Wonder Woman is back and wrestling the cosmic powers of darkness. If you haven’t seen the movie, get ready for Gal Godot’s big screen portrayal of DC Comic’s character Diana Prince, Princess of the Amazons. She’s lassoed a huge following and a new generation of Wonder Woman fans while topping world box office charts with early sales in excess of $450 million U.S.
This action-packed, visually compelling, and smartly written movie packs a whole lot of superhero battle scenes. They are punctuated with delightful comedic bouts that underscore a powerful and timely message about women and their place in the world. Yet I couldn’t help ponder its success: what is this message, and why now? Is there a dearth of good movies right now or maybe a worldwide consciousness about women bolstered by the resurgence of a global women’s movement?
The answer is yes and no. Yes, there is a dearth of good superhero movies, if you follow tweets from social media and movie reviewers. Both have called Wonder Woman the most inspiring superhero movie in years. Twitter feeds by men and women alike celebrate film director Patty Jenkins’ blockbuster ability to capture the essence of the Marvel hero story-line. (Photo: Clay Enos/TM & DC Comics) And, here’s a newsflash: gender doesn’t seem to matter in any of these tweets!
Just ask Mike who says, “Christopher Reeve’s Superman: true north superhero w/ no angst or cynicism, which is needed right now.” Or Adam, who wrote: “Happy — no, RELIEVED — to report that #WonderWoman is truly good. Funny, stirring, kick-ass, romantic. A solid, entertaining superhero film.” A woman name Alison chimed in, adding that “Gal Godot is absolutely phenomenal as #WonderWoman. She KILLS it, just surprisingly good. A truly heroic light DCEU desperately needs.”
But these joyful responses move beyond gender confines, praising Wonder Woman outside of its superhero genre. Twitter follower Alisha said, “There’s a scene in #WonderWoman that made me cry tears of joy – so rare to see a (literal) army of women acting so competently on film.” Alisha’s sentiment, bolstered by thousands of other women and girls who shared their elation across Facebook and Twitter, hints at the movie’s deeper appeal. Wonder Woman celebrates the empowerment of women and the critical (yet often subjected) role of women in fighting the “evils” of the world.
This moves the feminist wave, felt round the world in January 2017, past the #WomenMarchGlobal twitter trend. The discussion #WhatWomenWantin4Words trend is a gender equal world, as movie audiences applaud Wonder Woman in countries like France, U.K. and Brazil. It’s not surprising to see women empowered in these places, but it is in other countries like Russia, China and the United Arab Emirates. Wonder Woman’s success in countries where women struggle for equality signals their strong desire to recognize and harness their power. It also says that women all over the world are willing to spend money to see women-centered movies.
Melissa Silverstein, founder and publisher of Women and Hollywood magazine, agrees. She says people everywhere will watch movies with women protagonists and women-focused stories when these movies have the necessary budget and the right amount of real marketing and advertising dollars to be a successful large-scale international release.
This truth reaches new heights when you consider one of the most memorable lines from the Wonder Woman movie. Early in the film, Hippolyta warns Diana early to “be careful in the world of men (Diana), for they do not deserve you.” Diana realizes this truth when she decides to help humanity despite our mortal flaws and maybe because of them. Steve Trevor (played by Chris Pine) is willing to sacrifice himself for the good of humanity, disproving that all men are undeserving of Diana’s help.
So, while Wonder Woman is undoubtedly good storytelling with a sizable marketing budget, its success is also explained by key factors in our changing world. The first of these is the growing number of men like movie reviewer Roy Sexton who are joining with women to help promote the Diana-like warriors in our world. Roy lends his unabashed support and writing talents advocating for feminism and equal rights.
Roy is the creator of ReelRoy Reviews, a website dedicated to movie reviews and personal musings about the theater. After stumbling upon Roy’s Wonder Woman review, I realized it was more than a fascinating historical account of this Marvel Comic Book character’s iterations. Roy’s article is filled with gritty praise and a few sections that he kindly allowed me to share on WomanScape. Please navigate to Roy’s site and send him a note if you like what he has to say in this paragraph below. Roy can be reached at: Reel Roy Reviews and Twitter.
After this section in the article, Roy goes on to describe the backdrop to the movie’s setting and the nascent suffrage movement that continued to make waves for women in society during World War I. He freely admits “the movie is most thrilling when Diana leads a ragtag band of adorably mismatched soldiers across the Western Front, [with Diana] marching directly through the battle lines, armed only with her wits, her magic bracelets, and her righteous indignation over the horrors she has just witnessed befalling everyday families (and horses).”
While Roy admits to crying during this movie sequence, I felt like I was Diana pushing through the front line alongside her. When I suddenly realized I was gripping the edge of my seat and clenching my teeth, I relaxed back into my chair and noticed a packed audience that looked just as invested as I felt.
WomanScape celebrates Roy’s kicking definition of feminism, the affirmation from Wonder Woman’s box office sales and the powerful message it brings to audiences. The world needs wonder men and wonder women who embrace compassion and inclusivity. Human beings are worth saving if we can believe and follow the examples of Steve and Diana and not lose faith.
Wonder Woman is the creation of William Moulton Marston, a man who believed women were superior to men and should rule the world. But this wasn’t something men could say back in the 1940’s in America. Thanks to Jill Lepore’s book, The Secret Life of Wonder Woman, we know how much Marston’s unusual personality and exceptional intelligence (as a graduate of Harvard) affected Diana’s costuming and character. If we suppose that Marston’s invention of the lie detector machine helps to explain why Wonder Woman’s lasso forces captives to tell the truth, it’s not a stretch to suggest Marston also saw women as keepers of the truth. If Wonder Woman embodies the power of all women, women are critical for honesty to prevail in the world and they must be given the same opportunities as men to exercise their powers.
(Photo: Clay Enos/TM & DC Comics)