I write what I see about women I know

I write what I see about women I know

 

As we look around at the people in our lives, we can see many things. We may only see what they choose to reveal, or we may be privileged enough to witness a side of them shared only with a lucky few. It’s also possible that we can see in them something that they don’t even see in themselves.

These facets catch and refract the light in amazing ways to us mere mortals, and can often inspire great things. These complexities can inspire amazing ideas, and sometimes even inspire us to become amazing people.

PROFESSOR MARSTON AND THE WONDER WOMEN is about one such moment of profound inspiration inspired by a multifaceted truth.

The titular Professor William Marston (Luke Evans) is a Harvard professor of psychology. Teaching alongside his wife – and fellow psychology scholar – Elizabeth Holloway Marston (Rebecca Hall), Marston hopes to perfect a scientific method to detect lies from truth. Around the time their research hits a critical stage, the couple come upon Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote), an undergrad hoping to become the couple’s research assistant.

While young Olive is engaged to be married, that doesn’t do anything to slow the palpable sexual tension in the room. That tension exists both between William and Olive and also between Olive and Elizabeth. As the trio come closer and closer to perfecting their lie detector, they get to the truth of the matter: Olive is in love with both William and Elizabeth. This might be a non-starter for some couples of The Greatest Generation, but somehow The Marstons make it work, and the three scientists begin a polyamourous relationship that is so scandalous, it costs them all their jobs.

As the couple move away from the life of academia, Olive becomes pregnant and gives birth to William’s first child. When they all move to a small town duplex, they spin an elaborate lie; that Olive’s husband is no longer in the picture, and The Marstons have taken her in. They try to hide their love in plain sight.

Behind closed doors though, it’s anything but plain. After William wanders into a unique looking shop in search of a gift for the women, he becomes enticed by the sexual world of bondage, dominance, and submission. This may seem like no big deal now, but in 1942, such activities and materials depicting it were highly illegal in America.

Interestingly, the materials, the relationship, and the sexual proclivities inspire William Marston to package his psychological research into a new outlet. He creates a super heroine who fights for truth. She is a goddess from a utopic island that gets summoned into the world of mortal men. Her weapon is a lasso that she binds her challengers with, forcing them to submit to the truth. A comic book of this character is pitched by Marston – choosing the pen name Moulton – and the character of Wonder Woman is born.

But not everyone wants children to be flipping through funny books about a woman running around in a skimpy outfit, and subjecting her foes to acts of bondage and submission.

 

PMWW2

 

PROFESSOR MARSTON AND THE WONDER WOMEN has a bit of difficulty with its emotional crux, and more than once it can be a little bit blunt. The complexities of the Marston-Byrne-Marston relationship must have been legion, as they would for any polyamourous relationship. The film certainly underlines the physical joys that come with this sort of arrangement, but the emotional honesty and the insecurities are sometimes lacking – especially between Elizabeth and Olive.

If this film is to be believed, there are few problems in polyamoury that a little rope can’t mend.

However, despite that short-changing, the core of the tale remains intact. That core is that three unconventional people forged a bond seventy-five years ago that gave the world something iconic. The gift they gave came with more insight into human psychology and human nature than we may have known. It was inspired by unorthodox desires, but used that inspiration to underline universal truths.

Much has changed since the time of Professor Marston and those wonder women, but much has remained the same too. Despite the fact that we are sharing so much of our lives with anyone who may care to know, we are still keeping back so very much. We are crafting iconic forms of ourselves for the world to know, while our secret identities provide safe haven for our weaknesses and our desires. These desires and weaknesses may not be sexual or romantic as they are for the trio that lead this film. Instead, our secret identities may be platforms where we gain a louder voice and a greater audience. Conversely, our secret identities could be dark corners where we treat wounds or scars that precious few know about.

The point is that what the characters of this story understood is still true today; that we are both who we present ourselves as, and who we allow ourselves to be in secret. Both are necessary, both are true. Not every person decides to share this side of themselves; some may not even face it themselves. For those that do, its existence does not make them a fractioned soul – it makes them whole. They are completed by the understanding of dark and shadow…id and ego…top and bottom.

Hawthorne once wrote:

No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.

If this film is to be believed, Hawthorne was wrong. There is no bewilderment – only singular understanding by the man – and woman – closest to the truth.

Matineescore: ★ ★ ★ out of ★ ★ ★ ★
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