Wonder Woman Lynda Carter: This Is My #MeToo Story
Lynda Carter had been speaking about the positive effects of the #MeToo movement when I asked if she had ever endured sexual abuse and harassment in her career.
Yes, the actress most famous for playing the iconic Wonder Woman on TV in the mid- to late 1970s said quietly. Her alleged abuser is presently facing some form of punishment and justice, she revealed. She would not name him, nor divulge the exact nature of what happened. But she told The Daily Beast that she had considered pursuing legal action against him.
Hes already being done in. Theres no advantage in piling on again, Carter said as we sat at a table in the St. Regis Hotel in New York City. And, she said emphatically, I believe every woman in the Bill Cosby case.
And President Trumps accusers?
I believe them, too, Carter told me. Why would they lie? I believe the women.
(Later, The Daily Beast asked Carters representative if Cosby himself had been Carters alleged abuser. The representative responded that, as per her wishes during our interview, she doesnt want to name any names.)
How had it felt to watch her alleged abuser receive some measure of justice? I asked Carter.
Carter toyed with her bowl of oatmeal and brown sugar, a little dish of raisins to the side. Well, whatever it is, it isnt enough, she said sharply.
He had violated not only her, but a lot of people, Carter said.
Did she take any satisfaction from the justice being meted out?
No, not satisfaction. I cant add anything to it. I wish I could. But theres nothing legally I could add to it, because I looked into it. Im just another face in the crowd. I wish I could, and if I could I would. And I would talk about it. But it ends up being about me, and not about the people who can talk about it. I dont want it to be about me, its not about me. Its about him being a scumbag. So legally I cant do anything. If I could I would.
Had it taken her a long time to recover from what happened? I asked.
Yeah, Carter said quietly, and I am probably still.
She said that watching the #MeToo movement develop had been emotional and moving for her, and that she hoped lasting change would flow from it, though I think its regional. Often in red states you find racism, and where you find racism you also find sexism.
On the set of Wonder Woman itself, she revealed, There was a cameraman who drilled a hole in my dressing room wall on the Warner Brothers lot.
He was a Peeping Tom? Yes. They caught him, fired him, and drummed him out of the business. Carter didnt name the man; The Daily Beast has reached out to Warner Bros. for comment.
I fended off my share, she added of other incidents. And Ive been afraid. If a man tried something, I would say, Are you kidding me? Typically the male offender would try to laugh off his behavior, so there was an element of deniability there, said Carter.
I asked if Carter had ever reported any of the harassment or abuse. No, because who are you going to tell? Who you are going to tell except your girlfriends and your circle of friends? Youd say or hear, Stay away from that guy. Watch out for this casting director. And so you would hear it from other people, other people would hear it from other people. Watch out for so and so. Thats how you protected yourself: through the grapevine. We were womens lib, burn the bra. We werent going to take any shit from people. So we felt strong in that, but there were still not a lot of parts for us.
I asked Carter if there was a fear of speaking up in case she, and others, were blacklisted as a result.
Yes, you wouldnt do it. Who are you going to tell, your agent? Whos going to believe you? No ones going to believe you. And when you did push back by saying, Are you kidding me? they would say, Yes, yes. But it was everywhere. Youd see girls being shaken in acting classes. And the #MeToo movement is happening not just with actresses but maids and caregivers, everywhere.
I asked my husband if he was surprised by all the #MeToo stories. Yeah, Im surprised, he said. Ask any woman, theyre not surprised. Its been going on for years. Its not news to us [women], but it is news to you [men]. Weve been trying to tell you. Weve been trying to tell you for a long time and you havent listened.
It took powerful women who are famous to yell Fire in a crowded theater full of executives that there was one guy [Harvey Weinstein]. He was going down anyway, nobody liked him, he was a bully to everyone. Someone had the courage to take him to task, and then someone else spoke up.
There is a difference between a guy hitting on you, which everybody has, and a guy assaulting you. If someone is hitting on you aggressively, you go, Back off and he does. But then there is the guy who locks you in a room, or who corners you. There is a huge difference when you cant speak up, or you get blackballed if you say anything. The repercussion of all this has been #MeToo.
We met as Carter is about to narrate the Smithsonian Channels three-part history series Epic Warrior Women, starting March 19. She was dressed in a black silk shirt and trousers, hair artfully tousled and makeup perfect for an imminent TV appearance. She introduced herself with a fistful of vitamin tablets to take. Water, no ice, she said to the nearest waiter in her charming, soft drawl.
Im very close to Patty, and I think Gal Gadot did a wonderful job, said Carter. I was really happy to see they showed a clip of the film during the Oscars, even though they didnt nominate it for anything. Anything. It should have been nominated. They were left out of special effects, writing, everything. Patty did an amazing job. The essence of the character is not an easy one to find the right balance of. Patty got it.
Carter didnt appear in the film; would she like to appear in the sequel?
Well see what Patty does, I dont know how shes going to do it. I said to her, Whatever you want to do is fine with me.
I asked if it was strange in any way to watch Gadot play the character she had played.
