Oct 242017
 
Still from the film. Central is Bella Heathcote as Olive Byrne. In the background is JJ Field as Charles Guyette.

Still from the film. Central is Bella Heathcote as Olive Byrne. In the background is JJ Field as Charles Guyette.

[The film Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (2017, dir. Angela Robinson) is a “based on true events” story of William Moulton Marston, the two women he lived with, his interest in bondage, and how all of that influenced his superheroine creation, Wonder Woman. The film includes scenes in the 1930s in which Marston meets Charles Guyette, an early pioneer of fetish/BDSM media in the USA. While Marston definitely had an interest in bondage and fetishes, I was skeptical that meeting had actually occurred. I asked Richard Pérez Seves, a fellow kinky historian, and author of a biography and photo collection of Guyette, if this had happened.]

Richard Pérez Seves:
No, Guyette never met Marston. There’s absolutely no record of it. But since Charles Guyette was the first person to produce and distribute fetish art in America, and it all begins with him, it was an easy way for the director/screenwriter to explain Marston’s BDSM education. It’s a theatrical conceit. Symbolic. And all those scenes with Guyette in the movie would play well on stage too.
This conceit does not bother me at all. I’m just thrilled that Charles Guyette — our Charles Guyette, community pioneer — has been introduced to a wider audience. So I’m definitely not putting down the director for making this choice. Films are dreams; they need to be visual — need to express information visually. Those scenes with Guyette dressing Olive Byrne, teaching her about bondage are fantastic.
Another point: Guyette is a French name … but Charles Guyette was American, and his father was also American … as I state in the book, pg. 119: “French/Irish” … and Guyette’s mom I believe was also of Irish descent … so Guyette was actually more Irish than French. But the director/screenwriter of the film didn’t know this. No one knew this stuff until I traced it down, beginning with the US Federal Census of 1940, where Guyette lists his name as “Charles J. Guyette.” Once I located this document — and saw his name connected to an address I already had (given to me by Bélier Press publisher J.B. Rund) — I could work backward to trace his birth date/location, upbringing, etc. Track all the rest of his family, including his deceased mom.
Another thing that the writer/director didn’t know was that Guyette wasn’t known as the “G-string King” until 1943 (see pg. 129/130) … but again no one knew this. This is why I did the book. Since I had the research/evidence to support the facts, etc. Again, I don’t want to be critical of the director. In fact, we should all be grateful that she risked making a film that’s unconventional, that doesn’t shy away from themes of BDSM. And, of course, I love that shot in the movie with all the Charles Guyette images spread across a table. So cool! I literally gasped to see that on the big screen. So thank you, Angela Robinson!

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  One Response to “Guest Post: Did William Moulton Marston and Charles Guyette actually meet?”

  1. […] realm is the “G-string king” himself, fetish publisher and designer Charles Guyette (which probably never happened). On this side of the fantasy-reality divide, it’s the younger, beautiful Olive who becomes […]

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