Actress Lynda Carter was honored on Tuesday night at the 41st Annual Gracie Awards with a Lifetime Achievement Award for her contribution to film and television. I've discussed Carter's contribution to Wonder Woman and the female superhero before, but being the recipient of this award highlights not only her contribution to female superheroism, but what she accomplished for women in the media.
Carter became known to the world for her role as Wonder Woman back in 1975 on the hit TV series of the same name. Ever since Carter's portrayal of the character, her interpretation has remained the most iconic, with no subsequent successful adaptations of the character until this year's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. That's a huge gap for such a well-known hero, highlighting just how unforgettable and irreplaceable Carter is. Though, Gal Godot did a pretty kick-ass job in BVS:
As amazing as this is, Carter being honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award extends beyond what she did for the character of Wonder Woman and superheroes. In her speech, Carter discusses the obstacles she faced in the industry, most notably when she was first cast as Wonder Woman, saying that network executives didn't believe women could lead a prime-time series. She further discussed how she originally had a male stunt double. She professes her gratitude for the role and all it did for her career.
Wonder Woman skyrocketed Carter's career, but what some people fail to realize is that Carter did as much for the character as it did for her. She embodied the role of Wonder Woman and her appearance on network television arrived at just the right time, giving young girls a role model. Wonder Woman was both smart and pretty — it wasn't one or the other. The character proved that women can be equals in a world thought to be run by men. It may have just been a TV show at the time, but its legacy is what changed television forever.
After Wonder Woman came to an end, women were seen more frequently in lead roles. What was even more noteworthy is that they were no longer playing the typical housewife character. During the 1980s we saw characters like Angela Lansbury's sleuthing genius Jessica Fletcher in Murder, She Wrote, as well as Jane Badler's brilliantly twisted Diana, the lead character and villain in V.
This was further expanded during the 1990s and, as theme-orientated television began to fade, drama and comedy took over. Calista Flockhart's Ally McBeal was a huge success, and we can't mention the '90s without talking about Friends — a show where half its lead characters were women. Perhaps the biggest achievement of the '90s on this front was Buffy the Vampire Slayer — a show that was also revolutionary at the time.
Examining modern television, it's clear that nearly every major network has at least one female-led television show. Moreover, powerful female characters — superhero or otherwise — are becoming more prominent. Characters like Supergirl, Arrow's Black Canary and Game of Thrones' Danaerys Targaryen all represent strong female leads who could easily give the male characters in their respective shows a run for their money.
Carter's speech at the ceremony was almost a passing of the torch to all these young women who now carry on the legacy that she created. Women on television are arguably stronger than ever, and there's no doubt that Carter played a large part on getting us to this stage. Not only on screen, but there are more and more female writers and directors in the industry, and achievements like this were only made possible because of people like Carter opening up the door.
Carter didn't just open up the door, however — she kicked it in and made sure that it was never locked again. Like her eponymous character, she too was a role model, but it's moments like Carter getting the recognition that she deserves that allow us to see her for the role model that she so clearly still is.
Perhaps it was divine intervention that led to Carter being cast as Wonder Woman, but whatever it was we are grateful because the trail that she blazed for female superheroes was revolutionary. If it weren't for Carter, we might not have been given subsequent series like Birds of Prey, Supergirl or Agent Carter. Powerful women weren't usually seen on TV, but Carter changed this, and what was so important about Wonder Woman was that it was female-led and female empowered — women were equally as important to the narrative. Moreover, female-led series of any genre are arguably now more popular than male-led series. Examples include American Horror Story, Happy Valley and Grey's Anatomy. We've moved on from male-domination media, and that is largely due to what Carter accomplished with Wonder Woman. She may be superhero royalty, but she is also the pioneer of female television and that is what makes Carter a real-life Wonder Woman.
Looking for more Wonder Woman news? Check out the set wrap pics for the new movie, set to release in June 2017.