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Wonder Woman: An Assemblage of Complete Virtue Packed in a Tight Swimsuit


This paper uses actor-network theory (ANT) and Aristotelian virtue ethics to think with/of Wonder Woman as an assemblage of human and non-human actors clustered on a page. It also considers how the emerging assemblage that is Wonder Woman might be viewed as the embodiment of Aristotle’s ‘complete virtue’ or justice. As one of the ‘trinity’ of superheroes of Detective Comics (DC), which also include Superman and Batman, Wonder Woman was created to counter the sadism and tyranny of the Nazi threat during the 1930s and 1940s and has been continually published since 1941. Wonder Woman is a multidimensional icon and an exemplary model of a superhero with a different body and voice, who operates in a different way in the world. She is presented here as a case study to trace possible translations of Aristotle’s configurations of virtue and justice. Using ANT, we argue that Wonder Woman arises from an assemblage of actors that include an armoured swimsuit, a magic lasso, shiny bracelets and a star-emblazoned tiara. By problematising these technologies as actors that commonly invite objectification (the swimsuit) or subjugation (the ropes), this paper suggests possible divergent readings that reveal how virtue and justice can emerge within these relational networks. We test how the sexualised body depictions and overt bondage references in the Wonder Woman comics, and in particular, in our chosen story, George Pérez’s Wonder Woman: Destiny Calling, offer something bolder and more profound—a complex performance of justice. Additionally, this paper intimates the productive methodological powers of ANT in relation to the broader field of comics studies.

Published: 2020-11-21
Pages:185 to 197
Section: Symposium: Drawing the Human
How to Cite
Ashford, Theresa K, and Neal Curtis. 2020. “Wonder Woman: An Assemblage of Complete Virtue Packed in a Tight Swimsuit”. Law, Technology and Humans 2 (2):185-97.

Author Biographies

University of the Sunshine Coast
Australia Australia

Dr Theresa Ashford is a Lecturer in Social Science teaching Geography and Sociology, and is passionate in exploring interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary borderlands. Her under graduate and post graduate education is in Geography and spans science, human and cultural geographies. Her Masters research explored public spaces and the co-construction of homeless punk youth identities in Winnipeg, Canada. Dr Ashford’s PhD research (2018, Education, UQ) used Actor-network theory to investigate the emergence of digital ethics in 1:1 classrooms and the role of technology mediating, supporting and translating human behaviour and understandings. Her interest is in human-non-human hybridity and ethics. Dr Ashford is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA) and is keenly interested in new pedagogies, nurturing future-oriented thinking, and the shift required to teach in the Anthropocene. 


The University of Auckland
New Zealand New Zealand

Neal Curtis is Associate professor in Media and Communication at the University of Auckland. His most recent books are Idiotism: Capitalism and the Privatisation of Life (Pluot Press, 2013), Sovereignty and Superheroes (Manchester University Press, 2016. He has a new book entitled Hate in Precarious Times: Mobilizing Anxiety from the Alt-Right to Brexit due out in early 2021 wth IB Tauris/Bloomsbury.

Open Access Journal
ISSN 2652-4074