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WHO IS WW?: Bracelets Of Submission
September 18, 2015 By Brett Jett
The multifaceted mythos of Wonder Woman is replete with symbols…the red star, golden eagle, dove, moon, etc. But if there was one symbol above all that truly identifies Dr. William Moulton Marston’s Amazons & what they’re all about, it’d be the pair of bracelets they wear! They’re chain bands (not vambraces), and are Dr. WMM’s personal stamp on the Amazon mythology, distinguishing his Amazons apart from Classical or any others in literature, none of whom wear such bracelets. They have many implications & purposes, all of which are simply different facets stemming from the same core concept. But ultimately, they represent an Amazon’s eternal & dedicated submission to Aphrodite & her ways…AKA Loving Submission.
This is the vital element that many modern feminists disregard when raving about or trying to emulate WW, and is what separates WMM’s brand of feminism from theirs, as he recognized the need for disciplined self-control from corruption, which–as he knew–can come from anyone, women or men.
Their proper name is “Bracelets of Submission”–also called “Bands Of Aphrodite”, or even “Magic Bracelets”–and were inspired by these wide Arabic/Indian bracelets worn at the time by WMM’s assistant/mistress, Olive Byrne Richard. I’m sure each time WMM gazed at them they reminded him of shackles…which in his mind was natural material for creating allegories to his dominance-submission philosophy of freedom. Recognizing the need for disciplined self-control (especially for women, what with their wellspring of emotional power), WMM wanted to show readers that WW doesn’t act simply on her own selfish ego or whim, but rather is bound by a superior authority…love, altruism, etc, all that is Aphrodite. In that way, he dissuades vigilantism, anarchy, selfish assertion, things that oppose Loving Submission.
So the mythical history behind them is that they were originally the heavy chain bands that the Greeks put on the Amazons to keep them bound with chains. But when Aphrodite finally granted the Amazons the super strength to break their chains & recover the Magic Girdle, they were decreed to forever wear the bands, followed by a set of stipulations known as Aphrodite’s Law, which were all mystically enforced. That’s when the bands were also mystically endowed with protective properties (hence the name ‘Magic Bracelets’) that protect an Amazon from evil in Man’s World by becoming indestructible to hits from any murderous weapon and by keeping an Amazon’s powers (emotional or otherwise) in check.
After the Amazons’ ordeal, every subsequent generation of Amazons (including WW herself at age 15) and neophytes from Man’s World were required to wear them and make a pledge to serve Aphrodite & her ways, after they gained great powers from Amazon training and passed tests of their dedication. Villain-turned-Amazon Paula Von Gunther even had to wear ankle bracelets to further protect her from evil in Man’s World.
To WMM, the origin myth of the bracelets wasn’t so much a story of punishment as it was simply a mythical one about taking one’s profits from defeat, and meant to be more about the concepts’ symbolism rather than the literal story event–all typical of mythology where the way things are today were affected & explained by unrelated events from ancient times.
The Id check.
Like all things in the WW mythos, the in-story elements are simply allegories to real life concepts that may or may not have any likeness to their allegories. And so the roles & meanings of the bracelets must be viewed from separate perspectives: in-story magic or practical function, real world concepts, symbolic meaning, and the real life message if any. And each purpose & implication of the bracelets actually threads off from the other.
First, the bracelets served as psychological reminders of the Amazons’ enslavement & the folly of submitting to male domination (thus eventually losing their powers), and became the ego that checks their id. Like any women, the Amazons succumbed to their natural emotional submission reaction to men (albeit bad men). As a result of that submission, they endured a hard lesson they’d never forget when they were enslaved. So with their newly created ego reminders, the Amazons were psychologically motivated to follow Aphrodite’s Law that stated Amazons must only submit to Aphrodite & never to men, therefore must keep from becoming beguiled by men…and in a later incarnation, even if their bracelets were removed, the mere imprint on their wrists created by the perpetual wearing of the bracelets helps remind and keep them bound to Aphrodite. The fear is that beguiled Amazons will be rendered submissive again, handing over their power to men, thus left vulnerable & unfit to reform the world. And so, thru suffering, they have become more disciplined for it.
