Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan M.

October 12, 2017

The Professor Marston poly triad movie finally hits the big screen

The first truly poly movie to reach mainstream theaters is turning into a bigger deal than I expected. The media are now full of reviews and interviews about Professor Marston and the Wonder Women: the New York Times, NPR, Washington PostLA Times, The Atlantic, Canada's National Post.... Here's a Google News search restricted October 11-14.

I particularly like the piece in today's Guardian, which finally explains a bit about Marston's pet "DISC theory" of how feminism could save the world:

Polyamory, bondage and feminism: the film that tells Wonder Woman's story

...“He thought: men won’t give up their power unless women learn to sexually dominate or use what he called ‘captivation emotion’ — basically, to take the power away from men for their own good,” says Angela Robinson, writer-director.

...A polyamorous relationship in the 1920s was radical but not much more than Marston’s Disc theory, which stood for dominance, inducement, submission and compliance. Marston believed in dominance and submission but only when the dominant figure used inducement — which he argued that women were far better at — to gain submission. If someone was forced into compliance (the more male approach), it was accompanied by a simmering resentment.

Even more subversive was Wonder Woman herself, whom Marston created in 1941 as a propaganda vehicle for his ideas. He filled the comics with images that were deemed to have deviant sexual undertones, from homosexuality to spanking and bondage — lots and lots of bondage.

“The comics are wild, they’re insane,” [co-star Bella] Heathcote says. “It’s not surprising Marston got called before a tribunal — they’re overtly sexual and there are so many bondage elements.”...

As to the business of whether Elizabeth and Olive had an actual lesbian sexual relationship: I've come around to the view that while the circumstantial evidence is powerful — lesbianism was a big part of the household's ideology from the very start; the two women lived together in a classic "Boston marriage" for 38 years after Marston died; Elizabeth reminisced that there was "lovemaking for all" — the case is not directly documented. The household was very circumspect about what the world could find out. In any event, this was a poly triad in every real sense — with deep, shared, emotional intimacy all around. I have friends who've been living in a vee triad for over 20 years, raising kids like the Marstons, and they get furious if anyone suggests they aren't a "true" triad just because the women don't get into each others' bits.1

...Robinson reshaped the characters to fit the story she wanted to tell. ... “The Marstons led an incredible sprawling tale of a life, and this film is just a haiku of their life,” Robinson says. “I tried to distill the most essential story I wanted to tell, which was about how the love affair between Marston, Elizabeth and Olive came together to create Wonder Woman.”

[Co-star] Rebecca Hall says she was fascinated by the idea that Wonder Woman was “written by a guy who wanted to teach boys that it’s all right to have women in positions of power, that you can be saved, and that women can be strong”.

...“It is timely as an examination of what feminism is and for re-conceiving what a family is,” Amy Redford, a producer, adds.

The whole article (October 12, 2017).

The movie opens Friday October 13th in the US and Canada (runs in Canada only until the 19th); Nov. 9 in Australia, and Nov. 10 in the UK. Where it's showing in your area and when.

● The three stars appeared yesterday on NBC's Today Show:

● Again, the movie offers great opportunities for poly people to come forward and have their say. For instance, just up this afternoon.

And for years to come, it will provide a cultural reference to help explain what we're about.


1. There's more in Jill Lepore's 2014 book The Secret History of Wonder Woman, as Noah Berlatsky summarized in an article in the Atlantic, The Free Love Experiment That Created Wonder Woman (online Oct. 17, 2014):

Lepore reports... that the Marstons had a polyamorous relationship with another woman, Marjorie Wilkes Huntley, before they met Byrne, and that she remained an on-and-off member of the family long after Byrne arrived, helping out with the inking and lettering of the Wonder Woman comics in the 1940s, and occasionally staying with Holloway and Byrne after Marston's death. Further, Huntley, Byrne, Holloway, and Marston all participated in what Lepore describes as a "sex cult" in 1925-26 at the home of Marston's aunt Carolyn. [Typewritten minutes of the group's meetings, amounting to 95 pages,  were kept and still exist.] Participants celebrated female sexual power, dominance, submission and love by forming “Love Units” consisting of multiple partners, including Love Girls who "do not … practice … concealment of the love organs."...


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Blogger G Lattanzio said...


We knew of this controversy before the film was released, as these competing narratives have long existed as concerns their biographies. It's sad to see just how adamant some have been in just discounting circumstantial evidence on Elizabeth and Olive's relationship, and that this has been the area from which they have attacked the film. I understand that there is a family narrative (and there are many reasons why that narrative may exist, of course), but it's still sad to see some people jumping to what amounts to potentially bi-errasure. We should keep an open mind, especially in the poly community. I ended up seeing this in a large group of poly individuals, and the consensus was that this was worth seeing at man.

October 16, 2017 11:08 PM  

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