I’m an artsy-fartsy kind of Girls Girl. With a Bachelor’s degree in theatre, a portfolio of a bazillion papers on character analysis and deconstructing a play from the inside out – not to mention a few productions under my belt – I feel this somehow makes me qualified to have a valid opinion on everything theatrical and dramatical. And, since the majority of us can’t afford to go see stage productions all that often, I thought a great way to stretch my writing chops and feel like I’m putting my degree to good use would be to write movie reviews. The neverending cycle of production and need for adulation continues!
If you have suggestions for movies that you would like to see reviewed from the Girls Girl perspective, email firstname.lastname@example.org and put “A Girls Girl at the Movies” in the subject line.
With the inaugural post of “A Girls Girl at the Movies”, it seems only fitting to review one of the most iconic films featuring a strong female character recently released – Wonder Woman. And believe me, ever since I saw it, my brain has been filled with all sort of opinions on the film’s themes, style choices, the story arch of the characters, and the action itself. I’ll try to keep the spoilers to a minimum, but be forewarned. We’ll stick to the themes.
There are three main themes that run through Wonder Woman that I’d like to touch on: Power, Strength, and Love.
Let’s talk about Power for a bit. This film is all. About. Power. This power is female-centered in Diana and the Amazons, and opposed by the male-centered forces of war, the world at large, and “traditional” gender roles. Diana grows up in a world where all power is derived from women. Women make the decisions, organize the society on the island Themyscira, raise farms, make armor, train warriors. They are a self-sufficient society with the blessings of the gods. What else would they possibly need? One would think that Diana’s naivete regarding the outside world would weaken her resolve to save the Earth from Ares, God of War. Fortunately, the writing and Gal Gadot’s performance give the viewer no chance to doubt Diana as a pillar and ideal of Power, even at the darkest moments of the film. Diana’s power isn’t granted to her by the idolatry of her peers, or even by how she was raised. Diana’s power naturally comes from within – albeit a blessing of the Gods, she undoubtedly proves her power at the right times throughout the film.
Unlike the majority of the male superhero movies we’ve seen come out in the last decade, Wonder Woman is not only centered around a female protagonist who is raised by women in a film directed by a woman – which, by the way, is the highest grossing film directed by a woman EVER – she is a
completely realized character from start to finish. She is realized through her Strength, a trait that is laid on thick like war paint. Power and Strength go hand-in-hand, but Diana’s strength isn’t in her muscles. Her strength is drawn from her will – her drive to prove herself in the face of adversity. When she enters the fray of World War I Europe, she is faced with the obstacles not only of the war itself, but society’s conventions and expectations of women. Of course, the comedy of the film is drawn from Diana’s lack of understanding of these conventions. But, it also speaks to how women today should meet the eventually opposing opinions of how a woman should conduct herself – with a steely gaze, an eyebrow lifted in defiance.
Finally, and this is the most controversial theme of the film, we come to Love. Diana seems perfectly happy, with complete ignorance of romantic love, until Captain Steve Trevor comes along. For a while, as I watching the film, I actually dared to think that the story wouldn’t even hook these two up. But, inevitably, after they collectively save the small Belgian village of Veld from encroaching Krauts, they have a little fun. If I sound suddenly snarky, it’s because I was truly hoping that this film – the first major- blockbuster-big-studio film to come out in ages with a superheroine lead to come out in an excruciatingly long time – would not pander to sex. The only redeeming part of this little sequence is, it was brief. The viewer sees them kiss, the music swells, camera zooms out, and boom goes the dynamite… off screen. But, why does this even tasteful rendition of a Hollywood sex scene bother me? It makes the end of the film seem cheap. Thrown away. Diana proclaims in some of the last lines of the film that she will continue to serve Earth as its guardian for love. Because love is the most important thing ever in the history of everything.
Now, you can take this proclamation in one of two ways – that it truly cheapened the film, or that it had no effect on the integrity of the story as a whole. I’m somewhere on the fence. My friend, Kristin, however, took the former stance. “She’s going to save the world because of LOVE?! Because she GOT SOME?! What about all the other stuff she spouted off all through the movie about JUSTICE?!?!?”
I may or may not be paraphrasing.
My argument is this: It’s Chris. Pine.
Okay, no, really, this is my argument. Kristin’s response only touched on one aspect of Love. And, while the knee-jerk response to Diana’s proclamation is of that blatant connotation of Love, I took it to mean that Diana experiences all sorts of love throughout the movie. Diana is the only child on an island full of women. Her mother, Queen Hippolyta, obviously loves her with a mother’s love – that innately protective and nurturing love that all mothers have for their children. Her aunt, General Antiope, loves Diana with the heart of a warrior, and does not feel that shielding Diana from the desire to train to be an Amazon warrior is the answer, so she trains her with the fiercest discipline to be the best of all of them – all out of love. Then, we have the love of the village of Veld – the love of the unknown masses – who she has saved from the German army. This is the love of admiration, blind allegiance, the love for a savior. And yes, okay, there’s romantic love with Steve Trevor, blah blah blah.
Diana wants to protect Earth as its guardian because everyone should be free to love in whatever way they wish. A father should have the freedom to love his family without being called to war. A mother should be able to love her children without fear that they will die in a bombing. A child should be free to love everything about the world and fear nothing. Because love is the strongest force of all. To me, finally, it is only fitting that we need a superheroine to teach us about how love is above all things. While most superhero films and stories rely on vengeance, darkness, and hate, it takes a woman to reflect what is most important to humanity and to the world. Through Power and Strength, comes Love.