Written and directed by Angela Robinson, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women traces the relationship between William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans), his wife Elizabeth Holloway Marston (Rebecca Hall) and Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote) — the inspiration for Marston’s enduring Wonder Woman character.
It opens in 1945 with the burning of Marston’s comics and his interrogation by the Child Study Association of America, who condemn his work for images of “violence, torture and sadomasochism”. The tale that unfolds in flashbacks is the utter antithesis of this view, and a film so open-minded and accepting is a rare, hopeful thing.
While William pursues his DISC (Dominance, Inducement, Submission and Compliance) theory of emotion, he and Elizabeth collaborate on inventing a lie detector machine. Both discoveries underpin the film’s narrative, and Olive becomes the catalyst that propels it forward. Realising that beyond rules and despite words “your heart pumps a record of the truth,” the three characters first yield to reciprocal lust and then fall in love.
The relationship between Elizabeth and Olive blooms without the need for William’s mediation, and frequently he is in the submissive position. Robinson delicately depicts the many shifts in power between the trio as they dance between surrender and control, submission and dominance, throughout their lives.
William, Elizabeth and Olive construct a lie so that they may tell the truth about themselves and what they want; in private they are able to assume their secret, yet authentic, identities. Under Robinson’s direction their relationship is the most natural thing in the world despite the fact that the world seeks to destroy it. When society’s judgements seem to have succeeded in separating them, their love points them true north and back to the safe, consensual space that they create between them and within them; a place in their hearts as much as it is the physical home that they come to share.
As Wonder Woman’s phoenix-like ascendancy continues, Robinson provides an origin story that gives a desperately necessary stage to non-heteronormative visions of desire, a celebration and exploration of the complexities and ecstasies of an unconventional—yet searingly valid—love.
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is available to stream on Amazon, Google Play, Hulu, iTunes, Vudu, and YouTube. Follow Professor Marston and the Wonder Women on Facebook and Twitter, and follow Angela Robinson on Twitter.