The story of psychologist William Moulton Marston, the polyamorous relationship between his wife and his mistress, the creation of his beloved comic book character Wonder Woman, and the controversy the comic generated.
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Details the unconventional life of Dr. William Marston, the Harvard psychologist and inventor who helped invent the modern lie detector test and created Wonder Woman in 1941. Marston was in a polyamorous relationship with his wife Elizabeth, a psychologist and inventor in her own right, and Olive Byrne, a former student who became an academic. This relationship was key to the creation of Wonder Woman, as Elizabeth and Olive's feminist ideals were ingrained in the character from her creation. Marston died of skin cancer in 1947, but Elizabeth and Olive remained a couple and raised their and Marston's children together. The film is said to focus on how Marston dealt with the controversy surrounding Wonder Woman's creation.
Though promoted as "the true story" of William Moulton Marston, Elizabeth Marston and Olive Byrne, most of this film is speculative as the Marstons' lived their lives in privacy. At the 2017 New York Comic Con, Angela Robinson was asked by Travis Langley, a friend of the Marston family, and said that she "talked to a source who said that that was her interpretation, who had studied them. chose to tell the story as my interpretation of the story, and I think that there's a lot of facts that are indisputable about the Marstons and I feel that there's a lot that's open to interpretation. So as a filmmaker, this was my interpretation of their story." See more »
Who would have thought Wonder Woman, whom we have this year glorified in a worthy film, has her roots in an American ménage a trois? Professor Marston and the Wonder Women almost chastely depicts Marston (Luke Evans), a psychology professor at Radcliffe in the late 1930's and early '40's; his brilliant wife, Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall); and Bella Heathcote (Olive Byrne), a comely student and niece of Margaret Sanger, the birth-control feminist.
Their research and the comic-book heroine get parallel inspiration from Marston's fundamental DISC theory that all human behavior can be traced to a form of dominance, inducement, submission, or compliance. The take away from this unusual docudrama is that Wonder Woman for several years was steeped in violence and sadomasochism until puritanical forces overcame it, only for it to be resurrected with her super powers but, alas, no bondage, no homosexuality, no controversy.
Except for that skimpy bathing suit, to which apparently the male power structure gave a pass. Although Professor Marston's comic-book gift to feminism can't be overstated, the film spends much more time on the love triangle, its difficult reception in the burbs, and the surface pleasantries of seeing three lovely actors kissing.
Credit writer-director Angela Robinson for tastefully depicting this alternative life style without rancor or dramatic turns. Quietly out of it came the lie-detector machine and a comic book that shook the culture, mirroring the professor's own beliefs that men should respect the power of women, whose power should be glorified rather than feared (take that, Harvey W).
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women combines the inherently interesting origin of the Wonder Woman myth and the groundbreaking assertion of three people fighting for their right to love as they like. You'll leave the theater with history and a fuller appreciation of contemporary feminism's roots. That's just entertaining and illuminating cinema.
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