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‘I’m just not afraid’: Lynda Carter on her online activism and Wonder Woman | Wonder Woman


The afterlife of the movie star with a single, iconic role is a curiosity. Between 1976 and 1979, Lynda Carter appeared in three seasons of Wonder Woman, a hit so huge that for those of us who saw it as children, she remains a somewhat mystical figure. Knight Rider was great, the A-Team was fun, but Wonder Woman – jumping between boulders, sparks flying from her wrist plates – was something else.

Here is Carter today, in a pastel-colored blazer on video chat from her home in Maryland, and although I’m a 46-year-old woman with two children and a mortgage, I can’t help it: I’m completely agog. “It was such a short part of my life, but it has made a bigger impact than any other thing I’ve done,” says Carter, who is 70 and looks nothing of the sort. Among the many reasons to love her, is her good grace in the face of a generation’s obsession with those three short years of her life.

We are not, ostensibly, here to talk about Wonder Woman, nor Carter’s latest release (she’s pivoted from acting to singing; most of her songs are kind of pop showtunes, but her new single is a fantastic dance remix of her song Human and Divine, which she wrote for her late husband).

I cannot think of anything that helps women’s rights less than pinning the blame on trans women. They face so much violence and scrutiny as is. Leave them alone and focus on the real war on women. It’s happening in the courts and legislatures around this country.

— Lynda Carter (@RealLyndaCarter) July 5, 2022

More pressing is the renaissance she’s enjoying on social media. Plenty of celebrities spout off about politics, but in the wake of the overturn of Roe v Wade, Carter’s Twitter feed has broken through. She is warm and wry, using her odd but powerful standing in the memories of millions of Americans to have a word about what’s going on. When, a few months ago, Carter started tweeting about abortion rights, got up in arms about Florida’s “don’t say gay” laws and had a cheeky back and forth with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Gen X keeled over at the sheer deliciousness of it all. Check it out, guys: Wonder Woman has engaged with the discourse.

Nowhere has the actor been more strident or effective than in her opposition to the supreme court’s overturning of Roe v Wade. Carter has always been political – “give me something to march about!” she says, and supported Hillary Clinton, who she counts as a friend, in her run for president. But this was different.

“I am so stunned I haven’t really spoken out about my feelings,” says Carter. “I don’t think I’ve ever been so speechless. That you would have to explain a D&C, that a stranger, a policeman, might come to your house to say you had a procedure. Or that [if you have] IVF you’re capable of murder or something. My God.”

Gal Gadot and Carter at the UN in October 2016.
Gal Gadot and Carter at the UN in October 2016. Photograph: M Stan Reaves/REX/Shutterstock

That, she says, is the emotional side. The practical side is what to do about it. “If we all got to together in state where they are going to arrest anyone who admits to having an abortion – and said, ‘Lock me up’? I just think we should all race to the state, I don’t care how old you are!”

You mean overwhelm the system?

“Right. Prove it! Prove I’m not pregnant now!” This, the textbook I-am-Spartacus move, seems a fittingly jaunty suggestion coming from Carter.

Although the politics is all hers, Carter has help with the wording of her tweets. She tells me that a team of young women and “a couple of very cute guys” – mostly under 30, and lead by Sabrina McMillin, a media strategist – have been responsible for distilling and presenting her online persona. “They get me,” she says. “They get my voice, and my strengths and my weaknesses, and my sense of humor.” It’s in the context of this group that ideas are discussed, angles worked, jokes rehearsed and Carter’s message honed for the public domain. “They are free to voice their own opinions, and they do,” she says. “They lend their ideas, and expertise, and voices, and we are each other’s cheerleaders. That makes for a lot of fun.” It also allows Carter to feel sufficiently emboldened to wade in to the political debate. “If not now, when, in my life and career?” she says. “I’m just not afraid.”

The funny thing about this is that, for a great many celebrities, the fear of voicing an opinion about politics is secondary to the fear of admitting to having help with the message. Carter is blithely uninterested in concealing how the sausage is made, not least because it would deny credit to her collaborators. She is very emphatic about young people – about “passing the baton”, as she puts it – and acting as a figurehead to inspire and amuse. That the source of this influence is a 40-year-old TV show would be baffling if most of us weren’t, at this point, completely well-versed in how social media picks up and reboots childhood heroes.

Success lies in injecting precisely the right amount of camp to trigger affection without undermining the message. Too little, and you’re preaching; too much, and you’re David Hasselhoff. “I just didn’t know how there’s a certain Twitter way,” says Carter. “And it was a little above my head. And then my head of media strategy came in and said, well, this is how we engage. I went, whoa!”

