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Arthur & Merlin
“How could Wonder Woman be interested in Steve, who seemed so weak and so boring?” —Gloria Steinem.
“Steve Trevor was dull and boring and I didn’t like him much so I disposed of him.” —Mike Sekowsky.
“What does she see in that man?” —Batman.
Batman’s funny last remark on an episode of the “Brave & the Bold” show pretty much sums up the sentiment fans have had for decades!…Though just as psychologically interesting is ‘What does he see in Catwoman?!’. Trina Robbins even postulated that Steve is simply so stupid that he constantly fails to put two & two together…(Oh, nevermind that Etta Candy & the Holliday girls couldn’t figure out Diana’s secret either, huh?!)
Its a shame there’s such harsh sentiments from people, since it was Steve’s archetype that spawned many other famous boyfriends of female champions…Riley Finn, Tom Hastings, Borias, Michael Samuelle and Vaughn, Ron Stoppable, Peeta, etc…An archetype–rooted in Orion the Hunter–that has been, and continues to be, replicated, analysed, dissected and manipulated, in varied ways.
But unlike Steve, their creators fully developed them, complete with rich backstories. Heck, Lois Lane also used to be tagged as boring & unsexy by fans (and Homer Simpson)…that is, until writers modernized & upgraded her sex appeal, starting with the Teri Hatcher incarnation, but still keeping & building off of her core personality. But the Trevor character was already designed with sound attraction dynamics as WW’s ideal boyfriend…whereas Siegel & Shuster designed Lois Lane simply based on their experience with a confident girl they knew (& fancied). And hopefully after this article’s revelations become w ell-known, the name “Steve Trevor” will carry connotations of “Dedicated bravery”, instead of “Boring, useless lapdog”.
Why he’s had problems with fans & writers:
Steve Trevor is a character that is actually more misunderstood than Wonder Woman is. Fortunately, he’s easier & shorter to explain than her, requiring only this one article……
Basically: He’s a character with a lot of untapped, built-in potential, as he was created by a psychological expert in emotions, attraction, & courtship. So, Dr. Marston consequently planted certain psychological cues and designed Steve with attractive core traits that most women would fall for, not just WW. But those traits blended into the background that he designed to help accentuate just WW as the quirky main star, as part of his main agenda. Hence the core traits were lost on subsequent writers who lacked knowledge in attraction dynamics. I’m sure Dr. Marston would’ve refined the attractive significance of those traits had he continued living today, just as creators of other female protagonist boyfriends have successfully done at the onset.
Plus, Dr. Marston was self-admittedly not a very apt comics writer; thus, didn’t always convey his intentions clearly. And his choice to write it in a fairytale fantasy genre had rendered the supporting characters as caricatures that readers viewed literally.
All these factors considered, its no wonder Steve seemed flat, campy, & useless, even tho he was designed to be a passionately bold character with elements that would suggest an exciting personality. This is more of a problem for the Steve character than Lois, because of the difference in gender psych…As men’s attraction triggers come from visual stimuli, all that’s required to accentuate Lois’s worth was simply a better artist, sexier actress, etc. But for female fans to get a sense of attractive worth for Steve requires more character development, which Dr. Marston never got around to, mainly because he was busy working on exalting WW.
And the problem got worse as subsequent writers–mostly male & totally oblivious to the above cues–misinterpreted him as they did WW, left out his core elements, and utterly disrespected the character. This was from a combination of no understanding of gender dynamics & men forgetting how to be men! Culminating in Michael Jelenic wussing out, totally disrespecting men by making Steve self-deprecating & apologetic for being a man, giving us a Trevor incarnation that strays the furthest from the original archetype. The true Steve Trevor was a real man who didn’t apologize for it. So, the solution to Steve’s problems isn’t to upgrade him like they did Lois, but to play up the core elements already built into him.
Another thing screwing with the Steve Trevor mythos is that a lot of feminists, zealots, & wussy guys have this crazy (& un-natural) idea that a powerful independent woman doesn’t need a man to complete her. But the truth is: Even powerful independent women have emotional human needs, which is a separate issue & does not send a bad message to girls. I can attest to this firsthand as I’ve seduced managers, a CEO, & fitness athletes…these powerful women are self sufficient, but still melt in a man’s arms. And WW is certainly human. More so, many of these WW fan feminist groups are emotionally charged, due to past bad experiences; some of them trying (ie. spousal abuse), some petty (ie. being rejected at one friggin comics store). And like anyone with emotional blinders, they only see in those comics what they want to see, and totally miss certain truths that are laid out bare in print.
