Why No Wonder Woman?

As published on LinkedIn Influencers on May 23rd, 2017.

“The destiny of the world is determined less by battles that are lost and won than by the stories it loves and believes in” – Harold Goddard.

What follow is the opening letter to a 70 page report I did 4 years ago called “Why No Wonder Woman?” Given that we will indeed have the first feature film for this character on June 2nd, I thought this was the time to repost these words. It shares my love for the character and what she has meant to me. 

I believe in the story of Wonder Woman. I always have. Not the literal baby being made from clay story, but the metaphorical one. I believe in a story where a woman is the hero and not the victim. I believe in a story where a woman is strong and not weak. Where a woman can fall in love with a man, but she doesnʼt need a man. Where a woman can stand on her own two feet. And above all else, I believe in a story where a woman has superpowers that she uses to help others, and yes, I believe that a woman can help save the world.

“Wonder Woman was created as a distinctly feminist role model whose mission was to bring the Amazon ideals of love, peace, and sexual equality to ʻa world torn by the hatred of men.ʼ”

While the story of Wonder Woman began back in 1941, I did not discover her until much later, and my introduction didnʼt come at the hands of comic books. Instead, when I was a little girl I used to watch the television show starring Lynda Carter, and the animated television series, Super Friends. Like so many other little girls I wanted to be Wonder Woman. I twirled, I lassoed the bad guys, I pretended I had an invisible plane, and I dressed up in that iconic costume.

But then Wonder Woman went off the air, and I forgot about her and went on with my life. Or so I thought. I fearlessly rode horses. I started working at age 14. I graduated top of my class from high school. I became a Canadian Junior Body-Building Champion. I got into an elite program at the University of British Columbia that allowed me to become the first undergraduate recruit from the school to be hired at Goldman Sachs in New York. And in 1996, I became the youngest woman and first female trader to be made partner at Goldman Sachs. I also became a wife and a mother of two. I was busy trying to become my own kind of Wonder Woman. One who had a successful career, served her family, was there for her friends, and gave back to her community.

It was at the height of my struggle to try to balance it all that I rediscovered Wonder Woman. The year was 2001. At the time, I was working in Goldmanʼs executive office reporting directly to the most senior leaders of the firm on issues relating to the firmʼs culture, diversity, compensation, promotion, retention, and most importantly, leadership. I became obsessed with the concept of leadership, and I would devour anything that was written on this topic. One such piece was an article written by Tom Peters in Fast Company Magazine called “50 Rules of Leadership”. It became my favorite, and I would pass it along to anyone and everyone because it represented diverse, creative, and bold thinking. Peters left one rule blank, and invited readers to submit their own rule of leadership. I sat there trying to determine what was missing, and for whatever reason a thought popped into my head: “Be a Superhero.” The leadership principle followed and this is how it read.

“Remember what it was like to jump out of bed on those Saturday mornings so you could rush to turn on the TV to get another dose of Superman, Batman, or in my case, Wonder Woman! These characters inspired us to change the world and to do the right thing. To fight evil wherever it reared its ugly head. To be an example, and yet hid your true identity because it was not about personal glory. They never asked, “What is in it for me?” They never let the bad stuff get them down. They had a job to do and damn it they approached it with absolute enthusiasm and discipline. Be a superhero!”

I typed up this statement and shared my idea with a colleague. She added some great visuals of superheroes to my new motto, including Wonder Woman, and I proudly displayed the finished product on my desk. Wonder Woman was back in my life, and this time, she was here to stay. From that moment on, whenever I was facing challenges at work, at home, or in life in general, I would think to myself, BE A SUPERHERO JACKI. BE A WONDER WOMAN. Not THE Wonder Woman, A Wonder Woman.

At this point my story becomes very, very long, and one day I plan to tell it in all its detail. It is the story of the past 11 years of my life, years that began with Wonder Woman inspiring me to leave Goldman Sachs in 2002 to pursue a different path. She has been with me, guiding me, and manifesting herself in the countless women with whom I have come to know and love and collaborate. Wonder Woman has been with me as I discovered and then pursued my personal destiny to use my time, my treasure, and my talent to create a more gender balanced world. A world where women, WOMEN, are more equally represented in positions of power and influence, and to encourage women to use all of their resources, including financial, to help other women and the world in general.

