Here's what I loved about Wonder Woman, starring Gal Gadot and directed by Patty Jenkins. Cue music:
[Sing to the tune of the 1970s Wonder Woman theme song: “Wonder Spoilers!”]
Diana (known to us as Wonder Woman) is a goddess, a princess of Themysciria – the island inhabited by Amazon women where she was the only child, a creation of Zeus for her mother, Hippolyta. I love that the Themyscirians are serious about defending what they believe in and that they dedicate themselves to training. Those training scenes with strong women were pretty dang glorious. Who can’t get into a people who work hard to defend their values and help others?
I thought it was refreshing that the Themyscirians wore reasonably realistic armor and shoes that a person could be active in. I know, this is going to sound silly to some, but it’s important to me. I can’t tell you how tired I am of watching detective shows where the female cop wears high heels while chasing a criminal. Military personnel do not wear high heels on active duty. It’s ridiculous.
We dress our girls in clothes and shoes that restrict their movement. Then girls turn into women and there are more restrictive clothing options which are supposedly natural. As Diana said when she was trying on “normal” female clothing and shoes, “How can you fight in this?” How can you run? How can you move freely? I love that Diana did not want to be restricted by the traditional “uniform” offered to a woman in that time period. Today, we do have options, and females have some freedom to make choices (and women do not have to endorse my choices and can choose them for themselves). This film is a reminder that it wasn’t so long ago that non-restrictive clothing wasn’t even truly a choice for women. [I wouldn't have chosen to put her in heels in the modern day parts of the film.]
I love that Diana’s philosophy is about love. It’s great that she learned from Steve Trevor, the man she came to love, that “it’s not about deserve.” It’s great that she had such compassion for the people she saw suffering around her.
Speaking of love, I thought the film did a good job of presenting Diana’s relationship with Steve Trevor. Diana is knowledgeable about sex, but lacks experience. The way Steve treats her is honest and quite beautiful. He doesn’t pretend to believe that Zeus formed her out of clay, until he realizes that she really is a godess. He does not make fun of her lack of knowledge, but is respectful, albeit also playful.
I’ve heard friends comment that they cried during the battle scenes of this film. Personally, I understand that when I think of the “no man’s land,” scene in which Diana is repeatedly fired upon and holds her shield against the onslaught. It felt emblematic of women’s unbelievable stamina, including having the stamina to wait THIS LONG to see a female superhero respected and accepted by men and women, boys and girls.
Naiveté and Wisdom
Gal Gadot and director Patty Jenkins gave us a Wonder Woman who was beautifully naïve but also brilliant, and the juxtaposition works for me. Wonder Woman grew up among the Amazons and was taught certain beliefs and values. I love that this film gave us a highly educated, intellectually flexible role model. She owned her own beliefs and did not shy away from voicing them, though the people around her had different beliefs than hers. She had an intellectual honesty and an idealism that were inspiring.
As someone who has written about the desire for and need for female heroes, I have often felt dismayed when people didn’t seem to get it. I felt Melissa McCarthy’s pain when she and the other actresses from the female Ghostbusters cast got so much hate. I shook my head when, after working on a pilot for a female Holmes and Watson, I got comments from men saying, “We don’t need this.”
What it calls to mind is an experience I once heard recounted by the linguist Deborah Tannen. She had been on a talk show discussing how men and women could be equals and a caller asked, “Why do you women just want to take over?” From all her years of work on gender and communication, she realized that, to that man, “equality” meant that women wanted to take over because, to some, there is no such thing as equal. Either you lead or you follow. Either you win or you lose.
Cosmopolitan published an article where five little girls reviewed Wonder Woman. The article was lovely, as were the pictures of little girls beside Wonder Woman posters. But I teared up at the end when they showed a little boy standing beside a Wonder Woman poster. It touched me because there are so many ways boys are taught to disdain anything "girlish." And here was a boy who wasn’t embarrassed to love Wonder Woman! That feels like progress.
We live in trying times There’s a lot of suffering over hatred and trying to keep others down. That’s why I think this is the perfect time for Wonder Woman to come to us with her philosophy of love and protecting those who need her. It feels good to watch her getting some love from all kinds of people.