Lynda Carter

Lynda Carter, PBS Pioneers of TelevisionLynda Carter is best known for her marquee role as Wonder Woman on the 1970s TV series of the same name. While considered perfect for the role, Carter faced challenges from the beginning. Some thought her costume was too revealing. “I wore less on the beach!” Carter protested. “It was more than a bikini–it was the American flag in a one-piece suit,” Carter said.  Her hourglass figure was flattering, but Carter hoped her tiny waist didn’t make her look too delicate. Though she had the right hair and statuesque body for the part of Wonder Woman, Carter had to grow into acting since she had little experience when she landed the role.

Female action characters were rare in the 1970s and the producers used a man for Carter’s stunt double. When Carter saw the actor’s hairy chest and square physique, she laughed and thought, “I can’t have that.” In one episode in which Wonder Woman hangs from a flying helicopter, Carter decided to do it herself.  After successfully completing the risky stunt, the studio executives, worried that Carter could get hurt, immediately hired a female stunt double.

Wonder Woman as a Role Model

“Wonder Woman” launched in the mid 1970s, during the height of the women’s movement. In the first episodes, the Wonder Woman character voiced messages of empowerment, such as, “Women are the wave of the future and sisterhood is stronger than anything,” but the feminist messages didn’t last long. The network thought Wonder Woman’s feminist talk would turn off viewers—that it was “dangerous,” as Carter puts it now with a roll of the eyes. Even with the toned down scripts, Carter insisted that the show portray a positive female role model.  “The generation of women my age had mothers who were saying ‘you can do whatever you set your mind to,’” Carter said. Her character was resourceful and in control, often coming to the rescue of the show’s male lead, Lyle Waggoner. “Wonder Woman” was among the first TV dramas with a female lead and it gave invaluable experience to a wide range of female writers and producers.