Pursuing this destiny has taken me on quite the journey, a journey that has brought me to where I am now, serving as the Chief Engagement Officer of Women Moving Millions (WMM). WMM is a community of nearly 200 people who have given gifts of $1million or more to organizations or initiatives that work on behalf of women and girls. Our mission is to mobilize unprecedented resources for the advancement of women and girls. We work for justice, for peace, for love, and for our world that has been torn apart. Moreover, I know that I will never stop fighting for what I know in my heart and head to be true, that a more gender balanced world is a better world for everyone.

I am also a past and current board and advisory board member of many, many womenʼs organizations and networks. Increasingly, my service and funding has gone towards driving collaborations, collective impact, and more and more, towards film. Through Impact Partners, and now Gamechangers, a feature film fund for women directors, I am leveraging my resources to shape and influence popular culture, because I know it matters. I believe that “we cannot be what we cannot see.”

What is missing from all of this is a film to inspire us. What is missing is a superhero film that has a WOMAN in the lead. What is missing in a world full of wonder women, is THE Wonder Woman.

In the 11 years since I left Goldman Sachs this film has never left my mind. It started with an idea for the story, and from there I took a screenwriting course, I founded a film production company, I met with film people, and I tried to figure out how we could get this done. To this day I clip articles and jot down ideas, and I stick them all in a giant plastic box with a label that reads WONDER WOMAN MOVIE. I thought my destiny was to eventually write the screenplay, or get involved with the movie in some capacity. I reasoned that this was why a film had failed to materialize; it was waiting for me!

The fact of the matter is that no, it is not waiting for me. It is waiting for us. It is waiting for Wonder Woman fans like you and me to stand up and demand a great film that will inspire a new generation of girls to be all that they can be. Just like the Wonder Woman of the 1970s did for me. Just like she has done for so many other women. Right now I have a 13 year old daughter and 16 year old son, and they have both grown up in an era where superheroes are everywhere in pop culture. These characters provide entertainment and escapism at a time when the world is in turmoil, and they allow us all to imagine what we could do for this world if we had superpowers. Whether we like it or not, superheroes are role models, and so far the only role models my children have seen at the cinema are male. Enough is enough.

My frustration with the absence of Wonder Woman on screen led me to the creation of this report. I wanted to chart Wonder Womanʼs history in all forms of media and prove just how far her influence reaches. Contained in the report is a brief summary of her storyline, the history of Wonder Womanʼs film development, the various other mediums in which she has appeared, and a chart outlining the history of superhero stories on screen, as well as the budgets and grosses of these films. Over two years in the making, I chose April 15th, 2013 as the date for this reportʼs release because it is the same day as the release of Kristy Guevara-Flanaganʼs documentary Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines on PBS. As this film demonstrates, I am not alone in my frustration for more female role models in the media.

So here is my request to the powers that be who have the decision making power over the future of Wonder Woman on the big screen. Please hire the most amazing feminist writer you can find to write the screenplay. Before she sits down to write, have her meet with the feminist leaders of our world. Women like Gloria Steinem, who happens to be a Wonder Woman expert. Women like Hillary Clinton, Musimbi Kanyoro, Leymah Gbowee, Carol Gilligan, Marion Write Edelman, Helen LaKelly Hunt, Abigail Disney, Eve Ensler; the list goes on and on. And yes, me, I would very much like to sit in on one of those meetings too.

Above all else, please do this right and honor the fact that you are not just making another movie; you are creating a film that could change the world. Wonder Woman changed mine.

May this closing quote serve as your inspiration:

“If ever the world sees a time when women will come together purely for the good of humanity, it will be a power as the world has never seen.” – Matthew Arnold, circa 1800

Now thatʼs superpower! Respectfully yours,

Jacki Zehner

A Passionate Wonder Woman Fan

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