Patty Jenkins’ superhero epic extraordinaire Wonder Woman hits theatres on June 2nd, becoming the first female lead superhero film to be released, despite dozens of comic book movies produced over the last decade. The film, even before release, has an importance in its significance that can not be overstated. A few of our authors explain why they feel that is.
Women today get told a LOT of things: We are subtly told by the media that we are supposed to look and act a certain way, and on the flip side we are not so subtly told by often the same media that if we are not constantly up in arms about something and constantly raging against the patriarchy, we are not real women. It can be very disorienting and leave us very confused and unsure of how to behave.
Enter Wonder Woman: conceived in 1941, when women were very much second class citizens, she was a breath of fresh air to many in the comic book world. Sure, aesthetically she had the over-sexualized look that all female characters (and honestly, male as well) had in comics back then. But her character was far from a sex symbol. Nor was she, in my opinion, intended to be a symbol of feminism. She was the hero of the story, simply because people like hero stories, and the writers of Wonder Woman wanted to do something different.
As a woman who is involved in the analysis of all things “geek”, I have been asked a lot recently if I think Wonder Woman is a symbol for feminism, or if she can be a rallying point for the modern feminist movement. My answer is always the same: Wonder Woman is whoever you want her to be. Let’s all remind ourselves that Diana Prince is a fictional character, however, this gives us the freedom to see her however we want.
Wonder Woman has never really been a superhero I was that familiar with, probably because she has never had a feature film and no TV appearances in my lifetime (I am much more of a film and TV geek than a comic book geek), but in preparation for the upcoming film and conversations I’ve had about it, I have done a lot of research and have come to find that Diana of Themyscira to be an extremely interesting character.
Obviously, she is a strong female lead character. That in it of itself is not an anomaly in film in 2017. We see it pretty often now because studios are realizing that it is profitable, and audiences respond well to female driven stories. Wonder Woman is strong both physically and mentally, plus she literally comes from a world where men don’t exist and never have existed. That surely is a commentary on how women do not “need” men to be successful in their own lives. And then, once Diana is thrown into the world of men (particularly, a war), she more than holds her own – she dominates. Taking all of these things into account, one could definitely argue that WW is a symbol for feminism.
However, Wonder Woman herself (and I am speaking here as if she is real) does not set out to be a symbol. She is not trying to be a rallying point for feminism. She comes from a world of all females – striving for gender equality would not really ever be needed, and everyone would already be judged solely by their merits as humans (or non-humans, but you get my point). Knowing that, it is impossible to argue that Wonder Woman is trying to prove something. In reality, she is responding to the thing inside of her that drives her to help others. And she responds the best way she knows how – by using her own physical and mental strength, and power.
So why does Wonder Woman matter then in 2017? Is it because the die-hard feminists can point to her as the turning point for the modern superhero craze where women are more represented? Sure! Is it so that little girls can dress up as her for Halloween and feel equal to the little boys that dress up as Batman and they can all be superheroes together? Yes! Is it so that people like me, who don’t consider themselves a “feminist” (in the 2017 sense) but who love to see badass, up and coming actresses like Gal Gadot get to break onto the scene as a character like Wonder Woman, can look forward to the movie? Definitely! Is it so that DC can maybe turn its dismal performance in recent years around by resurrecting a once beloved character from a 60 year coma? For sure!
In short, Wonder Woman matters because she can be anything to anyone – she can be whatever you want her to be. Maybe that’s an upside to her being gone so long, that we can all go into this film with our own individual perspective and expectations. We don’t know what to expect, so we can’t be told how to react before we even see it. My hope is that they keep it that way; keep WW as she is, a strong and powerful woman who just wants to do the right thing because it’s the right thing – not to make statement or to “win”. Wonder Woman matters because she is really the only major superhero in the DC universe who has yet to get a feature film, and its 2017 and we are ready for her. And something tells me that Gal Gadot will have been worth the wait.
Growing up, I had the privilege of reading comic books filled with heroes that looked a lot like I did. This, for the most part, translated to the superhero movie craze of the last decade or so. The heroes represented on screen, Captain America, Batman, Iron Man, Superman, Thor…even Ant-Man… again looked a lot like me. Male. White. Straight. But as I’ve grown up, and my own world views have changed exponentially from where they were as a youngster, I’ve begun to see the error of this trend. For such a large percentage of the United States, and all over the World, they are not properly represented in these films. But why? Where are the female heroes? LGBTQ heroes? Heroes of all races and nationalities? Other than in supporting roles, these heroes have never been pushed to the forefront, the limelight that they deserve.
The Black Panther film is coming. So is Captain Marvel, and (supposedly) a Black Widow film. But first, along comes the DCEU’s stand alone Wonder Woman film. Now, to comic book nerds like me (and possibly, you), Diana of Themyscira is one of the greatest heroes (undeniably top 3) DC Comics has ever created. The strength to go toe to toe with Superman, and the brains to match the World’s Greatest Detective – Batman, she is very literally a force to be reckoned with. She is bad ass in every sense of the word. And what we need today, more than ever, is bad ass females being represented on film.
As the step-father of a teenage girl, and the father of a baby boy, I want my children to have positive role models, both in their own lives and those they can look up to in the fictional world. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE superhero films, but are we subtly teaching our children that the only ones fit to lead are white, straight and male? I call BS, and I’ll tell you why: the strongest person I’ve ever met is my wife. She personifies grace, strength, and is the foundation of our family, our rock. She has the world’s kindest heart, yet fights harder for those she loves than anyone I’ve ever known. She is a role model for our children. Why can’t there be leaders like her in the movies. Now there is.
I am excited for Wonder Woman mostly for this point: Little girls need role models. Little boys need role models. I can think of no better (fictional) role model for my step-daughter, or for my son, for that matter, than Diana Prince. Bold. Strong. Courageous. Loving. And for those people who happen to look an awful lot like me, complaining about screenings of Wonder Woman for females only, I say this: you are the exact reason why we need this hero represented on the big screen. The word “hero” is not something that identifies with a specific sex, race, nationality or sexual orientation. Wonder Woman starts, & films like Black Panther and Captain Marvel will continue, an overdue narrative to prove this.
What do think? Why does Wonder Woman matter? Leave us a comment below.
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