In Anschluss ’77, the 2nd episode of the 2nd season, the all-new all-70s adventures of Wonder Woman backslide into old habits: Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor Junior must stop a nefarious group of Nazis. Before they can clone Hitler in South America.
It’s a ridiculously silly episode, of course, but it seemed wrong to laugh about so soon after the White Supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. Then, I was sidelined with some health issues and it’s taken me a few weeks to get caught up on everything, so the episode post had to wait just a little longer.
My introduction to the Anschluss ’77 post was a little bit of the cultural and historical context of American Neo-Nazism in 1970s, so I’ve decided to break that out into this post. Otherwise, it’s a chilling lead-in to a recap full of fluff and nonsense and jokes about Steve Trevor Junior’s wardrobe.
As we’re reminded over and over, White Supremacy doesn’t ever die out in the United States. It regroups. It adapts. It gathers resources. It finds new and innovative ways to appeal to new constituencies by mobilizing outrage and imbricating itself everyday life. Did you ever hear anyone sputter “all lives matter!” until Black Lives Matter became a movement?
Wonder Woman clearly drew on contemporary issues in its own wacky awkward way. This is an enormous topic, so here are just a few examples from the news of the day that put Anschluss ’77 into context.
In the late 1970s, international pressure was increasing to prosecute Nazis who fled Germany at the end of World War II and settled in South America.
Neo-Nazis were not an abstraction in the United States, either, and they were asserting their presence to intimidate minorities, sometimes flagrantly marching in the streets in the United States, as this footage from Chicago in 1978 shows.
Here’s an excerpt from the SPLC’s history of one highly influential group, the National Alliance (NA), which was consolidating money and power in the 1970s after branching out of the American Nazi Party and George Wallace’s failed Presidential campaign. The Southern Poverty Law Center writes:
Explicitly genocidal in its ideology, NA materials call for the eradication of the Jews and other races — what a principal foundational document describes as “a temporary unpleasantness” — and the creation of an all-white homeland. Founded by William Pierce in 1970, the group produced assassins, bombers and bank robbers, among other things. Pierce’s novel, The Turner Diaries, was the inspiration for Timothy McVeigh’s 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City and many other acts of terror.
It’s worth reading the entire article, as it outlines the influence this particular group had into the 21st Century.
The most obvious and direct influence on the episode was, of course, Ira Levin’s bestselling novel, The Boys from Brazil, which was published in 1976. The feature film, which co-starred Gregory Peck and Sir Laurence Olivier, was already in production in 1977. Additionally, the opening of the Simon Weisenthal Center in L.A. in 1977 probably influenced the writers.
When you consider how often Nazis were in the news in the 1970s, it’s actually amazing that Wonder Woman didn’t spend more time chasing them in the 1970s than she had in the 1940s.
We’ll resume our (sort of) regular Wonder Woman posting schedule after Labor Day.
On a sidenote. I guess I’ve never actually seen the Boys from Brazil, because I had no idea that young Steve Guttenberg plays Olivier’s Nazi-hunting character as a young man.