A resonating message to humanity?
Wonder Woman, Princess Diana of the Amazons, is the embodiment of our desires in Patty Jenkins’ latest film. Strong, beautiful, honest, kind and here to save our deteriorating species from our own hubris. The irony that her sheer trust in humanity stems from growing up far away from ‘civilisation’, makes her story arc even more compelling.
In Jenkins’s adaptation of this classic character, Diana is not simply a woman faced with the realities of life – she is beyond us. A skilled warrior and a brave ally, she outfights any man. What’s more, she doesn’t understand the backseat her female counterparts take in ordinary human life. ‘How do women fight in these clothes?’ she asks when forced to discard her battle armour to blend-in to the WWI London scene. Diana’s learning curve is to keep faith, no matter humanity’s inability to change. In Wonder Woman Psychology, Travis Langley explains how her creator – the psychologist William Moulton Marston – was convinced of female superiority over men, believing women were the key to peace. This concept is still relevant - with the female movement, the fight for equality, at the forefront of our culture.
It’s no wonder Hollywood was willing to catch a ride on the bandwagon of female empowerment. To win a box office success and gain a female audience has been a long term aim. Hollywood’s greatest audience, after all, are 15-24 year old men, their desires greatly influencing what is seen on the silver screen. Laura Mulvey has described this trend, and consequently female characters in film, as the symbol of our patriarch society; the castrated woman forming the ultimate phallic object. It is clear that Jenkins struggles with this very aspect. Her lead character is both empowered, judging the lack of functionality in women’s fashion, yet sporting tight, revealing armour and fighting in heels herself; a pioneer in independence, yet a character that abides by every Hollywood standard of age, race and body type. Diana is an extraordinary woman in every aspect of the word, which makes her removal from ‘real’ women painfully poignant.
Does this mean Wonder Woman is not worth seeing? Absolutely not. It might be a long, painful journey to equality, on- and off-screen, but Jenkins’ film and Marston’s character form both a quiet criticism on how our testosterone driven actions form the ugly side to our species, and a gentle reminder of our ability to change for the better.
Wonder Woman is who we could all try to be. Minus the miniscule armour, perhaps.
Reviewed by Tess van Leeuwen, iBSc Programme Officer, King’s College London
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