As the character which is probably the most famous of all female superheroes (though not necessarily the most popular, especially among fans) Wonder Woman takes on a different meaning outside of the realm of comic fans. These meanings are somewhat widespread for the uninformed. She appears as a standard for all things old fashioned, as a strong woman, as the token female super hero, a sex symbol or even as a gay symbol. Each of these has its own derivation but most come from some aspect of the character’s portrayal in popular culture and most of which does not seem to come from a strong understanding of the comics. In late January pictures were revealed showing Miranda Kerr posing in a Wonder Woman costume for the Australian magazine Grazia. This is the case where the character is being used to portray something outside of the typical norm, as this essentially focuses primarily on her beauty and the connection to which Kerr has become famous and a supermodel. While this is an interesting promotional venture, it still kind of shows the lack of understanding about the character, as the Daily Mail article associated with the article asks if she can leap a building in a single bound, a phrase much more often associated with Superman.
In the lead-in to the trade paperback introducing the character’s redesign following the reboot in issue 600 of volume 3, Jim Lee said part of the change was needed as the character had become stale and boring, and despite her actual demeanour and character in comics that the perception of her was that she had the same appeal as spending time with one’s grandmother (this is all from memory and thus paraphrased somewhat.) Despite this association within comics, it is still interesting to note that outside of comics that the same association did not stick as essentially if you put an attractive woman in a bathing suit that people will find her sexually attractive. The same can be said here for the slave girl version of Princess Leia, a portrayal of the character which dominates many non-Star Wars fans concept of the character. While Wonder Woman may not be actually as famous in her role as a sex symbol, it is nonetheless there. In one instance in the show the OC, Rachel Bilson’s character dressed up as Wonder Woman in which she seduced one of the other main characters (I never watched the OC, can you tell?) Yet as Jim Lee said, this is not always reflected among comic fans. Sex appeal, attractiveness and beauty being highly subjective, there are still many that will argue that Diana does not rank highly in any of these categories.
As opposed to how the character is portrayed outside of comics, one of the more interesting ones is actually her role as a gay icon or gay symbol. This actually has little (or really nothing) to do with the original assertions by Wertham that she was a practicing lesbian. In fact although it would make sense for the character herself, who is basically a champion of all humanity, the connection here is not as clear. Instead it depends on the connection to the actress, Lynda Carter, who has been a strong advocate of gay rights in her public life, and as she is associated most strongly in her acting career with Wonder Woman, the character has become a symbol in this way as well, sort of by proxy.
Of course these are not the only ways in which the character is viewed outside the spectrum of comic book fans. Even among the fans she is often seen as a character that is not perceived as cool, but it is interesting to note that as the character leaves the realm of direct relevance to the comic book fan that she transforms into something else. For the fans of the character they are able to discern what is real and what is not as she enters the realm of pop culture, for the rest she represents generally what is portrayed to them.