Real life wonder women star in “Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines”

What do you get when you cross Gloria Steinem, Kathleen Hanna and Wonder Woman? The most awesome-sounding project I’ve heard about it a long time.

Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines traces the evolution and legacy of Wonder Woman, from her “birth” in the 1940s to her persona today. The film looks at how cultural representations of powerful women tend to reflect society’s questions and fears about feminism and women’s liberation. (The project was previously titled The History of the Universe as Told by Wonder Woman, but was changed to avoid copyright issues.)

The movie, scheduled to premiere at the South By Southwest film festival, includes interviews with women’s activists Gloria Steinem and Shelby Knox, actress and Wonder Woman star Lynda Carter, Bionic Woman star Lindsay Wagner, TV writer extraordinaire Jane Espenson, Wonder Woman comic writer Gail Simone, Le Tigre/ Bikini Kill‘s Kathleen Hanna and others. It also looks at Reel Grrls, an after school program for young women that provides education and hands-on experience in using media to tell their stories.

While the film discusses the magic that Wonder Woman brought to women and girls, it goes beyond that to a historical overview of how strong women have been portrayed — both positive and negative. Filmmaker Kristy Guevara-Flanagan wanted to bring a sense of fun as well as intelligent discussion to the subject.

“It’s fun in that it is more of an essay approach, and you can have a sense of dialogue — different people talking about different ideas from a variety of lenses: social scientists, feminists, comic-book collectors and the artists themselves,” Guevara-Flanagan explains. “There’s a lot of camp, particularly when it comes to the TV show and the people who embrace Wonder Woman today. We follow people who dress up as Wonder Woman at conventions, and are collectors, and so that’s a whole world. But it’s also a marginal world. So our job is to bring it back to relevance.”

In addition to grants from Sundance and Chicken and Egg Pictures, Wonder Women! producers used Kickstarter to raise funds to make the movie and have now launched a new campaign to get the film festival-ready in time for SXSW in April. In this clip, Guevara-Flanagan and producer Kelcey Edwards talk about the latest round of fundraising followed by a five-minute trailer of the film.

Using Wonder Woman as a starting point to look at the women’s movement is a brilliant way to bring a wider audience to the discussion of women and the media. And it’s a great way to remind us that we don’t need a costume to be a superhero. (Although a costume would be cool.)

If you’d like to help get Wonder Women! ready to show off at SXSW, visit the film’s Kickstarter page and make a donation. And tell us what you think of the movie so far.

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