The Amazon Enslavement myth was an allegory for the social gender dynamic of Depression Era men using their dominance on the women of the Depression Era and “enslaving” them, taking them as their property, as a result of men not being sufficiently captivated by the women since more women in those days were so beguiled by them; becuz men aren’t as captivated by women who submit so easily. All of which results in a painful experience for the women, lacking sufficient love from the men, and renders especially love leaders unable to enforce their loving ways. And it had nothing to do with deception. Hercules’s treachery was added to the allegory simply to create drama. And WMM’s corrective advice that women not be beguiled by men so easily, and to instead captivate the men to submit to the women on all levels, from the boardroom to the bedroom, was allegorized as Aphrodite’s Law. The real world message was that love-devoid men controlled by more loving women renders a more loving world.
The Ego check.
But like anything in WW’s world, there is a flip-side attached to the bracelets’ role as reminders of bad enslavement: As reminders of the Amazons’ deliverance from enslavement, making them submit only to Aphrodite & her decrees. By wearing the bracelets, they have pledged to devote themselves to Aphrodite, thus keeping their protective egos in check. By doing that, they are binding all their Amazon strength & abilities to the service of love, beauty, humanity, and anything else presided over by Aphrodite. Hence the bracelets symbolize their eternal submission to her, and their core concept: Force bound to the service of humanity & love, or martial-force adapted to love-humanity. This is an allegory for WMM’s philosophy of liberation that is based on love allure, submitting to a loving authority, one who has the best, nurturing intentions. Such a mode of living is about altruism; what one person can do for others. The opposite of which is unconstrained liberty, the appetitive ego free to assert its destructive will–the root of most of society’s ills, as evidenced by mankind’s troubled history. Ares represents that extreme end of unconstrained will or power.
Even the Amazons–like any human–are susceptible to it, such as the Amazon Dalma. The bracelets are a way to help Amazons avoid succumbing to it.
By being slave to your egocentric prison, you are essentially being rebellious as the Devil, thus evil; for the dominance-submission principle decrees that favorable freedom has a price; you must defer to a master. You choose either a good or evil master; your destructive ego or the ways of Aphrodite. Which leads to the other aspect of the bracelets’ role….
Protection from Evil…inside/outside.
By pledging to submit to a loving authority, serving love & humanity (altruism), the Amazons protect themselves from evil & corruption–mainly from within–by not succumbing to their personal ego’s destructive wills. This helps ensure that they use their abilities for unselfish purposes. One of the reasons why they practice binding games is to train their selfish egos to just let go. By wearing the bracelets (among other practices), and thus dedicating themselves to Aphrodite’s rule, they are essentially keeping their emotions under control & constraining their destructive egos. You see, having a committed purpose in life is the catalyst that helps them (or any real world woman) gain that emotional control. Hence they’re keeping themselves in check overall, using their abilities for the right reasons, in the right ways. This is all an allegory for real life women and their emotional wellspring needing to be controlled. This gender fact is even portrayed in episode 13 of “Angel”. WMM advised that women can work wonders with their minds if they only get their emotions under control, as women’s emotions can be both the source of their strength & their downfall. The bracelets are the riverbanks to the Amazons’ emotional river torrents, constraining & redirecting them with a righteous purpose. So just as women with emotional control (symbolize by the bracelets) can better work their wonders and not give up their power, bound Amazons can likewise do amazing & useful things such as….
Bullets & Bracelets.