Yeah, a little bit. But I didnt watch any of the trailers. I just went to premiere, saw the whole thing, and stood up and cheered.
The Smithsonian documentary, about Amazons, female Roman gladiators, and the 19th-century Agooji of West Africa, enlightened Carter to the warrior women of historical times. We think of the suffragettes, and long before them these women were so revered in their cultures. We are still revered. In fact, the problem men have with women is more about the fear of women than it is about anything else.
Men cannot procreate. I think thats the issue, probably. What else could it be? It is beyond their control. In these ancient civilizations, the whole woman was celebratedbeing female, a mother, companion, and warrior. She bore children, and would even fight with a child on her back. I never knew some gladiators were women.
In contemporary culture, Carter thinks, a heterosexual man wants to use a woman for sex, or sees her as a virgin, and/or as a mother, but not the whole woman. Weve been saying forever that we are the whole woman, just as you are the whole man. You are all of it, and you are a champion of women if you choose to be. If you can conceive of the whole woman in your own brain, then you are a champion of women, and not afraid of the whole woman.
When I asked if she had ever foundtransformed in a twirl from her character Diana Princes everyday wearWonder Womans satin-tights costume objectifying, Carter scoffed and gave me a huge eyeroll.
Oh, so objectifying, like Superman with a sock in his pocket. They dont worry about objectifying men. Because she looks like a woman, is that objectifying? Oh my God, She looks like a woman, holy cat. Its the 70s and shes wearing more than the bikini-clad girls at the time. I would not say it was objectifying.
I did not play her as sexy. It was never a come-hither look. Gal Gadot never played come hither. I never played predatory. She is what she is. Ask any woman: When you are 22, and you look like you look then, well, thats how you look. And then youre 32 and then youre 42 and then youre 52 and thats how you look. And when youre 62, 72, 82, thats how you look. Its the same thing with men. I dont think its any more objectifying than anything else. You want to virginize Wonder Woman? Its ridiculous.
Carter said she has been a feminist her whole life, a baby boomer whose parents raised her in Arizona with the idea she could do anything. Carter started singing at 14, and joined bands; music was her primary passion before acting. She first found fame as Miss World America in 1972.
Now that was objectifying, that was a meat market, she said forcefully. I dont agree with beauty contests. I did it one time. It wasnt embarrassing being Wonder Woman, it was embarrassing walking around on stage in a bikini. It was ridiculous, stupid, and humiliating. The pageant organization almost fired her, she said, for initially refusing to go on a USO tour in Vietnam (she eventually relented).
As for pageants today, Carter said, I dont like them. I think theyre meat-markety. I dont fault the women, I fault what I really dont like about them: that youve got these beautiful women and only one woman who wins. Everyone else is just losers, and these are gorgeous, wonderful, smart women.
Fame as Wonder Woman, I did not envision to be a lifelong thing, said Carter. You go about and live your life, and feel very fortunate to have had an opportunity to play a great character. She has endured and endured and endured.
There were women on TV at the time, she addedMary Tyler Moore, Carol Burnett, Laverne and Shirleybut nobody like Wonder Woman.
The characters longevity is a testament to not just Wonder Woman herself, but also how Carter approached her. It was all thought out. One of the first things a producer told me is that Women are going to hate you. That was the antithesis of how I saw the character, and so I made sure they wouldnt. There was not a mean bone in her body, no animus. She would get angry, but she would be against bullying. She would have the lasso of truth: It is her inner light, her sense of right and wrong. She was kind, loving, fierce, honest, and able to look someone in the eye. She would be a friend and protector.
We would all twirl around, boys and girls, in our school playground, wanting to be Wonder Woman, I told Carter. Wonder Womans power, impressive leaping (in reality, giant catapults were used), and fabulous costume were everything.
There were very few stunt women back then, Carter recalled, and so men dressed up as her. Youd see them in the costume with chest hair coming out at the top and no curves, and Id say, It doesnt matter how far the camera is away. That does not look like a woman.
I asked if Wonder Woman had ever felt like a burden. Had Carter ever wanted to escape her? I knew early on that would be foolish. It really isnt about me, it is about a role I created, and thank God people identified with it because its a piece of magic that I created.
For me to go against it, why would I do that? People like to tell me their experiences. Like you, your eyes lit up when you told me yours. If I have the chance to connect with another human being for a moment in my life, in this crazy piece of space that we inhabit, thats kind of cool.
The show brought its share of odd fan-mail. One guy, 30 years ago, taped himself talking about how he felt about me, said Carter. He would send me VHS tapes of him talking about me. People have a fantasy life. Some of the attention was worrying. Sure, everyone has had stalkers. I try to be careful, but I dont live life in a different way. I have found that the more accessible that you are, the more friendly, less strange, people are.
The attention of fans, especially backstage, can be hard. People say, Thats what you signed up for, but it isnt. It isnt who you are. Youre playing characters. Online, sometimes people dont want to hear what you are saying politically. They feel their point of view is worth something, but not yours. If I have something to say on my Facebook or Instagram pages, you can say you dont like it, but dont tell me to shut up.
