Wonder Woman:  Feminist Hero?

A few months ago, with the announcement that Gal Gadot would play Wonder Woman in the upcoming DC movie, discussion became very intense about the actress’ physique and her ability to play such a key figure in the universe.  This will be the first real showing of the character (apart from an abortive t.v. show and a short) since the 1970s, so I have what I would consider a more important question:  Is she going to be portrayed as a feminist hero or as a typical male hero with breasts and long hair?

For the uninitiated there might not be a clear differentiation, or worse you might think I’m referring to some man-hating ogre.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Wonder Woman comes from an island where women are not allowed because they are not trusted and I suppose you could build on that theme if that was the direction you wanted to go.  But I was thinking a little more practical and much more likeable.

Superman and Batman are patriarchal heroes in the traditional sense.  Both are intelligent, but they are also strong and combatively proficient.  Just like the mythical heroes of the Greeks, Norse, Russians, Sumerians, Chinese, and Japanese they are successful because of their fighting.

Does a female hero have to be heroic by the same means?  If so, then Gal Gadot will be given a short backstory involving Themiskyra and she will spend the rest of the movie bickering/bantering and/or fighting alongside Superman and Batman.

For me, it would not be very pro-woman role, and for the general public it would be a missed opportunity to make the character more interesting.  For me, good heroines have always been more complex than their counterparts.  The reintroduction of Wonder Woman would be an excellent opportunity to bring that out.

Several weeks ago I suggested several characters that made for good examples – Julia Roberts in Consipiracy Theory, Athena and Cassandra from Greek myth, and Willow in Buffy.  I’d like now to go over some of their less traditional but very productive qualities.

-Adrenalin:  They are not governed by it and do not employ it unless they are put into a situation that requires it.

-Non-Confrontational:  That’s not to say that Willow hasn’t stood up to vampires or Athena didn’t back Poseidon down for Athens, it’s just that when there is a perfectly workable way of doing something that doesn’t involve combat they take that route first.  And really, why take a risk in a fight when there is no need?  She’s Wonder Woman, she has nothing to prove.

-Supportive:  As a goddess, Athena could easily do many of the things her heroes did.  Instead she helped them to accomplish them without her.  Cassandra leaves the actions to her brothers and Willow leaves the glory to Buffy.

-Ego:  What ego?

I admit that a little butt-kicking would be fun to see out of Wonder Woman, but simply adding another butt-kicker to a collection of butt-kickers won’t be nearly as interesting as making Wonder Woman a combination of all the above qualities.  I hope they make the effort in building her character.




About Cian Beirdd

I live with my kitty, and encourage his tuna and catnip addictions. I have a website as well; https://cianbeirdd.wordpress.com/cian-beirdd/
This entry was posted in Comic book heroes, Sci Fi/Fantasy and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Wonder Woman:  Feminist Hero?

  1. Loki says:

    You make a good case, but I don’t think her being “butt-kicking” in itself makes her character have to be like Superman and Batman. They’re both characters fighting predominately alone — Superman out in the open like a city’s champion (or indeed, humanity’s), Batman from the shadows, sort of like a ninja or modern covert ops. Wonder Woman is a leader by birth and upbringing, a general and a soldier. That’s a completely different kind of martial character. And indeed, it also (unlike the other two) gives her the aspect of a trained diplomat of sorts, which if memory serves the Justice League cartoons used to play up a bit.

    Of course, this could feed into what you’re describing. A good diplomat is (usually) non-confrontational, a good general would know how to handle their adrenaline, and a good leader would know how to set aside her ego. The supportive part you ask for might come less naturally to her character from a martial perspective, but in the sense of making others co-operate, it would again be very much in her nature (and a likely use of her in a Batman v Superman film, I should think).

    In any case, the movie’s called Batman v. Superman, and they need to completely introduce the former’s new incarnation from scratch in the film as well as service the plot of both of them. In addition, there is Supe’s supporting cast from “Man of Steel” that they’re (hopefully) giving some screentime, and Batman’s got Jeremy Irons’ Alfred to (hopefully) get a scene or two as well. So I’d be highly surprised if Wonder Woman has more than three scenes of consequence, just the bare minimum to set up the inevitable Justice League film that the subtitle “Dawn of Justice” so inelegantly hints at. Your hopes might be more realistically aimed towards that one, where (I’d hope) she finally has a real place in the narrative.