The truth about Steve Trevor…what she sees in him:
First, let it be made clear that the core character revelations I’m explaining in this article are in regards to the original Steve Trevor as designed by Dr. Marston. Certain subsequent incarnations of Steve were the real source of the problems many fans have had with the character. But those incarnations were meant to be campy interpretations–including the 70’s show–rather than the original design of Steve Trevor. Therefore, in order to understand the real Steve Trevor, your knowledge of all the post-Marston incarnations needs to be left at the door…You can pick them up when you leave, after you learn the original core design. You would then also need to disregard what many feminists say about him, as their expectations are unscientifically proven, unnatural, out of whack, and will just confuse you. More details on Steve & his romance with Wonder Woman can be found in relevant sections of my other articles & manuscript. But basically, after analyzing Steve from the framework of a psych major & dating coach, I found that the elements that make up the core of this character–but never got accentuated–were the very factors that made it psychologically plausible that WW would find him very attractive.
But first, here are the roles that the Steve character was designed to serve:
– the herald to the Amazons that big trouble is brewing in Man’s World;
– a secondary “hunter” hero…ally to, and contact for, WW in Man’s World;
– the love interest;
– and the esquire in jeopardy.
And here are his timeless core character elements:
– His passion & aim in life for his values of justice & freedom.
– His proactiveness
– His “hunter” occupation, corresponding with WW’s, toward his fight for truth-justice-freedom…which, in Man’s World, meant he’s some sort of investigative operative no matter what incarnation of his…ie. detective, spy, covert op, counterintelligence, intel agent, etc.
– His brave hero status back home due to his good works in the name of justice & freedom
– His quick, unforgiving temper – His status as a lady’s candy …which includes, among other tid bits, his confident, playful flirtations …all of which is also used to his advantage as a covert op.
– His natural desire for a stronger woman who loves him, while remaining self-assured….which, for Dr. Marston’s liking, also meant having blond hair and growing up with a sister.
– His masculine level-headedness and self-assured confidence in himself as a man who has boundaries.
– His mysterious past.
– Him being a product of his time…which also means there’s still room for growth on his part.
The above core elements don’t change no matter what modernization and have even been replicated in other boyfriends of female protagonists. Everything else is interchangeable (including his race). Basically: Being that he was meant to be WW’s first & only true love (psychologically, symbolically, & situationally), Steve follows the mythological archetype of demigod Orion to WW’s goddess Diana. He is a fellow “hunter” like WW, albeit of a lower mortality status & not as capable; a man with his own dutiful calling in life that he’s passionate about, living with a definite purpose. And for the original incarnation, that meant being military-bound, as that was the thing to do during World War 2 to show your dedication to freedom & justice. The fact that he was a Caucasian army officer was simply a product of the times. And his fast military promotion was a result of his passion & proactive leadership.
If you look at all the archetypal successors to Steve, you’d notice that there are certain elements that they all have in common. Be it Riley Finn, Ron Stoppable, or Michael Vaughn, they each work in the same profession/endeavor as the female champion of the story, they’re dedicated, promoted early, are very masculine & level-headed, etc. Basically, all their core traits are derivative of Steve’s core traits that form his archetypal blueprint.
Now, whether or not he’s a saint–as his initials would suggest–remains to be seen. However, over-zealous fans have falsely accused the original Steve Trevor of being a chauvinist pig. Again, as with other gripes from fans of Steve, this stems from subsequent incarnations, but not the original! Despite lightly being a product of his time, Steve was actually ahead of his time as a male. The times he was portrayed trying to control WW as his bride (and her resistance) were intended to be a display of both the culture at the time and his love for WW; not as a statement about Steve being a control freak.
Many fans have also absurdly scorned Steve’s status as esquire-in-jeopardy–a role that exists only due to the perilous nature of his work! Whereas Lois Lane’s role as damsel-in-distress was due to her foolish antics, just to get the big scoop, yet nobody feels she’s any less the strong confident woman! Like other things in the WW mythos, this double standard & fan-attitude toward the fictional Steve is a reflection of people’s chauvinistic mindset (including “Batman’s”) and their own distorted (& limiting) real life beliefs about the gender dynamics of what it really means to be a man or woman.
Being saved by a woman–especially the super capable WW–doesn’t make you less of a man. Steve was self-assured & never thought any less of himself, neither did WW, so why should you the fan? For WW, its quite the opposite….
