The director of Professor Marston and the Wonder Women has defended her decision to suggest a sexual relationship between the two lead women of her film.
PMWW, which stars Luke Evans as the titular inventor of the Wonder Woman comics as he navigates a polyamorous relationship, has riled up some comic book fans about its suggestion that Marston’s wife Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall) and lover Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote) were sexually involved. During the audience Q&A portion of a PMWW panel at New York Comic Con this past weekend, a psychology professor named Travis Langley asked writer and director Angela Robinson, “If no one who knew the family knew the relationship between the women to be sexual—and if it was, that’s fine—where did you find proof?”
Robinson diplomatically chose not to point out that no one had ever said it wasn’t fine, or that Langley had seemingly overlooked other instances of creative license in the film that didn’t involve homosexuality. (At one point, Marston tells another character he’s the inventor of the lie detector. It’s an unverified claim.)
Instead, Robinson chose to defend her right as an artist and visionary.
"I chose to tell the story as my interpretation," said Robinson. "There are a lot of facts about the Marstons that are indisputable, and there are a lot of facts that are open to interpretation..and this was my interpretation."
As Langley pointed out in his own recent research in Psychology Today (TL;DR: a retread of previously-made points about Marston), Elizabeth and Olive lived together long after Marston’s death in 1947. As many students of history and general human behavior may know, gays and lesbians in the ‘40s and ‘50s were not prone to publicizing their sexual orientations. After all, this was a time in American history when anti-homosexuality “PSAs” were commonly shown on television. Thus, it’s unlikely that Elizabeth and Olive would have been quick to tell anyone their relationship was sexual, lest they be ostracized by their peers.
Later, when another older male audience member asked if there was definitive proof that the women were intimate and that they hadn’t just been forced to “share a man,” the Golden Globe-nominated Hall stepped in to defend Robinson’s screenplay.
"I think it’s a legitimate interpretation to say that these women were into it, and wanted to do it," she said, drawing cheers. "That was a choice, and I think that’s feminist."
The semi-closeted Evans, for his part, never addressed his own sexual orientation during the panel, and even called a female co-star “hot” at one point. However, he did express pride in being part of a movie that portrayed polyamory in such a humanistic manner.
"The polyamorous relationship part of it was something that we thought was a wonderful opportunity for us to present a part of society that isn’t always represented often on the screen," he said.
Hall added, "It doesn’t have any of the cliches. It’s just about three remarkable people and the things they accomplish as a family."
The openly gay Robinson closed out the panel with some choice advice for young queer and black artists trying to make their way through any creative industry:
"Don’t give up. We need your voice."
Yass, kween! Sounds like Robinson might be the real wonder woman.
Watch the trailer for Professor Marston and the Wonder Women below.