The Wonder Woman production is doing their best here in D.C. to keep their work under wraps. When they filmed at the Hirshhorn, they insisted it was for "a commercial." When they filmed at Alexandria’s old Landmark Mall, it was under a fake film name. So when the Natural History Museum was closed "for a complex install" few were fooled. It doesn’t help director Patty Jenkins gives the game away on Twitter with pictures of Wonder Woman, Steve Trevor and Barbara Minerva in those locations. Wait, who is Barbara Minerva in Wonder Woman 1984? She’s the latest character Jenkins revealed.
When it was announced back in March Kirsten Wiig was joining the cast of Wonder Woman’s sequel, Jenkins revealed that via Twitter as well. At the time though, she used only the villain’s alias: Cheetah. But it didn’t answer which Cheetah Wiig would be playing.
There are actually four different women who have held the title of "Cheetah" in the DC Comics universe. The original was Priscilla Rich, who held the title from Wonder Woman‘s beginnings in 1943 all the way until the end of the 1970s. She was followed by Deborah Domaine, who held the villain’s role from 1980-1987. Since then, Barbara Ann Minerva has been Cheetah, though she did briefly lose it to Sebastian Ballesteros, a male usurper, during a story in 2001, and had to kill him to get it back.
With this being Wonder Woman 1984, some speculated Wiig would play the Deborah Domaine version of the character, though some still held out for Rich. But Jenkins has put those rumors to bed, confirming in her tweet this is the current version.
In the comics, Dr. Barbara Ann Minerva, Ph.D., is a British archaeologist raised in Nottinghamshire, the heir to a vast fortune. She’s an ambitious woman but also one who is deeply neurotic and selfish to boot.
Minerva becomes the "Cheetah" during one of her archaeological expeditions in Africa. At the time, she’s in the middle of studying a little-known tribe who worship their female leader, known as their "guardian." Said guardian is gifted with the powers of "The Cheetah God" in order to protect them. But before Minerva can learn enough, the leader of the tribe is killed, along with most of her followers, as well as the archaeological crew.
Barbara seizes the opportunity to be selected to take the tribe leader’s place by the remaining tribes-people, when she learns this will grant her immortality. She ingests a combination of human blood along with the berries and leaves of the mysterious "Urzkartaga" plant. It’s not until after she’s done this she learns the woman who is sacrificed in this manner to house the Cheetah god needs to be a virgin. She’s not. This means every time the spirit possesses her, it’s intensely painful, even as she revels in her bloodthirsty euphoric state. It also means she’s kind of at odds with the god who possesses her.
Now, exactly how much of this origin story will actually make it into the film is unclear. Wiig’s version of the character may arrive in Washington D.C. having undergone all this already. The whole "virgin" bit, which is very 1980s sex panic oriented, may be dropped as well.
But it seems Jenkins plans to stay pretty faithful to most of this version of Minerva’s origins, if not all. This first glimpse she’s given of the character is the Natural History Museum, which an archaeologist would go on a trip to Washington D.C.
Fans will have to wait to find out more about Cheetah until the movie comes out next year. Wonder Woman 1984 arrives in theaters on November 1, 2019.
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