Dr. Marston designed the Steve Trevor character to be level-headed, brave and dedicated. As a hero on a mission, Steve was certainly not a wussy or WW’s lapdog who sits around doing nothing! Was he ever portrayed by Dr. Marston screaming like a girl when facing certain death? No! His dedication is admirable, and show s fearlessness & FIRE! All of these are natural attraction triggers for women, including Wonder Woman whose capability makes Steve seem a weakling in comparison. Because despite having the strength of a superman, WW is still a woman, with a woman’s psychology. And WW has the better deal out of this, because she gets to watch him be fearless AND have him alive by personally saving his life, which actually increases his value to her each time.
However, unlike Lois Lane, Steve’s esquire-in-jeopardy status was not a pigeonhole, as he had also saved WW many times–a fact that is conveniently left out by emotionally biased fans like Jennifer Stuller or Gloria Steinem. Steve & WW were more like partners; fellow heroes working together.
That’s because their dynamic wasn’t simply a gender reversal of Lois & Superman. Rather, it’s based on a particular real life archetype relationship that has existed since ancient times, and gradually occurred more often in modern times. Its one that can be clearly seen today between power women (ie. CEOs) and their lower-paid boyfriends–who, like Steve, have their own careers albeit on a lower rung, yet are still attractive to their power girlfriends. Psychologically speaking, Steve represents men who only inherently admire and desire to submit to a stronger woman who loves them. Steve wasn’t chauvinistic like most men of the Depression Era. In fact, he’s impressed by WW’s straightforward confidence & strength mixed with her alluring femininity; just as Michael Vaughn is of Sydney Bristow, or Peeta of Katniss. But that doesn’t mean he gives up his own strength & sexy masculinity. He’s the perfect complement to a woman like WW.
He’s a fellow warrior like WW, specifically made to be a counterintelligence agent by Dr. Marston, which gave the main hero a place from which she can operate that will alert her to where she’s needed…the same reason why Lois Lane is a reporter…and probably because Dr.Marston once served in that military dept himself, which coincidentally provided a fitting occupation for Steve’s archetype…he’s not a flyboy…he’s a hunter of justice. WW represents the feminine mode of going about the same occupational endeavor as Steve, which makes the Hippolyta-designed eagle icon on her chest very appropriate. And by WMM’s assessment, this is the “better” mode. Much like Steve, WW was “waging war” on the forces of Ares, but via 3rd-party intervention rather than war-heroing.
I haven’t found any particular real life person that Dr.Marston modeled Steve after. I don’t think he modeled Steve after himself either. However, there was one person in Dr. Marston’s life named ‘Trevor’ who seemed conventional & well-adjusted upfront, but was later exposed as having a secret life of stealing money to give to charities & beautiful girls due to his inferiority complex of needing to be sexually sought after by girls. This Trevor guy may have inspired one aspect of the Steve Trevor character: an apparently incidental element of mystery, in that we don’t really know much about his in-story background–other than he has a sister, brother, & nieces–or what drives him. Either because Dr.Marston intended to play up the “mysterious boyfriend” angle, or its just another result of his unfinished development of Steve. Regardless, ensuing creators have played up the “guy-with-a-mysterious-past” angle in their own heroine boyfriends, giving them more sex appeal (ie. Angel, Michael Samuelle, etc). Perhaps writers should capitalize on this aspect of Steve if they want to make him more interesting from now on.
However, the one known detail of his background–having a sister–was a literary detail Dr. Marston purposely put in place as part of his character design. It was believed by Dr. Marston that men who grew up with sisters not only were more well adjusted, level-headed, and more ambitiously successful in life, but were more attuned to women’s subtleties and more capable of being Venusians who can communicate intuitively. When it comes to women, they get it. And modern psych research has confirmed those beliefs. So giving Steve Trevor a sister supported the character’s personality as psychologically accurate…art mimicking reality…a slight clue that would be overlooked by the uninformed reader (or writer). As a ladies man, Steve was more accepting of women and less confounded by them than most men of his time were. Also, this advantage–among his other aptitudes–suitably made him a good covert op.
Another repeated aspect of his archetype in subsequent heroine boyfriends is the fact that he’s older than WW (or at least older looking) by at least a few years, while she is a young maiden…which aligns with the typical age differences that men & women inherently find most attractive in each other. WW’s original age when she arrived in Man’s World was based on the average age of Depression Era women entering the workforce after college…although some unfortunate women entered right after high school with no college.
