Wonder Woman: The significance of this post-feminist heroine

Wonder Woman: The significance of this post-feminist heroine

Kshitij Rawat

Wonder Woman, released exactly a year ago, was the first (and so far only) true success of DC’s film universe that both critics and audiences loved deeply. In a dream casting, athletic Israeli actor Gal Gadot was recruited to play the most popular and influential female superhero in the world. Princess Diana, the warrior goddess hailing from the hidden, utopian island paradise of Themyscira populated by martial women, seeks Ares, the dreaded god of war who she thinks is behind all the death and destruction in the world.
The film has been praised for espousing feministic values, but Wonder Woman, as wondrous as she is, is essentially a post-feminism heroine. Since she has been untouched by patriarchy, misogyny and rape due to a complete absence of men on her island, she does not know that there is an ideology that calls for gender equality. That there is an entire world out there where things are not as smooth.
But then, Wonder Woman’s very existence is a pretty strong feminist statement. The idea of a powerful female heroine taking on evil, belligerent men alone makes Wonder Woman feminist because of what she is, and not what she does. In another filmmaker’s hands, Wonder Woman may have been a reheated Captain American movie (even if the setting is deliberately different from Cap’s origin story, The First Avenger; World War I instead of World War II). With Patty Jenkin at the helm, the film and its lead character make Steve Rogers with all his patriotic heroism and will to fight for his country despite his physical limitations (in the beginning) pretty tame and conventional.
Wonder Woman is also the most “humane” superhero that has ever appeared in cinema. In the DC film universe, she is the only superhero with empathy and compassion. Superman and Batman are more bullies and thugs than superheroes one could be inspired by. In this regard, she is reminiscent of Christopher Reeve’s Superman. Indeed, Wonder Woman film is a tribute to the iconic pioneer of the modern superhero genre. The alley fight scene when Diana and her love-interest Steve Trevor find themselves cornered harks back to the scene involving Clarke Kent and Louis Lane in 1978’s Superman directed by Richard Donner. Only, the gender tropes are reversed. This time, it’s the female who saves the male by stopping the bullet.
The No Man’s Land scene is a gorgeously shot, acted, directed and scored scene. A four-minute masterclass in superhero filmmaking. It also establishes Diana as a heroine who will do whatever it takes to end the misery and suffering in the world. Before, all the unpleasant stories she had heard about the outer world as a child were vague things. It is only now she is looking at the atrocious things humans are capable of doing to each other. She is shocked and wants instantly to do something about it despite what Steve Trevor and others say.
One of the most heart-warming moments, and my personal favourite, in Wonder Woman lasts only for a few seconds. Charlie, the sniper in Diana and Steve’s ragtag team (a parody of sorts of Howling Commandos) is ashamed that he could not shoot down the sniper in the tower and chickened out. He says something to the effect of “You’re better off without me.” Diana, immediately, says with a dazzling smile, “No, Charlie. Who will sing for us?” This is a pretty damn fantastic statement to make. This is not about Charlie’s vocal talents (not considerable, If I’m being honest), this is about Diana’s appreciation of a person without any condition. Charlie’s value in Diana’s team is not reduced because he lost his courage. He does not need redemption – a sudden acquisition of bravery to justify his position – something you would probably have seen in other superhero movies. He is not on the team just because he has a noteworthy talent. Diana does not demand that he prevails over his shortcoming. This is where Wonder Woman is head-and-shoulders above any other superhero put on the screen. (Courtesy: HT)