Where are we? I ask myself, watching yet another silver screen full of straight characters.
I am surrounded by heteronormative commerciality. As a gay woman who strives for a career in the media, I wonder why there appears to be nobody like me producing worthwhile content and why, every year, the number of lesbian characters in television is small enough to count on one hand.
Professor Marston and the Wonder Woman, a biographical film directed by Angela Robinson, isn’t just the answer to my question but an inspiring film I would encourage everyone, regardless of their sexuality, to watch. Set in the twentieth century, it follows the story of William Marston (Wonder Woman’s creator) and his wife Elizabeth who begin a polyamorous relationship with a university girl named Olive. The trio venture into a forbidden life together where they find their own comfort in the outlawed, away from the fear of societal discrimination whilst Marston pushes for Wonder Woman’s publicity.
We learn that this was a character inspired by his two wives and the trio’s involvement in the BDSM community, provocative of profound controversy during this austere period.
An admirable scene is when Marston proudly says that Wonder Woman has relationships with the same sex to a person who believes it is a mental illness.
Regardless of these sad truths, it is a heartwarming, revolutionary story that moved me a lot. (Yes, I admit that I did cry during it.)
However, it seems as if the bisexuality within the comic was faded out in recent years, demonstrating that media is perhaps becoming increasingly reluctant to support the LGBTQ+ community. The recent release of Wonder Woman 1984 brought back a male love interest for the lead despite queer-baiting fans with a potential new female love interest.
They explained themselves to the outraged community by saying that they were not ready to include bisexuality into the films – a feeble excuse. Thanks, DC. You are withholding a potential celebration of three very inspirational people.
I had a realization when I watched Professor Marston and the Wonder Woman that, no matter how much a single person pushes for advocation, the dream is at risk as soon as it enters the marketplace. It will never survive the prejudice it receives from censors and, though Wonder Woman has not survived, William, Elizabeth, and Olive did, with the two women being life partners after their husband’s death for many years. Meanwhile, Wonder Woman became a heterosexual disappointment.
For the franchise to have overlooked the diversity that Marston pushed for is abysmal, considering how much LGBTQ+ media has gravely suffered during its existence. Strolling through comedies from the 1990s and early 2000s, you are bound to find a casual joke that elicits gasps for the wrong reasons. If you do happen to stumble across a so-called progressive film that incorporates a gay romance, it was likely a tragedy, demonstrating nothing but hardship for its characters and a dismaying two-hour runtime that leaves you feeling cheated.
Society seems to believe we are past the days of mockery and discrimination.
The truth is, we are not.
Nowadays, this institutionalized homophobia within media has become less conspicuous which arguably makes it more dangerous. Homosexual characters frequently find themselves either unrepresented or restricted to subplots in mainstream films. The very few that exist are neglected, serving as the gay best friend to back up straight leads or unnecessarily dying as a plot device.
According to GLAAD (the LGBTQ+ advocacy organization), only 9.1% of characters in television show a preference for homosexuality, with gay male characters outnumbering lesbians, and transgender characters almost completely unrepresented. Whilst this dire percentage is enough to provoke hopelessness, reports show that this figure is falling rather than rising, a terrifying fact that cannot be ignored and must be rectified.