If Carter had a certain amount of political credibility in the bank, it is thanks to the weird status of the original Wonder Woman. I loved that show – the music, the outfits, the incredibly lame special effects. She didn’t actually fly, she jumped between what appeared to be fibreglass boulders, sure-footed as a cat. And, of course, I loved Carter, her flip between sweet-natured Diana Price and fierce but still twinkly Wonder Woman. She was all-powerful, and she was beautiful, and she had a lasso that she knew how to use.

Carter as Wonder Woman.
Carter as Wonder Woman. Photograph: Everett Collection/Rex Feature

Still, let’s not get carried away. In 2017, when Patty Jenkins revisited Wonder Woman in the form of the Gal Gadot movie, the tone and script were overtly feminist, which absolutely wasn’t the vibe of the original show. Three years before shooting the Wonder Woman pilot, Carter won the Miss World USA competition, a fact the show capitalized on with the tiny shorts and corset of her character’s wardrobe, and the beauty contest bounce of her manner. If Carter’s Wonder Woman was designed to thrill and inspire, she was also, per TV standards of the day, required to titillate. And yet, the iconography of the only mainstream female super hero was so strong that Ms. magazine featured Wonder Woman on its cover six times and even in the show, something of the fierceness of the original DC character shone through.

Nonetheless, it wasn’t exactly a strident message. In 1976, anything bearing a feminist label was guaranteed a swift box office death. (Of all the 70s and 80s TV shows, the one with the most undisguised feminist energy wasn’t Wonder Woman but Charlie’s Angels.) In the spirit of retrofitting history to fit our current biases, however, Lynda Carter’s Diana Prince is spoken of these days as a feminist progenitor practically up there with Mary Wollstonecraft. “I think Wonder Woman was considered a piece of feminist work,” says Carter. “And it meant to be feminist. They tried to get it less feminist, but she was definitely the feminist – oh, definitely.”

Lynda Carter and Nancy Pelosi at the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Woman of Leadership Award earlier this year.
Lynda Carter and Nancy Pelosi at the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Woman of Leadership Award earlier this year. Photograph: Paul Morigi/Getty Images

Carter is fully onboard with the franchise’s current reboot. “Oh, I was thrilled, I was standing, I was applauding, I was crying, I was laughing. I was holding the hand of my daughter and husband.” She says: “It was strange to see another woman taking that mantle,” although somewhat made up for by her small post-credits role as Amazonian warrior Asteria in the most recent film.

She is happy to keep throwing out suggestions, offering her support to younger women, and harnessing the sizable goodwill felt towards her, all of which is only possible because of Carter’s shrewd acceptance of the nature of her appeal. In the decades after Wonder Woman, she appeared in countless shows and TV movies – in 1983, Carter played the title role in a biopic of Rita Hayworth; in the mid-90s, she played Elizabeth Shields, the female lead, in 22 episodes of a frontier TV drama called Hawkeye – but despite her best efforts, never broke through again in the same way.

She has never wanted to show up to Comic-Con, she says, but neither does she resent the source of her fame – as so many in her position, with one overshadowing role, tend to do. “If I was on a talk show, they would talk about Wonder Woman and I would discuss it. Or if someone stopped to tell me their story, I would listen and sign their autograph.” Carter, as sunny about this as she appears to be about most things, is happy that the show launched her at all.

And this in a 12-month period that has been tougher than any other in her life. Last year, Carter’s husband of 37 years, the lawyer Robert Altman, died of myelofibrosis. She and their two adult children are still in a period of mourning. “The guy that I married was handsome, smart, loving,” she says, and it was an unusually wonderful marriage. Why did it work? “He really did not hold me back in anything I wanted to do,” says Carter. “On the contrary, he encouraged me to go back to singing again. Or: ‘Don’t worry, take that movie, I’ll deal with the kids, I’ll bring ‘em every weekend, we’ll figure it out.’ And I would do the same for him. If we had a vacation plan, I wouldn’t take a movie, or a singing tour, or something like that, because we had family plans. And we spent as much time as a family together as possible. And then Covid hit, and we were together 24/7. And then in February 2021, he perished.”

She says all this simply and her takeaway is characteristically outward-looking. “When I see what the supreme court has done, and the glee that is on the faces of people who have stolen the rights of generations of women, I’m just sad,” she says, but its an active kind of sadness that foments connection. If this has been a period of “insight and grief”, says Carter, then the only way forward is empathy. “A great deal of empathy,” she says and smiles; it’s the only real super-power.





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