love life- and I hate taking its gift away.

The gunman by this point is remorseful- and just the tiniest bit afraid.

So tell me: have you seen the error in your ways?

The moment is tense, and when he finally speaks, he’s nearly crying.


Her lasso, still around his wrists, glows brighter. She loosens it, and lets him go.


DI: The old woman is still there. She’s less happy about the escaping hoodlum.

You should have punched his damn head off.

B: Diana isn’t surprised by the reaction. She walks with the old woman a moment.

Revenge is an easy answer. But it leaves part of the question nagging- to be asked again. I pray your safety and health.

DI: Wait- does that actually work?

B: Shockingly enough, it does. It wouldn’t, for me. I would have knocked his fool head off. But Diana, she has a presence. A certain quality that when she says things like that, people listen. Really just sit up and take notice. I’m actually referring to something I saw one day. And at the time I was pissed at her. I thought she let a mugger go free only to stick a gun in somebody else’s face. And given my history, that pushed buttons. So I tracked the guy. On his way home, he pawned the gun. From his address, I got his name, and kept track of him. He works for the sanitation department now, not so much as a parking ticket since.

Her approach works. New York has recidivism rates as high as 65%. Educational programs like the one at Rikers can cut that by ten percent. But Diana, less than a third of the people she talks to recidivate. She isn’t perfect. But you can see it in everything about her, that she tries. She’s an example for people to strive for. She makes you really want to be better.

DI: But don’t you think that in a way she’s an unachievable goal? I mean, she isn’t technically human, even.

B: Maybe. But I would place her more in the category with Michael Phelps, people who are extraordinary, and beyond the reach of normal people- but should still be held up as goals, achievable or otherwise. But you’re derailing our pilot: we cut back to the interview.

By this point Etta has gone home for the day, and my evening secretary, Mala, takes over for her.

Mala- she’s Amazonian, like yourself, right?

Yes. Officially, she’s deputy ambassador. But effectively, she helps me with the day to day; she’s usually the person in the chair at the UN. But my evenings are largely taken up by charity and awareness dinners. It sounds more fantastic than it is: squeezing into a dress to shake hands with dignitaries or wealthy socialites.

DI: Interviewer
Like Bruce Wayne?

B: Diana
Bruce and I are friends.

DI: Interviewer
That isn’t what US Weekly said.

B: Diana
He’s a humanitarian and a philanthropist. And we’ve known each other for years. But we aren’t together.

DI: Interviewer
So that means US Weekly was wrong, and both you and Bruce are on the market.

B: Diana
I won’t speak for Bruce, but I don’t really have the time. For every charity event I attend, there were three I couldn’t because they conflicted. And with all the preventable suffering in the world, looking for love just isn’t a priority.

DI: Interviewer
Apparently not- if even a billionaire playboy doesn’t catch your eye. Er. Sorry. But it sounds like you have a very busy schedule. But what does Wonder Woman do for fun?

B: Diana pauses a moment to think, then smiles.

This. I enjoy spending time with people. When I get free time, I like to read, the classics, poetry. I have a soft spot for Aristophanes- my mother read me Lysistrata when I was a girl.

DI: Interview
Seems a little crass for children’s literature.

B: Diana
But it was informative. Themyscira was founded by women looking for a different way. The Amazons co-existed with men for centuries, but left, when Amazons decided that men would always seek war and conflict. My ambassadorship is the reverse, trying to reach out the olive branch we learned to live by.

DI: Interview
By hitting people in the face?

B: Diana
Sometimes force is the only way to achieve justice, and justice is the only way to achieve peace.

DI: Interviewer
When liberty comes with her hands dabbled in blood, it is hard to shake hands with her.

B: Diana
I agree. My methods are imperfect, and often imprecise. But they are a match for our imperfect world- one I hope to make better.

DI: I actually got a little goose-bumpy, there. And I know you weren’t speaking in your own voice, you were, for lack of a better word, channeling Diana.

B: Diana is what Robert Fulghum was talking about when he said, “Peace is not something you wish for; it’s something you make, something you do, something you are, and something you give away.” That’s what Kelley missed.

DI: This was fun. We might even have to do it again.

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