Why does Wonder Woman love him, and how?:
Having Steve as the love interest was an opportunity to demonstrate the effect WW can have on men along with showing how deeply a wonder woman loves her man. In-story, it was no accident that Steve crashed near Paradise Island…he & WW were paired by the gods (likely Aphrodite, the love expert), which is why the Amazons suffered no penalties when this man was brought onto the island…he’s a different sort of man. In real life, it was Dr. Marston who designed Steve to complement WW (psychologically & symbolically), and set up the ideal circumstances that’d make him her one & only true love…just as Orion was to Artemis.
On Steve’s side, its simple…he had unconsciously longed for the virginal epitome of feminine tenderness who also has a spine. Which is in contrast to the many shallow, deceit-prone women in Man’s World that he has dealt with or dated. And so, his desire for WW is part of the attraction equation that draws WW to him, as he freely expresses his fascination with her all the time and calls her a beautiful angel.
On WW’s side, her love for him advanced in two stages…the initial, then the subsequent solidification. Her initial attraction to him was due to the great feminine/masculine polarity existing as he’s the first man she’s ever met, having been raised by only women…ditto with Mala. But for WW, it amplified once she made physical contact with him. The concept behind the kino is that women are more sensitive and emotionally affected by touch. So all that started the chain reaction of the attraction. As she is the most human & caring Amazon, she went out of her way to take care of him, investing, leading to the Nightingale Effect and assuming ownership of him…this was later evident in all the times she saves him. And what helped speedily advance the love process was Hippolyta disallowing her the pleasure of being with Steve due to Aphrodite’s Law, which just created in WW more longing for him, since the more you say a young woman can’t have a forbidden fruit, the more she’ll want it. All that, combined with her wanderlust, created the strong desire in her of not wanting to miss out on being part of his world…for it was something different that would take her to new horizons. Because she, above all other Amazons, allows herself to be amorous for men, being the most quirky, organic, off-beat, & sometimes silly.
From there, the second stage occurred as she came to know Steve as a dedicated man, passionate about his life mission of justice & freedom; a passion shared by both of them. But its from the personal motivation behind his dedication that they find that emotional connection with each other that women really want, comparable to the one Steve Rodgers & Peggy Carter had. And in my screenplay, I even added that Steve endured racism growing up & became a stronger person in the end, which further established a personal link to WW’s heart as she not only protects children but can relate to his resultant fiery temper against bullies.
But unlike Rodgers, Trevor was a ladies man who knew how to talk to women and whom every girl wanted a piece of, and that caused the evolutionary psych phenomenon Preselection. That and the rest of his attractive core qualities are also why WW was, and continues to be, attracted to Steve Trevor. But its that personal connection that created in WW a deeper sense of love value for Steve and led her to invest in him longterm. Cementing it all was her superior capability putting her in the delighted position of being needed by him, which is key because she’s a modified version of what we PUAs classify as “Connoisseur” type (altho in later incarnations she’s more like a Modern Woman type)…as Connoisseur types are self-sufficient women who don’t have time for players and don’t need to be taken care of, but simply want a man whom they can love and feel needed by.
Furthermore, WW didn’t have all that artificial social programming of conventional society, having been raised in an isolated environment that is akin to a child being raised in a remote commune. So, unlike most of us in mainstream society (and Batman), WW’s attraction to men was purely primal, natural, devoid of our social conventions that says such unnatural things as “You can’t love a guy who isn’t making more than you!”
However, this second phase wasn’t developed into the spotlight, as it just got moved along by the others stories which dealt with WW’s heroics. And so, like with the attractive core elements, most fans & subsequent writers were oblivious to the cues & their significance.
That’s why in my modern WW screenplay I emphasized this second phase by elaborating the scene in the Paradise Island recovery unit where those two are alone, connecting on a personal level. I also elaborate his background as an Asian American former foster child adopted by the Trevors who endured racism & injustice while growing up, giving a worthy reason why Steve is the way he is today. I took liberties on his background, because Dr. Marston never formulated one for him (other than a sister) and there’s nothing in Steve’s core design that said he had to be Caucasian. But some female protagonist creators insist on perpetuating the blond hair element for their male costars.
The reason Steve was made blond stems from Dr. Marston’s belief that the best romantic combo is a blue-eyed brunette girl to a lighthaired man and that blonds are more submissive to brunettes. But this theory isn’t solid, so I don’t list “blond hair” as a core trait…its more like a tradition. However, applying another of Dr. Marston’s theories, my Steve would still have a good amount of submission in him, since he’s Asian (esp. Chinese descent). But to stay with tradition, I wrote it so my Asian Steve bleached his hair to a near-blond. And IF Hollywood ever does use my rendition of Steve Trevor, it would produce the very first Asian American romantic lead; finally breaching the barrier of a centuries long Western world culture of prejudice.
