Tod Davies on storytelling, lost superheroines, and tonight's screening of Wonder Women!
As Tod Davies describes it, she's "been a kazillion things" over the years. From work as a film producer (of Revengers Tragedy and Three Businessmen) to a screenwriter (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) to her current role as publisher of the independent press Exterminating Angel, Davies has been involved in the creation and telling of stories that diverge from the traditional narrative for many years. So she'll be the perfect person to introduce the International Film Series' screening tonight of Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines at 7 p.m. at Muenzinger Auditorium. Along with prolific independent film producer Margaret Matheson (of Antonia's Line, which will screen for free Wednesday), Davies will introduce the film and lead a discussion afterward on this fascinating documentary that traces the history of such superheroines as Wonder Woman through the years.
In advance of the screening, we spoke with Davies about the film, the power of storytelling, and superheroines lost to time.
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Westword: What attracted you to this film?
Tod Davies: There's two reasons why we are presenting it and why I had suggested it to Pablo [Kjolseth, director of the International Film Series]. One is that I am an independent publisher. I publish about two or three books a year and all of my books focus on how stories affect culture and how stories can possibly change cultures for the better, you know, like what stories we tell ourselves and what stories are our default settings. And the first book that I published back in 2009 was a book called The Supergirls by a guy named Mike Madrid, which is a history of the American superheroine in American comics and how their evolution is tied to the evolution of American culture. So after having written The Supergirls, the director of this documentary asked Mike to be in the documentary. He's in it as an expert because he knows everything there is to know, literally, about the American superheroine and he's obsessed with Wonder Woman. I had gone to see the documentary with him in San Francisco and was really impressed with it. It's really, really good and the appearances by Gloria Steinem and Lynda Carter are spectacular.
How did Margaret Matheson get involved in presenting this screening?
I produced a film with Margaret Matheson titled Revengers Tragedy, and she is one of the most spectacular people in history; she was my mentor for producing. All of her work has been story-driven, the films that she does are always about story. So I said to Pablo, you know, don't you want to show this documentary, and since Margaret's coming have me and Margaret talk about how story impacts culture and how the story of Wonder Woman has impacted culture and how changing stories for young women can help change how young women are treated and how the world works. And he said, yeah, that sounds like a good idea. So that's how we got to this.
How does Wonder Women fit into the idea of how story impacts culture?
This film traces how the evolution of Wonder Woman has been affected by culture and also how it affects people. Gloria Steinem is very, very articulate about it in the film and she talks about how Wonder Woman just knocked her for a loop when she was a little kid and was a huge icon for her and symbol for what could happen for women. What I'm really interested in is the fact that it's a story that we tell and the story comes out of our culture and reflects it and then we look at it and say, why is it that way? Let's change it to this. And then the culture changes, too. That's what I'm interested in.
What is your experience with Wonder Woman? Did you read the comic growing up?
I did, you know. And I loved her. In those days, we didn't have comic-book stores; we had a candy store near us that had a revolving rack of comic books and, of course, there weren't that many women heroines at that time. It was Supergirl and Wonder Woman and I was totally taken with Wonder Woman. Yes, I loved her.