The later development of the bracelets to protect against bullets & other murderous wicked weapons–as part of their self improvement–is quite the metaphoric demonstration of all the concepts that are attached to the bracelets. Such as how Amazons’ devotion to love & humanity will protect them from evil, in every sense…from within, keeping them in check, and from external evils coming to harm them. For as variably or capriciously durable as the Amazons’ bodies are, only their chain bands are ever indestructible–which is a metaphor for the power of altruism. And correspondingly as the bracelets also represent emotional control, it is only by the control of their emotions that the Amazons are able to successfully deflect bullets on their bracelets with extreme precision or even on ankle bracelets or any other bulletproof implement they have on hand (ie. rings, shields, loose metal strip, etc). This is an allegory for WMM’s assertion that one needs emotional control, otherwise one will get flustered (especially women) & be unable to do major tasks requiring precise concentration. Amazons can instantly go into an emotionally controlled state that is very much like Mushin, and time slows down for them. Their ultra senses also come into play. “Bullets & Bracelets” is the name of the sport they play to practice the skill & compete with each other, and it could very well also be an exclusive martial art that only they are masters of. While speedsters like The Flash could catch bullets in midair, they don’t have the Amazonian skill to precisely control the angles of the bullets’ deflections.
As to why in-story-wise an Amazon would even plausibly need to deflect bullets when they’re tough enough to do such things as punch thru concrete walls without damaging their hands has not been explained by WMM. Although, several theories tend to come to mind…some based on sexual symbolism, while mine is based on WMM’s penchant for mysticism.
Every superhero mythos needs a drawback to keep their superheroes from being too perfect & drama-less, WW’s was via Aphrodite’s mystically enforced bracelet-chaining rule, as Aphrodite’s Law also carries with it punishing consequences for violations. While WW can easily bust out of any bonds (except the Magic Lasso) that anyone binds her with, her bracelets contain the exception to this ability as the bracelet-chaining rule states that Amazons must never let any man chain their bracelets together. Becuz while an Amazon’s chain bands free from chains represent her submission to Aphrodite & freedom from male domination, those same bands with chains binding them together not only represents her enslavement again & giving up her power, but if done by a man also mystically renders her without Amazon strength, and any other abilities that depend on that strength, for however long the chains bind the bracelets together. She is left with the strength of a Man’s World woman of her size & athleticism. Fortunately, the only villains who know of WW’s mythical weakness are the ones who work directly for Ares or Mars…at least initially.
Just as a braceleted Amazon represents submission to loving authority as the stable equilibrium, and chained bracelets represents enslavement & relinquishing of power, bracelets removed from an Amazon is the extreme opposite end of the spectrum…Amazon girl gone wild. Its an allegory for the masculine condition of unconstrained strength & liberty, the ego asserting its own destructive will. The consequences of this are especially severe with Amazons, becuz like real life women they have the greatest wellspring of emotional energy. And so what happens in-story-wise is that an Amazon loses control of her emotional wellspring & the appetitive power she’s built up (both are the source of her super strength) over the years of brain-energy training as it comes bursting forth, goes into a frenzy, and destroys things in her path.
The Amazon taboo of removing one’s bracelets shows contempt for Aphrodite & rejection of the Amazon Code. An Amazon unbound by bracelets is grimmer than being rendered powerless, becuz it can destroy her & all that she stands for, leaving her open to an evil bent, which to WW is a worse horror than her own death. So in complying with these concepts, the only in-story way that she could stay tame without wearing them (short of renouncing her Amazonhood) is if somehow her superpowers leave her whenever she poses as Diana Prince; otherwise she must always wear them, hidden underneath her sleeves, to stay in check.
The bracelets were originally meant to look like jewelry, yet subseuqent writers & artists have gradually lengthened them into vambraces, which WMM’s original Amazons occasionally wore over their regular bracelets rather than substituting for them.
In the New 52 incarnation, writer Azzarello always keeps her bracelets on, because they keep her overflowing uncontrollable power (apparently inherited from father Zeus) under control, which is an interesting take on the original concept. But in her first silver screen appearance played by Gal Gadot, WW has them off when in her civilian identity, which is a strange & drastic decision by the writer. Perhaps its to free Diana of the burden of having to always wear them.
For more explanation of WW’s Bracelets, obtain a PDF copy of the “Who Is WW?” manuscript by CLICKING HERE
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