    Of course I could be completely wrong, and she would turn out to be incredibly pivotal and prominent in the BvS film as a (temporary) villain or love interest or something like that. Somehow, though, I doubt it.

    • Cian Beirdd says:

      As usual you point out things I had not considered. Yes, her natural role as a leader would make her an excellent complement to the two main characters, and of course you can be butt-kicking and still be a feminist hero. I hope they are able to do something magical with the script. I had not conceived of how interwoven Avengers could be, and both Nolan and Snyder have proven they can do some wonderful things in the DC universe.

      • Loki says:

        I’m a bit more on the fence with Snyder (“Man of Steel” didn’t whelm me one way or the other, it got some stuff great and some stuff less so, but I do love his 1-1-adaptations of graphic novels), and Nolan unfortunately isn’t involved in BvS as far as I know … but I always give the benefit of the doubt until I’ve seen it. 🙂

        What I like about Wonder Woman in relation to Batman and Superman is perhaps how she has elements of both and neither. She does the paragon of hope and justice thing like Superman, but she’s also (being a princess and a leader) all about the hard choices, like Batman. She knows how to respect authority and take orders, like Superman, but like Batman, she has a privileged upbringing coming with a natural assumption that her own orders will be obeyed promptly and efficiently. Of course, I’m hardly an expert on the character, I’ve mostly only read her in crossovers and Justice League stories, so my impression could be marred.

      • Cian Beirdd says:

        Nolan was on as an Executive Producer, I only knew to check because it has been big news here that every successful DC movie since 2000 has had his hand in it. Yeah I think that there is a great deal of potential for what I described in the character, much more so than in most of the Marvel heroines – Invisible Woman and Jean Grey for instance, who seem to be overwhelmed by their men. I am hopeful.

      • Loki says:

        Indeed, Marvel’s selection of independent female characters is surprisingly iffy. I guess there is Storm, Captain Marvel, Black Widow, She-Hulk (in spite of the name) … possibly Spider-Woman? I’ll admit not knowing her character very well.

        I think we’re talking past one another on Nolan — I know he was EP on Man of Steel, I meant that I don’t think he’s involved with Batman v Superman?

      • Cian Beirdd says:

        It’s strange isn’t it, with the group you listed plus The Wasp you have some of the most powerful and intelligent Marvel heroes but they are nothing more than female versions of the heroes. I just checked Imdb (my cheat), Nolan is on board with BvS as well.

      • Loki says:

        He is? That’s excellent! Thanks for the good news!

        And ah, of course, the Wasp, how embarrassing that I left her out. Also, I suppose, Kitty Pride. She and Storm might be the only non-spinoff characters on the list, come to think of it. Though I suppose technically, Black Widow is her own thing as well.

      • Cian Beirdd says:

        Pshaw, you often come up with stuff that escapes me. It is nice to have some good news for you.

      • Loki says:

        I work from home these days, so I spend a lot of “breaks” reading movie news and the like. Happy you caught this one, though, this had completely escaped me! I thought Nolan just did the first one to sort of godfather the new series and then left for good.

      • Cian Beirdd says:

        I think DC is afraid to make a move without him, especially the massive move that will be Batman vs. Superman.

      • Loki says:

        The risks aren’t exactly getting smaller. BvS is the most money-in-the-bank project they have coming, they can put the big two on every poster. Justice League is riskier. Aquaman is FAR riskier. What are the other ones in development now? Shazam and Flash / Green Lantern? This is as close to a safe bet as they’re going to get for a while, methinks. So if that’s how they think, I hope for their sake Nolan et co. is on board for the long haul.

      • Cian Beirdd says:

        Me too, though I do not see the benefits of their strategy as opposed to what Marvel did with Avengers, I don’t see where anyone at DC would have thought it was a good plan. We will see in 2016

      • Loki says:

        They seem to, at their core, be reasoning as follows. “Batman makes money. Superman makes money. If we build a world of characters starting with them and going outwards, hopefully their popularity will rub off on the other properties.” Which in itself would seem a sound way to go, assuming the various spin-offs appear up front in the Justice League film (which can still be sold as Bats/Supes in marketing and posters), and thus sneak-establishing the average movie goer with the character before he or she gets their own film.

