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[Article] – Why Wonder Woman Still Means So Much To Me… Even in 2017

 

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Posted June 25, 2017 by

 
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DISCLAIMER: major Wonder Woman (2017) and Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) spoilers ahead.

I admit it, A large part of my life has been spent watching Marvel films, and I’ve seemingly become more and more obsessed with their characters. Marvel have released some of my favourite superhero films, Captain America: the Winter Soldier and The Avengers to name a few – but I never realised how often the franchise puts the female characters secondary to males –  until I got into the DCEU, in particular the new Wonder Woman film.

In one of the first shots, we see Diana Prince as a child watching and idolising the female warriors training for battle. This scene really hit me; as I imagined the young women in the audience of that film, watching these strong and powerful women, and aspiring to be just like them. On top of this, approximately the first twenty minutes of the film is entirely women – It is extremely rare to see a superhero film in which women alone take up so much screen time, without, at any point, being saved by the strong and capable hands of a man. Speaking of which, the gorgeous serenity of Themyscira is broken when Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor comes crashing into the glistening blue water. What a surprise it was to see Diana Prince dive selflessly into the water to save him, when I’m so used to seeing the man saving himself, or more often, the man saving the woman. Director Patty Jenkins has, in one single scene, destroyed the damsel ‘in-distress trope’ which I have grown up watching in many of my favourite films. For this, I am grateful.

The film continues to destroy stereotypes by allowing Diana Prince to make important decisions, that will actually have an effect on the world. It can’t be argued that even today men are expected to make big decisions within the workplace, or in the family. Films in more ‘progressive’ recent years haven’t done much to rid society of this tradition. Superhero films in particular, men are generally viewed as the leader of the group whether that be Captain America and Iron Man taking charge of the Avengers or Charles Xavier making the decisions for the X-men. Even in the DCEU, Batman and Superman are seen as the main contributors to saving the world (that is until Wonder Woman has to come and give them a hand in the final battle of Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice). In Wonder Woman, Diana makes the plans, she takes control and she sees it as her duty to save the world from war, no one else’s.

One of my personal favourite scenes in the film is when Diana is trying on outfits with Etta Candy and Steve Trevor. We see her in multiple ridiculous outfits, which is very funny for the audience. I looked past the humour of this particular scene and saw more; “how can a woman possibly fight in this?”, spoken by Gal Gadot as Diana Prince while wearing a particularly large and frilly purple dress. Despite the fact that this scene was obviously placed for comedic purposes to show the extreme juxtaposition between Diana of Themyscira and Etta of London, I couldn’t help but feel as though this line was hinting at more. I’ve asked myself the same question as Diana many times whilst watching other superhero films: “how can a woman possibly fight in this?” Take Natasha Romanoff or Black Widow from Marvel for example. Without pitting Marvel and DC against each other it is not hard to see the difference between the costumes designed for the female characters from both franchises. How can a woman possibly fight in a tight, leather suit that is only zipped half way up? How can a woman possibly fight in wedged boots? In Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch has to fight the majority of her battles wearing a dress and boots. I can hardly run up the stairs in a dress never mind fight an evil robotic enemy. The women of Themyscira, however, fight in functional metal armour.

Highlighting further inequality between men and women in the various superhero universes is the fact that not only are the main heroes usually men, the main villains are also male. The message that I have heard in these films for so long is that women can’t destroy the world and they can’t save it either, so what can they do? There are multiple villains in the Wonder Woman film, one of which happens to be a female scientist & evil genius. “Women can do science?” you ask. “Yes they can, and they can do it so well even when they’re using their scientific knowledge to destroy the world” responds Isabel Maru aka the sinisterly named Doctor Poison. Patty Jenkins has shown me, and millions of other girls across the world, that women can do anything that their male counterparts can (you probably shouldn’t use that newfound female empowerment to destroy the world though).

Not only is the new Wonder Woman film technically magnificent, the message it carries in every single scene is rarely included in mainstream cinema. From Steve Trevor feeling the need to prove his talent by discussing his good looks to Wonder Woman, Patty Jenkins presents a powerful and non-superficial female theme that is not regularly shown in superhero films. Making a spectacular $103.1 million at the box office on opening weekend, Jenkins’ Wonder Woman shows film makers everywhere that you do not have to design your female characters through the male gaze to ensure success. I want to thank Patty Jenkins, Gal Gadot, Chris Pine and everyone involved in the creation of this spectacular DCEU film, and for showing me & many others how important it is to place realistic, strong and heroic women at the forefront of film. The time of women in the background has passed and Wonder Woman (2017) marks the entry into a new era of high grossing, mainstream superhero films with powerful female protagonists. This is why Diana, Princess of Themyscira, Daughter of Hippolyta, Goddess of Love and War, continues to mean so much to me, a young woman, even in 2017.

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Written by:

Nanci Rawsthorne
@nanci_lwt

Letterboxd
Freelance Contributor

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