Fact and Fiction in Professor Marston and the Wonder Women

Professor-Marston-and-the-Wonder-Women

My review of Professor Marston and the Wonder Women went up today at The Comics Journal, and there sure was a lot to dig into here. To begin with, I really enjoyed the film. I thought that the cast was excellent, especially Rebecca Hall as Elizabeth Marston. She was brash and delightful, and whoever picked her outfits did an amazing job, especially in the earliest scenes; everything she wore was super rad. Luke Evans and Bella Heathcote were great as well, and the chemistry between the three of them was remarkable. All together, the movie was a compelling story about the joys and travails of their unconventional, polyamorous relationship and it was well made all around.

The only trouble is, it really isn’t the story of the Marstons. In the broadest of strokes, it’s similar. Yes, William Moulton Marston had two children each with Elizabeth Marston and Olive Byrne lived together as one happy family, and yes, he later created Wonder Woman. The film covers all of that. However, it does so while getting the vast majority of the details wrong.

A lot of this is just how biopics roll. Hollywood and historical accuracy rarely go together, and writer/director Angela Robinson takes a lot of creative liberties with things. There are several exaggerated and manufactured conflicts throughout; Wonder Woman was never in danger of being cancelled, nor did the family ever split up. A lot of what’s covered just didn’t happen in the way that it’s depicted in the film. But again, that’s to be expected.

What’s trickier is the core of the movie, the relationship between Elizabeth, Olive, and William. They were private people and we know very little about their private life together, apart from the fact that William had two children with each woman. What we really don’t know is the exact nature of the relationship between Elizabeth and Olive; there are reasons to speculate that they were romantically and sexually involved, but their descendants have been quite adamant that they weren’t. Robinson’s take is not only that they were, but that they were the driving forces behind the triad. It’s an assumption taken to such a degree that it runs counter to what few established facts we have, and in exploring this the film often veers into outright fiction.

You can read my full discussion of Professor Marston and the Wonder Women over at The Comics Journal, where I get into considerable detail about every facet of the film’s historical accuracies and inaccuracies. It really is quite an enjoyable film, and I liked it a lot. It just purports to be the “true story” of the Marstons, and it really isn’t.

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