Other people thought the Wonder Woman role might limit her potential as an actress, Carter said. She did not. It is what it is. Its like fighting the tide. How do you fight that? It is always the tagline, but Ive managed to do a lot of other thingsnothing as big as that, but I love the work I am doing now.
She returned to singing after the TV show, and on the road was pregnant with her son, James. Singing and being on the road is not a good place for children, so I quit that and carried on acting. She smiled. And then my son was a junior in high school, and then he was looking at colleges, so I thought, I better start looking for something to do.
Carter will be singing at D.C.s Kennedy Center on March 17, New York Citys Jazz at Lincoln Center on April 20 and 21, and then will receive her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on April 3, for which she is thrilled beyond belief, over the moon. An unmet ambition is to do comedy. She is inspired by the wryness and timing of Allison Janney.
Carter lives in Potomac, Maryland, with her second husband, Robert Altman, chairman and CEO of the video games company ZeniMax Media.
I married an amazing human being, she said. We celebrated 34 years together in January. Hes the love of my life and he is a tremendous father. He is a lot of fun to be with. He really works hard. Hes my best friend. I adore him. So we have a really, really great marriage. James is 30, Carters daughter, Jessica, is 27. Both are law-school graduates. James is going into the video-game business, Carter said, while Jessica is an attorney.
When they were younger, Carter said the children never got punished for anything they did, but they would if they had been caught lyingwhich is kind of appropriate for the woman who played a superhero most famously armed with a lasso of truth.
Lying was like kiss of death, whether it was by omission, or just lying, any type of lie. I told them, If you dont tell me, I cant help you. If its bad news, I want to know right away because I cant help you. Why are you lying? What part of whatever it is is so shameful that you dont feel you can share the truth with me?
Carter sighed when asked if President Trump could benefit from the lasso of truth.
I try to respect the presidency because this is America. But I am against the crumbling of the policies that were in place to protect us in almost every department: from environmental to parks and services to the EPA and land management, Treasury, taxes. It just seems to be that we are crumbling. One good thing I see is a lot of people working very hard to shore up protections to fight this erosion.
A committed advocate for womens rights and LGBT equality, Carter has been the grand marshal of Pride parades in Arizona, New York City, and Washington, D.C. In 2016, Carter was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Gracie Awards, celebrating women in media.
She finds most disturbing the lack of checks and balances on the present administrations policies. I dont know long it will take to undo some of the damage. I dont blame everything on President Trump, I put lot of blame on the Republican Congress for not doing things in the proper way. Youve got people doing things that are shocking. [Devin] Nunes running back and forth to the White House, being a patsy. Its shameful.
A few years ago, Carter revealed she was in recovery from alcoholism.
I would say that anyone in recovery would probably tell you that it should terrify you, and it should continue to, Carter told The Daily Beast. The opioid crisis, she said, began when companies started producing and marketing opioids like candy over 20 years ago.
I didnt have a pill addiction, Carter said. I didnt drink till my mid-20s. It was a genetic thing. My mother was extremely allergic to alcohol, my family had a lot of alcoholism in it. I didnt drink for years at a time, and when I did it was like falling off a cliff.
So I got into recovery when the times between became shorter and shorter. I had no understanding of alcoholism at all. Its been 20 years recovery for me. I dont white-knuckle it. It is something Im always conscious of. I try to help other people with it, and try to do what I can do for my sobriety.
Asked how she found aging, Carter sighed and repeated the word three times. It is what it is. Im not going to get all cut up. With all that stuff, Im too afraid of looking different, so I dont think I will.
She said she had not had plastic surgery, buttouching her cheek gentlyadded, You have your little Botox. I do a little bit now and then not very much, as you can tell. Listen, when my mom passed away she was almost 90. She didnt have a wrinkle on her face when she died, Im not kidding you. I think part of it is just genetics. And my dad looks really great. Hes 95, he looks amazing. I know too many people who have had work done and they look terrible. I think my egos too fragile. I think Id be afraid of looking scary.
Carter smiled when I asked if she still had any of her Wonder Woman costumes. I still have a costume of my own and I have a second costume that a fan gave me. I said to him, If you ever want to sell it, let me know because I have two children and one costume. He just gave it to me, and I told him he could have tickets to any of my concerts for the rest of his life.
She wont say where she keeps the costumes, both of which she wore on the show. No, I dont wear them now, she admitted. They are awfully tiny. I was a little, itty-bitty thing. You have to realize I was 22 years old when I wore them. Its so great to have them. I have no idea what theyre worth now. But theyre invaluable. They make me smile.
Carters luggage had been piled into awaiting transportation. An assistant appeared with a long brown coat, which Carter shrugged on. She had a plane to catch. But first, she slapped me on my back. Youre adorable, she said. But I thought we were going to spin around.
And so it was that Carter indulged my childhood selfs love of Diana Princes moment of wondrous transformation. There, as waiters cleared away the breakfast dishes, Wonder Woman and I twirled for the whole St. Regis Hotel to see. There may not have been a kaboom, and we didnt transform into superhero-issue satin tights, but it was most definitely a moment of magic.