The newly released, and surely best, DC comics movie is cleaning up at the box office. For good reason. The story is compelling and moving, the actors (Gal Gadot and Chris Pine) talented and handsome, and the fighting very cool.
It is a woman hero tale. So I watched it with an eye for the inspiration and direction it gives to young women. In fact, I watched it with my daughter home from her first year of college. The following spoiler-laden review analyzes that message. I suggest that the movie works because, and to the extent that, it follows the pattern of the woman hero of biblical redemptive history.
To start with, the movie salvages Greek mythology by distorting it. The initial monologue mixes in biblical elements to to make the bronze gods palatable. The “real” Zeus of the myths did not create mankind “in His own image” to be noble and good as Diana (Wonder Woman) states, borrowing from Genesis. Rather the Greek myth creation had more to do with Promethius than Zeus. And it was more like an experiment and about having someone to sacrifice to the gods. Zeus was not noble at all but a greedy philanderer, and woman was a trick of his to get back at Promethius. The movie, instead, stays much closer to Genesis, explaining the woman as made to help men in all that is good and to bring him peace. That is the first reason the story attracts such an audience.
Beyond that, there was plenty of cool 300-style-camera-shot fighting: Amazons and Amazons, Americans and Germans, Amazons and Germans. Of course, the centerpiece is WW herself and her beautiful acrobatics. As the action progresses, however, any physical limits of Diana seem to dissipate like the poison gas she’s fighting. By the last half hour she seems invulnerable, omnipotent and kind of able to fly. This makes the movie lose much of its sense of danger. Yet the fighting is still inspirational to women with athletic aspirations.
To enjoy the story, we have to excuse the couple’s clearly implied (but nicely not shown) night of fornication. Perhaps we can view their sleeping together without commitment as a feature of war when many rules get broken, or, as I tend to do in movies these days, as modern culture’s crippled sense of a wedding ceremony. It wasn’t necessary to the story, but was probably included so that the audience wouldn’t feel as bad about one of them dying without consummating their love.
It was great to have Wonder Woman at the German-France front, the best part of the movie and a polite nod to Captain America’s likewise best scenes. World War I was a deadly threat worthy of her gifts. (Their fact-checker stumbled—World War I’s deaths were significantly less than 25 million, as Chris Pine’s character, Steve, asserts. It was still horrific, but the death count was more like 17 million.) Wonder Woman showed us a Jael-like heroine, there in overwhelming need saving lives.
But when it came to Diana’s and Steve’s relationship, the gender message
was mixed. Diana brings Steve back home and grants him to lead in mission at times. He helps her find her identity and lays down his life for what became their common mission. His death sanctifies her in making her wise to human potential. But the moviemakers must repeatedly have her contradict his sincere and respectful direction, and cannot escape the obligatory scene where the heroine proclaims her independence. This comes after their aforementioned “marriage” unfortunately. She must utter the line nearly every leading actress must utter at some point during a modern movie: “What I do is not up to you.” This line or something like it is always there to signal that there will be no surrendering of prerogative to a man in this heroine.
It makes for a lopsided inspiration. It is too bad that in all the ways this character can inspire young women, she is not able to teach them about what will make their relationships intimate.
The people who create these heroines no doubt believe that this is the best role model for girls, since women have been oppressed at different times in history. But women’s problems will never be solved without men, for the latter are half the problem. And they must be more than half of the solution. So asserting independence and promoting non-gendered, symmetrical relationships is not helpful for women.
So see WonderWoman. Be inspired, and be discerning.
What did you think of this movie?