Last updated on May 28, 2020

My Magic Bracelets

Both of my grandmothers were delightfully indulgent of my Wonder Woman love, helping me construct costumes from household items. For instance, one hot Saturday afternoon after my weekly cartoon ritual, I wanted to play Bullets and Bracelets. Billie, my mother’s mother, had the idea to fashion protective bracelets from toilet paper rolls. 

My grandparents believed at age was too young to take on pellets from Dada’s air rifle. (“Maybe when you’re older.”) We settled instead on a water pistol, then spent the better part of the afternoon giggling as my grandmother gleefully drenched me with her bright yellow plastic gun. Frustratingly, it required infrequent reloading and all but dissolved my cardboard bracelets. (Not fair! At least with the pellet gun, I’d only have to block one shot a time — but they were probably right about my needing more practice.) For the next round, I upgraded my bracelets by wrapping them in aluminum foil for waterproofing and shininess.

Bullets and Bracelets is, of course, one of Wonder Woman’s signature moves, combining her indestructible-yet-stylish jewelry and superhuman reflexes to defend against various phallic projectiles. Any costumed crimefighter must inevitably face such dangers. For Superman, it is his alien physiology that makes him invulnerable. Diana’s protection, however, comes from her incredible athletic skill, honed through rigorous training and clever accessorizing.

The bracelets have remained one of Wonder Woman’s defining features since her inception, even if certain specifics have changed under various writers. In the 1970s television version of Wonder Woman and the 2017 feature film, Diana’s bracelets could be easily removed. The TV show explained that the bracelets were made from feminum, a special ore found only on Paradise Island. In the movie, Gal Gadot’s gauntlets were intended for arm protection in battle and had the power to generate an energy blast when she crossed them, though that power was never really explained.

Diana’s Bracelets of Submission

 Like so many aspects of the character, there’s a lot more to Wonder Woman’s bracelets than meets the eye. They were loaded with meaning and called (I kid you not.) the Bracelets of Submission. All the Amazons wore them, not just Diana. Marston found his inspiration for the invincible jewelry in the wide, heavy bracelets worn by his domestic partner, Olive Byrne. The bracelets’ symbolism functioned on multiple levels. Besides being suggestive of kinky bondage play, they conjured imagery that was at once political, psychological, and personal to Marston, reflecting histories of slavery, suffrage, feminism, and faith.

 When Aphrodite gave the Amazons the strength to free themselves from the Greeks, they used their broken chains as weapons to overcome their captors. In exchange for freedom and immortality, they promised to wear their bracelets as a symbol of eternal devotion to the goddess of love and beauty and a reminder never to submit to any man. In a magazine interview, Marston said he could think of “no better advice to give modern women than this rule that Aphrodite gave the Amazon girls.”