        Comparatively, what Marvel has been doing is a lot more ballsy (but it had to be, as they didn’t have any A-list characters in their stable before Iron Man’s huge theatrical hit made him into one), but of course, in hindsight knowing it succeeded, it’s also a lot more efficient. I’m mostly very worried about how a JL film will work without a series of movies to introduce the various characters in it — won’t establishing who is who (outside of Batman and Superman) take up two thirds of the running time?

      • Cian Beirdd says:

        Right! Look at how they worked ‘Guardians’. After a series of great set-up movies that were beautifully interconnected I got a hero I didn’t know teaming up with a group of characters I didn’t know to fight off two groups of bad guys I knew almost nothing about. The movie was fun but I hated being lost most of the time about backgrounds and the like. Obviously it wouldn’t be as bad with a group we already know but to start off a series of movies that way?

      • Loki says:

        Well, in fairness, the JL film will have two (possibly three, depending on how much time is spent on Wonder Woman in BvS) characters pre-established and ready to go, Avengers-style. So Guardians likely had way more exposition on new characters to do than the JL film will need.

        My issue with Guardians, by the way, was the same as my issue with every Marvel movie to date: way, way too little time spent on making the villain motivations interesting and three-dimensional. Tom Hiddleston is awesome, but the real reason Loki’s the by far best villain of any Marvel film to date, is that he’s the only one they’re giving screen time.

        Other than that, I loved Guardians. Wish it had 20 minutes more running time, though, so it could have spent more time on making the setting feel deep and immersive, Star Wars or LotR-style. As it was, they needed all the time for characters and plot, and so I never felt like I was transported to a different world (excepting only the dance during the opening credits).

      • Cian Beirdd says:

        Of course you are right but as you say they will have some to do. It’s interesting, they have made the Marvel characters so interesting I hadn’t even noticed how flat the villains mostly are. I loved Guardians, too, I just didn’t have time to enjoy what was going on as everything but one minor character was brand new.

      • Loki says:

        In their defense, the only two where I noticed on first watch was Thor 2 (where the villain had to split screen time with Loki) and Guardians (where they had to introduce a ton of protagonists). In their other cases, only repeated watchings make the lack of depth of the villains obvious.

        Sad, too, ’cause they often cast great actors and might even have good stuff in the script that gets cut for time. Some of the deleted scenes with Malekith from Thor 2 would have made a huge difference for the character, for instance, had they been included.

      • Cian Beirdd says:

        Unfortunate. Well, I suppose it does make clear that Marvel is fallible.

      • Loki says:

        Oh, it’s nitpicking, though. I’m super happy with their films (pun intended), warts and all.

      • Cian Beirdd says:

        Me too! I hope Disney can generate the same quality with Star Wars.

      • Loki says:

        With “Star Wars”, my main worry is it will feel like “Star Wars”. I’m fairly confident they’ll make something that’s pretty good (and even if they don’t, it’s not like there hasn’t been bad Star Wars films before), I’m just worried about the Star Wars-feel of it all. But of course, the Williams score (and to a lesser extent, the old actors coming back) should help ensure that.

      • Cian Beirdd says:

        Not to insult your intelligence, but Lucas is a co-writer and will be a creative consultant for the movies. I am confident it will have the right feel.

    • Loki says:

      Oh, I know that, but I’m a bit worried the Disney desire to turn it into a massive ongoing open-ended money machine with non-Episode spin-off films and the like might dilute the atmosphere of the films. Not so worried about content and plot, I’m sure they’ll have that down, I’m more concerned with whether it will feel Special once it becomes a regular, Marvel-esque Event Assembly Line. It might, and I hope it will, but just having Lucas on board consulting isn’t exactly a guarantee for it. And my threshold for thinking so is of course going to be higher the holder I get — the prequel films had the benefit of my being much younger and more easily enthused at the time they were put out. These will be seen with much more cynical and hard-to-impress eyes. So … hesitation. Excitement, of course, and a lot of it, just not quite blind faith and optimism. Yet. Ep VII will hopefully win me over.

      • Cian Beirdd says:

        You make a good point, but with the prequels we already knew where we were going to end up and largely how, Lucas had to make that interesting. He has had decades to work with a more open ended series in his mind. I am hopeful too.

  2. I’m a big Wonder Woman fan. I hope they do her proud. So far, every representation of her has been trivial and silly. Maybe this time they will do better.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s