"Primary concerns" are basically what pagans call the "four F's"-- flags (housing), flax (clothing), fodder and frig (no explanation needed). Around such primary concerns myth, both in the religious and literary senses, orients itself.
"Secondary concerns" are the concerns of ideology, which is concerned with the best ways to obtain the items that make up "primary concerns." Name any ideology out there and at base it's just another way for its adherents to maximize their chances of getting those things that make life pleasurable and fulfilling. Myths in the raw are not concerned with ideology. Ideological notions derive from them, but such notions are entirely a secondary product.-- Me, IDEOLOGY VS. MYTH.
I think my fundamental point about villains and freedom is being missed here, though: Wonder Woman isn't the one defending freedom, the villains are. It's very much in the text of the comic: whatever evils the villains have committed in previous issues is aligned with a demand for self-determination and free will. What conclusion is there to be drawn here when the ones even you are acknowledging as the bad guys are the ones espousing the virtue of freedom? I think Marston's message is loud and clear.-- Charles Reece, comment-thread to this essay.
On the contrary, most "messages" from the world of art, be it "high art" and "low art," are far from "clear." Not once, within the comic books stories Reece surveys, does any character make the ideological statements Reece deduces from the work. One might argue that the mere fact that he has extrapolated what he considers Marston's "message" is tantamount to an admission by Reece that no one can find such "messages" working from the overt declarations of a story's characters. For Reece, "freedom" is first and foremost an ideological conception, and Marston fails Reece's test for taking the proper ideological attitude toward "free will."
I've already shown the inaccuracies of Reece's interpretation in earlier esaays, but that isn't to say that there are no ideological statements in the Marston WONDER WOMAN. In keeping with my quote above, though, Marston's ideas evolve from the primary concerns evoked by Marston for himself and for his audience.
If one rejects Reece's position that Marston's "message" is to assert the ever-present practice of bondage as weapons to maintain an "ideological state apparatus," what are the primary concerns involved in the Marston corpus? Most comics-critics, assuming that one could get them to read and comprehend Frye's passage, would assume that Marston's fascination with the practice of bondage started and ended with "frig." This position is at least more in tune with the actual function of bondage in Marston, in that the practice often connotes sexual play. A number of online critics are content to regard the bondage-element as a covert appeal to salaciousness, and of course no one can be entirely sure that this was not one of Marston's motivations in his approach to WONDER WOMAN.
However, even "frig" isn't just all about nothing but fucking. Bondage itself is a sexual practice which has nothing to do with actual sex as such. Without eliding the "bodily" aspects of bondage, it should be evident that Marston, through his frequent emphases on the subject of "will," was aware that bondage also pertained to the "nonbody" aspect of the human entity, as bondage is paradoxically a restraint and a liberation of the will. Reece objects to the way Marston presents restraints on the human will in the service of an ideological state apparatus, making it clear that he rejects the "liberation" half of the Marston equation, as I explored more fully in Part 3.
All that said, in what other ways might one show not only that Marston's "message" was not entirely "clear" and that his use of bondage was not purely a paraphiliac indulgence?
In his essays Reece principally studies WONDER WOMAN #28 (1948), the last Wonder Woman story Marston produced prior to his death, which concerns the Amazons' use of "Venus girdles" to restrain and re-train prisoners on Transformation Island. But does this one story encompass every aspect of Marston's thought, even about the "Venus girdles?"
I have not read every Marston story which uses the aforesaid restraints, which first appeared in ALL-STAR COMICS #13. However, I have read another girdle-story in WONDER WOMAN #22, published about a year before the one Reece surveys. Suffice to say that not only does it not support Reece's ideological argument, it comes close to refuting them.
The 11-page "Jealousy Visits the Winged Women of Venus" shares the comic with two unrelated stories, though one of the other two involves another adventure against the Saturnians who figure prominently in WW #28. The story begins with an Earth-girl who attends school with Diana's buddies the Holliday Girls. Said girl goes by the risible name "Gell Osey:"
The first seven page remain on Earth, where Gell repeatedly shows that she can't play well with others due to her extreme jealousy of others' accomplishments. Gell sneaks aboard an experimental rocket that takes her to Venus; Wonder Woman pursues her to keep her ship from crashing due to her added weight. Once the superheroine does so, she binds Gell and introduces her to her Venusian buddies, the Winged Women ruled by Queen Desira. While waiting for the rocket to be repaired, Wonder Woman allows Gell to be kept at a local training-school. Young winged girls, it seems, need to be trained to be good, so while they're being trained, their wings are bound in net-like affairs. Gell, who's been bound with WW's lasso, manages to work it off her wrists. (Apparently the Amazon wasn't Amazing enough to give her the command, "don't take the lasso off.") Gell inspires the other trainees to rebel against Desira's tyranny, and leads an assault on the queen. Gell uses the lasso to subdue both Desira and Wonder Woman.
The revolt doesn't last long: in a final, hurry-up-and-finish page, Gell Osey gets the prisoners' wings released, but then shows an even more draconian edict: under Gell Osey's rule all the Venusian women who had won their freedom must now be bound like the untrained girls. "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss" doesn't do much to promote Gell as an advocate of free will, any more than it did for Villainy Inc. in WW #28. Gell makes the same mistake Wonder Woman made: she holds the heroine bound but fails to command her not to get free, so WW surprises Gell and gets free. Desira reverses Gell's command and the rebels accept returning to their bound status, while Wonder Woman pays her erstwhile foe a fair compliment: "You've convinced me of your superiority, Gell-- you're a very dangerous girl!" Possibly this mollifies Gell's raging insecurities, for in the final panel, as WW tells her she's got to go to "Reform Island," Gell suddenly evinces a desire to learn how not to be consumed by jealousy.
Now Reece argues above that the evils commited by the "Villainy Inc." antagonists are obviated because they've been allies to "a demand for self-determination and free will." Gell Osey's sins, however, aren't conveniently off-camera as in the other story: from her petty defiance of sensible rules (don't stowaway on rockets or you'll break your neck) to her decision to oppress everyone else on Venus, it's clear that she's only concerned with her own "free will," and no one else's. By extension the Venusian rebels are no better in Marston's diegesis, and though many readers might be distressed to see the status quo return by story's end, I'd argue that it only seems distressing to readers who do the same thing Charles Reece does: making easy correlations betweeen Venusian social conditioning and Orwellian brainwashing.
An insight into "primary concerns," however, suggests that Marston's repeated trope of restraint and liberation-- both of which could be good or bad depending on story-context-- was in essence beyond any dubious moral analogues. To borrow once more from Suzanne Langer, Marston did not lay down a "discursive" argument as to when either restraint or liberation was good or bad.
His repeated passion for recapitulating bondage-scenarios in just about every conceivable manner is more in line with Langer's concept of the "presentational," in which meaning adheres to the physicality of sense-experience, seen here as identical with "primary concerns:"
What we should look for is the first indication of symbolic behavior [in man's predecessors the anthropoids], which is not likely to be anything as specialized, conscious, or rational as the use of semantic. Language is a very high form of symbolism; presentational forms are much lower than discursive, and the appreciation of meaning probably earlier than its expression... It is absurd to suppose that the earliest symbols could be *invented;* they are merely *Gestalten* furnished to the senses of a creature ready to give them some diffuse meaning."-- NEW KEY, p. 110.
Everything I've written about the potential mythic content that arises from sense-experience depends on this idea of "diffuse meaning," which later becomes concentrated (or calcified) into ideological forms. To me the power of myth is the true expression of free will, while ideology always threatens to trap and bind even the people who most think they have control of its intricacies.