Wonder Woman has been greatly anticipated as a groundbreaking feminist film. Some have shaken their heads at this. After all, haven’t we seen fierce, fighting women in hundreds of movies already? What makes Diana of Themyscira different?
I went into the film optimistic, eager to find out what it would say about womanhood, and curious whether I would agree with it.
Two or three scenes in, and I was undone.
Watching Amazon warriors train together, with a shining-eyed young Diana looking on, I found myself blinking away tears and trembling with joy. I had nothing like this to watch as a little girl—nothing like this—nothing like this! I thought. My daughters will get to watch many movies like this!
The little girl inside me identified with small Diana, and thrilled to watch her grow up to be a strong woman just like the warriors she admired.
I continued in a state of tears and trembling throughout the movie. It so strongly moved me that I was a little uncertain what had happened, even a little uncomfortable with my own emotions! Why would I react so strongly? What made Diana different?
A lot of reflection—and a second viewing—and I began to understand.
We have seen fighting women in many movies. Eowyn, Katniss, Gamora, Zoe and River from Firefly, Black Widow, and so forth. But almost without exception, these women are emotionally closed off or damaged, wounded, forced into the fight, fearful, sneaky, “bad girls,” or otherwise women I don’t identify with or wish to identify with. Few embody more typical feminine character traits. They are always presented as the odd woman out for one reason or another, driven by grief or pain or a need to prove themselves: desperate, harsh, hurting.
Diana was none of those things.
Raised not as an outsider to femininity but by a culture of all women, she is noble, gentle, loving, and kind. Some of the sweetest moments in the film arose from her soft and nurturing nature, and her eye for the beauty in the world. She is someone I’d actually want to be, someone I could look up to rather than feeling like she was an exception to my gender. Like Captain America, she stands up for all that is good and right, and she does it based on her own ideals, not because someone else pressured her, damaged her, or convinced her. She’s not an “exception” to femininity—she is feminine, while also kicking serious butt.
Tough women abound in film, but tough women who are also good, hopeful, true, compassionate, and deeply confident? I’m not sure I have ever seen one—not until Diana.
The film was not without its missteps, plot holes, and awkward moments. While Steve Trevor was a strong complement to Diana as a secondary character, their motley crew seemed to fall prey to the trope of “must surround the strong woman with weak men to make sure she stands out.” (At the same time, however, I appreciated how some of their characters were portrayed and used within the storyline.) The main antagonist was also weak, his outward appearance unconvincing and not fitting for his true identity. And rather than being the dangerous villain promised in the trailers, the intriguing Doctor Poison played a small, somewhat insignificant role.
But Diana outshone any of the film’s flaws. True to God’s design for womankind, she stands equally alongside the strongest of fictional male heroes—not merely because she fights for a good cause, but because of her dignity, resolve, and courage.
In one of the most moving scenes in the film, she advances on an enemy army, pushing back against a firestorm of bullets as she makes her way through a territory known as No Man’s Land—a place no man could cross. But Diana is no man, the film whispers without a word. On the other side of that waste is someone who needs help. And Diana is a woman who stands up and does what needs to be done. Fearlessly. Indefatigably. When she sees harm and suffering, she acts. Her boldness compels the loyalty of others, and stokes their courage to stand with her against evil.
She is the hero we want to be, male or female. A hero who is dogged in her pursuit of justice, truth, and love.
Diana isn’t just a heroine for women—she is a heroine for all.