Okay, as promised: Etta Candy.
So. Listen. I know that Marston was a million years ago and the dude was basically a crackfic factory with a lot of weird and unproductive ideas about gender and BDSM but he is still the progressive and inspired genius who created Diana and if your Wonder Woman has nothing in common with his it is not a good Wonder Woman. And here is a major thing about Marston’s Wonder Woman: Etta Candy was her Robin.
Now admittedly this is something that was erased really thoroughly by ten minutes into the Silver Age and has remained basically abandoned ever since, largely in favor of making Steve way the fuck more central than he was ever meant to be, because it was and is ~just~ tolerable to have a female hero if you make her life entirely about romance, but God fucking forbid you let more than one woman be important to the story at once. So I can understand that most people aren’t really aware of it. But under Marston’s pen, Steve was not part of Diana’s inner circle. Etta was. Etta came to Paradise Island with Diana, Etta met Diana’s mother and participated in her culture, Etta helped Diana preserve her secret identity from Steve, Etta and her crowd of sorority hooligans were the ones Diana went to first thing when she needed help with a villain or to get someone to guard her comatose body while she astrally projected herself to another world. Etta was Diana’s sidekick. Steve was a major character, yes, and often helped to move the plot, but he was ultimately far less intimate with Diana than any of the women in her life; he was kept constantly in the dark, spent most of his time as an affable damsel in distress, and existed primarily to teach boys that a man looking up to and relying on a woman was totally manly and acceptable, not to be anything remotely approaching Diana’s equal or partner. To the extent that Marston’s Wonder Woman had a partner at all, that was Etta’s job.
And while the romance with Steve is a perpetual stone in my shoe in post-Marston adaptations of Wondy, the continual aggressive use of him as story-consuming male lead and central figure around whom Diana’s life revolves while Etta is lucky to even exist is really the part that’s just fucking rage-inducing. To imagine Steve as Diana’s closest Man’s World relationship and just shove Etta in a corner is to put Commissioner Gordon in tights and a cape alongside Batman and turn Dick Grayson into some random clerk at the police station who gets four lines and a first name only, and yet it happens all the goddamn time.
And you know, writers who understand Wonder Woman’s feminist center do try to ameliorate the fact that Etta got dropped off a cliff the minute Marston left the book. We do get other women (about one per new author in fact), plus Hippolyta when she’s not being crazy, and for a few nice decades there Steve just kind of fell off the same cliff as Etta, which isn’t great but is still better than making him more important than Diana’s family or the few female friends she occasionally manages to be allowed to have. And since those are the decades the film draws from most strongly, the fact that movie!Steve is the deuteragonist and Etta is a trivial tertiary character who barely interacts with Diana at all is all the more blatant a deviation and all the more blatantly wrong.
And she wasn’t even a bad Etta, really. She’s short and (Hollywood) fat and mostly cheerful - she lacks the proper joie de vivre in favor of a sort of upbeat snark, but she projects a very can-do roll-with-the-punches sort of attitude that I don’t think is a terrible translation - and she’s apparently extremely competent, to the point of casual field promotion to spy handler in a crisis. She’s the most visibly, verbally feminist character in the movie, actually (which is a painfully low bar to drag your feet grudgingly over but at least someone for one half second in this story about a historic feminist icon glancingly acknowledged that maybe women haven’t always been treated 100% fairly in non-Themysciran society). And despite having, as far as we know, absolutely zero combat training, she baldly stalls out a German spy with a sword she held for the first time all of five minutes prior, which is the most Etta fucking Candy thing I have seen since she was a nineteen-year-old in Beeta Lambda. (Note to whoever was responsible for the finished screenplay: that scene would be a perfect fit for a “humans have more worth than they at first appear” sort of flashback, just saying.)
But like. All the points they get for that? They toss about a third of them back when they make her an adjunct to Steve instead of to Diana who has no relationship with any other women onscreen and zero agency in the plot, and another third when they make her impatient with/snippy about Diana’s naiveté while Steve is of course patient and charmed. I mean at least she and Diana don’t get in a shitty little sexist catfight thing like in the DTV animated thing, but if that’s the highest standard we’re trying to beat, why even bother.