Steve = The PUA paragon:
Despite his first incarnation being a product of his overly patriarchal time (which influenced him less than other men), Steve is actually the alternative to the badboy that women usually go to whenever they can’t find a better confident man. He represents the modern ideal man that women really want…the right balance of masculine swagger & feminine thoughtfulness. These ideals, hidden truths, and more have been imparted to men by dating coaches for years. And so Steve Trevor could very well be a rallying symbol for this sexual revolution happening today that includes, among other things, sound dating science that reveals women don’t necessarily want or need to go to the badboy…that there’s no shame in being a man who is with a stronger woman…that you don’t have to be overly macho to be seen as manly & attractive to women. Even before seeking the help of dating coaches, men everywhere can simply look to Steve Trevor as a true-to-life paragon and receive a more accurate concept of what’s truly manly or wussy…and to keep their egos in check (Ditto with women). Nearly every man has some Steve Trevor in him, especially the boyfriends of power women.
Every cynical fan asks why WW would remain interested in Steve… The better question would be, ‘Why would Steve be interested in her?’! To understand this concept & answer it, w e’ll look at the real world equivalent of such a relationship…one involving a power woman such as a CEO, and her lesser-paid boyfriend. Some power women are too masculine in their behaviors & temperament that their former beaux leave them. What such women need to learn (& is advocated by Steve Harvey, even) is to remember to be a woman! Having more power than the man doesn’t mean you stop being a woman and start being more like us men! Dr. Marston knew this, and there lies why WW manages to keep Steve’s interest despite being more powerful than him: He designed her to be a powerful fighting machine, but kept her alluring femininity…Despite her masculine feats, she’s still a woman. And THAT creates the necessary gender polarity required for attraction. (SEE Steve Harvey’s book, chapter 13…Strong, Independent–And Lonely–Women.)
Aphrodite’s Law & the Amazons’ no-consummation Law:
Aphrodite’s Law is the story device that creates [conflicting] drama between WW’s & Steve’s romance, such as her initial rebuffs. The Law states that Amazons must neither be captivated by men nor ever submit to them, lest bad fortune come upon them. The Law came as a result of the Amazons’ historic enslavement. But Aphrodite’s Law is actually an allegory for Dr. Marston’s advice to women (esp. his love leaders) for changing the world toward a matriarchy. In a nutshell, he was saying: Ladies, remain aloof to men…don’t be so beguiled by men. Be love leaders and do the heroic thing, which is to change society’s infrastructure. Because your resultant natural submission reaction leads to putting you in a position of lesser power…instead, you must captivate them (as allegorized by the Magic Lasso), thus making them submit to you…from there, you are then in the position of power and can dictate your natural loving ways, thus collectively changing the world.
In the Depression Era, marriage usually meant that women would contractually be submissive to their men. And that was the basis of WW’s rebuffs to Steve’s proposals…even though they did date and were an item. Of course, for the very human WW, that is a very difficult Law to follow; and one that has caused relationship drama between her & Steve. Deep down, WW desires to submit to him like any normal woman. But of course that would hamper her ability to take on her mission here in Man’s World–a mission she deeply values. So she adheres to Aphrodite’s Law and goes against that part of her feminine nature. And so part of their dance is about struggling to find a compromise.
The drama of WW being portrayed as torn between Aphrodite’s Law & her passions was a reflection of Dr. Marston’s advice being imperfect, somewhat still experimental, and very period-specific, having not yet found a more refined & definite solution to a psycho-social dilemma that may change in the future. For it was originally meant for the worse case scenarios, as allegorized by Hercules, which more often occurred in Dr. Marston’s day.
WW meets this ideal man that the gods set her up with, but they don’t tell her that. So a part of WW’s saga with Steve was also about showing how fit he is for WW, as well as how much of a better man he was supposed to become on account of the captivation created by WW’s light rebuffs. But in the modern world, with a modern man like Steve, who knows? Maybe its time for that compromise.
After studying this article, now when you go back to read the Marston chronicles, you’ll now understand/ recognize what she sees in him.
For more info on the love dynamics between Steve & Diana, or why Wonder Woman & Superman are an unlikely pair, or such, refer to the appropriate sections of my other WW pieces online….