Wondering About Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (2017)

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True or not, Professor Martson and the Wonder Women (2017) is a well-crafted story. As with all biopics, there’s some controversy about how much of this film is accurate to what really happened, and in this case, it’s mostly about sex. And to me, that’s the part that makes it a good movie — not necessarily the sex (it’s not explicit) but the love story between the two women, which is conjecture according to a family member.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (2017)

Told through flashbacks, we see Professor Bill Martson (Luke Evans) teaching psychology at Harvard, where his wife Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall) has been refused the PhD she’s earned, and it’s implied that she’s contributed significantly to his research and work. They take on a teaching assistant, Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote), who they don’t realize is related to feminist pioneer Margaret Sanger. Soon enough, the three fall into a love triangle, though not the most typical one — things start between Olive and Elizabeth then include Bill, and throughout the entire movie, the relationship between the women is paramount.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (2017)

Historical accounts differ, suggesting that Bill started an affair with Olive and gave Elizabeth an ultimatum to let the new girl move in or he would leave his wife. But it suits writer-director Angela Robinson better to tell the story as “how did he [Martson] get to Wonder Woman, and how he got there was through his relationship with these two women.” It comes off far less patriarchal and male gaze-y when the two women are in love with each other and choose to be in this three-way relationship of their own accord. The film probably makes their story into more of an idealized polyamorous threesome than it may have been. So, enjoyable to watch as a movie, but don’t kid yourself that this was how it went down or that this was precisely the inspiration for the Wonder Woman comic.

The action begins in the late 1920s and progresses through the 1940s, showing a nice progression of clothing and hairstyle changes. I’d like to have seen a little bit of aging on the actors, like a touch of grey hair or a little paunch. The costuming includes one or two bits of period fetish undergarments, though it’s barely risque. The prototype of the Wonder Woman outfit is as wild as it gets.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (2017)

This middy blouses is probably the trendiest thing Elizabeth wears.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (2017)

Stripes are a strong motif for Elizabeth starting in the ’20s part of the movie.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (2017)

Beautiful details on this coral ’20s sweater for Elizabeth.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (2017)

Olive wears this long pleated skirt with both blouses and sweaters, as you would in the ’20s.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (2017)

Behind-the-scenes shot shows Olive’s sweet & innocent ’20s lingerie blouse, contrasted with Elizabeth’s serious, mature sweater & scarf.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (2017)

Another behind-the-scenes image — Bill in academic tweeds, Olive all in white, Elizabeth in rich coral & blue.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (2017)

Classic schoolgirl sweater for Olive.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (2017)

That style of trim on Olive’s coat was popular in the ’20s

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (2017)

The only hat Olive wears in the ’20s part of the film, appropriately a felt cloche, and with this swingy jacket.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (2017)

Home from work, a kiss for the breadwinner! Cute ’30s print apron.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (2017)

A perfectly practical ’30s housedress.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (2017)

The ’30s burlesque scene that inspires Martson is rather subdued.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (2017)

Olive tries out a bustier outfit that inspires Marston to create Wonder Woman’s ensemble.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (2017)

As Marston develops the Wonder Woman comics in the early ’40s, the women are dubious. Elizabeth is in a secretarial outfit, while Olive has a jaunty print.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (2017)

Elizabeth wears the pants in the family literally and figuratively. Here, in the ’40s.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (2017)

Love the stripe inset on this ’40s dress and Elizabeth’s hairstyle (reminiscent of Wonder Woman’s as well).

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (2017)

In the final scene in the late ’40s, Elizabeth wears a softer style, but more formal, while Olive is almost back to her youthful sporty gear.

 

Are you a fan of Wonder Woman? How much do you know about the history behind the comic?

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About the author

Trystan L. Bass

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A self-described ElderGoth, Trystan has been haunting the internet since the early 1990s. Always passionate about costume, from everyday office wear to outrageous twisted historical creations, she has maintained some of the earliest online costuming-focused resources on the web. Her costuming adventures are chronicled on her website, TrystanCraft. She also ran a popular fashion blog, This Is CorpGoth, dedicated to her “office drag.”

5 Responses

  1. thedementedfairy

    we loved this film, mildly titillating, and nicely acted. As you said, not ruined by male gaze-y bullshit, we liked it enough to buy a copy…and lent it to my dad, who LOVED it lol

    Reply
  2. Mina Van Berh

    My wife and I also loved the film and bought a copy of it! It is a good addition to our queer movies library.. I think I liked it so much because it didn’t give me a feeling of toxic masculinity but of a relationship built on mutual respect. Also: Great actors and lovely costumes!

    Reply
  3. Elizabeth Kerri Mahon

    I’ve read Jill Lepore’s book The Secret History of Wonder Woman. In the book, Elizabeth comes around to accepting the relationship between her husband and Olive because it means that she can continue to work since Olive takes on the more traditional wifely roles, raising all their kids.

    Reply
  4. mmcquown

    I have been a Wonder Woman fan since the 40’s, and was aware of the behind-the-scenes story from somewhere in the 70’s. I find it interesting that Lynda Carter and Gal Gadot have bonded over their shared role – not in the same way as the wives, but nonetheless.

    Reply
  5. LadySlippers

    I’m watching the movie now. I really adore the movie recommendations I see on here. Thank you!

    Reply

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