Unsolicited Screed on Wonder Woman

I watched Wonder Woman last night. I was surprised that I liked it as much as I did. It was better than my expectations. The following are my thoughts on it, in no particular order. If you’re among my many friends who like superheroes, I’d love to hear your responses. (Caution: this may contain spoilers!)

*Wonder Woman never gets named. She is referred to as “Diana.” Will she get her name in later episodes?

*Diana actually wears quite a lot of clothes. This is a nice touch. Her battle garb covers her butt, boobs and midriff and we never see her in less than that. We do, however, get a full shot of a naked Chris Pine (Thanks, Ms. Jenkins!). This movie is clearly trying to be a female-power endeavor and that includes not dressing the heroine is skimpy lingerie and instead offering up a hefty slice of American beefcake.

*During the naked-Chris scene, he is asked if he is physically “typical.” He responds that he is “above average.” But he then proceeds to climb out of the bathtub, fulling shielding his genitalia with one hand. Either his paws are the size of Paul Bunyan’s, or maybe he’s more “average” than he admits.

*Diana’s footwear is a puzzle. She walks around in stiletto heels in the opening/closing scenes, which I understand is a bone thrown to the aesthetics of making a heroine be (modern-definition) sexy. But during battle she wears wedge-heeled boots. I expect that a goddess raised exclusively among Amazons would wear flats (having no need to conform to the male gaze’s concept of sexual appeal) or proper square-heeled riding boots, for galloping around on horses. Wedges are better than stilettos, but I still wouldn’t wear them on a long walk, much less in the trenches of battle.

*Diana is a badass Amazon warrior, but she’s also a total ingénue. The leading man, of course, falls in love with her. I get that this is a comic-book genre and a fantasy movie, and an origin story to boot, but I’m not crazy about this portrayal. Diana is made out to straddle the virgin/whore dichotomy that is so often imposed on women in real life. She’s a brutal warrior and a total innocent. She’s an adult woman with the complete naiveté of a child. She’s not really Wonder Woman…she’s Goddess Girl. Why can’t the heroine be a complete woman, a wholly-adult female? Why can’t the leading man fall for a woman who understands complexity because she has lived a complex life and understands that losses accompany gains?

Building on this, it’s pretty trite that the desirable man in the film is desirable because he has worldly experience and savvy. The desirable woman in the film is desirable exactly because she doesn’t. The man, yet again, gets to introduce his guileless ward to the Great World and eventually the adult plane of experiential sexuality. I’d love to see this role reversed. (This being said, I’m willing to cut the filmmakers some slack on this one, because it *is* an origin story. Even a badass Amazon warrior has to start somewhere, in life and love.)

*This is a movie about a female superhero. Yay! But it’s not actually all that female. The men in the movie get as much screen time as the women. This is considered “female-led,” when it’s really more like “gender-balanced.” Chris Pine spends a lot of time having his own dialogue and scenes without Diana around. The three amigos who help out with the finale’s raid are all men. The armies, of course, are entirely men, as are the generals, politicians and the major villains. In male-hero action movies, the women get a tiny fraction of the screen time and speaking roles that the men in this female-hero action movie do. However, there is a minor female villain, which I appreciate. It’s equally rare to see a skilled female villain (whose villainy is not somehow connected to sexual manipulation) as it is to see a powerful female hero.

*The Amazons live on a remote and isolated island. Their duty is to protect and save Humankind. How does that work out with them being on a remote and isolated island? Shouldn’t they be closer to the action? Also, Robin Wright is hot; always has been, always will be.

*The movie is set during World War I, which is an interesting choice. Modern enough to have pyrotechnics and airplanes, but just old enough that you can plausibly have the heroes galloping around on horseback, as an Amazon should do.

*Diana goes to a ball wearing a gauzy, wispy gown with a four-foot sword stuffed down the back of it, hilt reaching up between her flawless shoulder blades. The villain grabs her around the waist to hijack her into dancing. How does he not feel/comment on the sword? How does that unstructured dress hold up what must be 15 pounds of steel?

*The movie makes some bold choices. Diana kills a man by stabbing him through the heart after he’s pinned and subdued. Women don’t often get to do this kind of stuff in movies; usually, they’re reserved for binding wounds, dispensing wisdom, and occasionally allowing a beaten foe to keep his life because of her mercy. A bloody kill is a singular event. Also, the Chris Pine character blows up a plane, knowing that he will die inside of it, to protect many others. Another bold choice by the filmmakers. The love interest dies and the heroine lives ever after, in what appears to be a successful and well-adjusted life.

*Diana is considered brave by her companions because of her bold actions. But in the beginning she’s not brave; she’s ignorant. She doesn’t understand the possibility of failure or injury or grievous costs. It takes no courage to walk through a snake pit, if you have no clue that snakes are venomous.(She becomes more brave, in my opinion, as the movie progresses and she begins to see that her ideas about how the world works are wrong. She’s starting to grow up.)

*Eyeliner. It’s a girl’s best friend, even if you’re a goddess superhero.

*White people. We’re still front and center. There are a few people-of-color in minor supporting roles. One is the Native American buddy in the finale raid. His story of how he got to the Western Front is probably more interesting than Diana’s. (He’s not a regular soldier and the movie is set close to the era of Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show that toured Europe. Could there be a connection?) He’s male, but he’s non-white, so I’ll give him a pass on shouldering a lead role if someone wants to write that story as a screenplay.

What are your thoughts, dear readers?


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