With the Wonder Woman movie on the immediate horizon, and early word of mouth looking promising, it’s no surprise that we’re seeing an onslaught of Wonder Woman-related videos hitting the internet, from essays on her importance to costume breakdowns to cheeky ads linking the character with other parts of the greater DC Comics continuum. Now Nerdist is in on the act, with a parody musical mash-up turning three actors into a variety of iterations on Wonder Woman throughout the decades.
The video was directed by Nerdist supervising creative producer Andrew Bowser, who also helmed the Beauty And The Beast / Migos music parody “Belle And Boujee,” and the Spider-Man / Bruno Mars video “That Spidey Life.” The latest video puts Wonder Woman-related lyrics into six “classic feminist anthems,” from Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” to Beyoncé’s “Run The World (Girls).” It starts in an intimate setting, with Nerdist News host Jessica Chobot dressed as Lynda Carter in the 1970s TV series Wonder Woman, singing directly into the camera. But as it moves through the eras to the present, it expands until actor Ciara Renee — a Broadway performer who’s played Hawkgirl on The Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow — is leading a squad of Wonder Women in formation, evoking Beyoncé in “Run The World (Girls).”
In a phone interview, Bowser said Chobot originally suggested the idea for a Wonder Woman music video because she’s such a fan of the character. Nerdist’s producers workshopped the idea, and Bowser suggested the medley approach. “I struck upon the idea of doing a parody of not just one song, but many songs, since the character’s so timeless,” he said. “She’s obviously been through so many iterations. It seemed to match her epicness.”
While the video moves through a variety of visual styles and looks, mimicking its six source videos, Bowser says his crew used the same camera throughout, and that cinematographer Meena Singh achieved most of the looks — the overblown lushness of Madonna’s “Material Girl” video, the gauzy spangle of Whitney Houston’s “I’m Every Woman” — with in-camera effects. The post-production mostly involved digitally adding film grain, and giving “Material Girl” a VHS look. Bowser says the team didn’t want the “manufactured” look of too much post-production, so they tried to re-create the original videos as organically as possible.
In some cases, that involved old-school camera tricks, like smearing “face grease” from one of the camera operators on the lens to get the softer look for the Houston video parody. In others, it involved carefully picking which parts of the source videos to copy. “Parodying all six videos, with many setups from each video, would have been cost-prohibitive,” Bowser says. “I specifically looked for moments that were easier to emulate. There’s stuff in ‘Material Girl’ — obviously we could never pull out and do the whole Busby Berkley dance number, but you can get some of those [smaller] moments.”
Costuming was a challenge on a small budget. Bowser says Wardrobe stylist Rae Esterlina drew on some specific historical Wonder Woman looks, like her New 52 costume, but was largely working toward blending recognizable Wonder Woman costuming with the pop stars from the original videos, which explains the lacy-crop-top-sweater Britney Spears version of the character in the “Stronger” segment. Part of the consideration there, Bowser says, was that the video’s third Wonder Woman, Katrina Rosita, needed to be wearing something flexible enough to survive an energetic dance.
Nerdist ended up getting help from cosplayers as well. “They’re very nice to us at Nerdist,” Bowser said. “We have a really good relationship with the cosplay community, and I’m always really thankful, because cosplayers spend a lot of time on their costumes, and they don’t always want to rent them out. And I understand that, because they’ve sometimes put thousands of dollars into their costumes, and if we put one of those on and dance all day, it could potentially be ruined. So we have to find cosplayers who can either appear in their costumes as themselves, or are willing to rent their costumes, if we’ve cast the parts already.”
Copying the original songs was also a challenge. Bowser says music producer Freddy Scott had to reproduce the source songs from scratch: “Because it’s parody, you’ve got to create these soundalikes. He created all the music. He basically remade those songs on his own, so there’s no copyright infringement. We’re not using the actual music. It’s slightly different, changed just enough to be within fair use.”
That’s a lot of work for less than five minutes of humor video, but the on-screen results are seamless. Want to compare this video to the source material? Nerdist’s page for the video has full credits, lyrics, and all six of the original videos.