Inspire Confidence – Lessons from Wonder Woman

This week I’m going to talk about Wonder Woman because it is important and amazing. I plan to avoid spoilers, but I will discuss some minor details that should not ruin the overall movie for you, dear reader, I’m not a monster. I believe I can limit my comments to the widely available trailers and clips and a couple of inconsequential to the overall story line scenes. I will also be touching briefly on Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, which did not receive great accolades as a film, but it is nearly universally accepted that Diana Prince is the shining redeemable spot in the film, this movie anniversaried March 2017, so the statute of spoiler limitation has passed.

Wonder Woman’s team. Warner Brothers, 2016

Lesson 1: Amazons are fierce

As evidenced by Greek mythology and the numerous combat scenes hinted at in the trailers and the handful of WW scenes in BvS, Amazons are highly trained and skilled warriors. In the current Wonder Woman franchise they have a moral imperative given to them by Zeus that leads Diana to leave Themyscira (Paradise Island) to help Steve Trevor.

Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot. Warner Brothers, 2017.

Diana’s interpretation of this directive shows up several times throughout the film with her putting herself into dangerous situations to follow her conscience. While edited for the trailer, Diana and Steve can be heard exchanging words just before she climbs the ladder to cross the historic “No Man’s Land” (which should come as no surprise to any nerd who ever watched or read LotR).  Diana and Steve have similar goals, but their final objectives are not precisely the same. Diana sees a path to her objective and rather than take the long way around, she takes the most direct route.

In BvS, we are first introduced to Gal Gadot as Diana Prince attending a formal event, it isn’t until deep into the final scenes that we see her show up in her relatively practical Greek inspired armor accompanied by the thunder of drums and a sick guitar rift that makes me want to be an Amazon (she shows up at about 1:40 if you just want to cut to the good stuff, but this is the final battle, so there’s some spoiler stuff in the clip). BvS shows a more mature in the world Wonder Woman than the one we see in her own origin film. A warrior Amazon who smiles while she kicks the bad guys’ butts, unlike Bats and Supes who seem to be struggling to keep up at times (for various reasons), Wonder Woman is having fun.

One of the best tropes turned on its head was watching Diana go shopping spree with the delightful Etta Candy for women’s clothing and not finding anything she could fight in, best shopping trip ever.

Lesson 2: Amazons are nurturing

Based solely on the movie and comic franchises, since there is no conclusive anthropological evidence of Amazons and their society (but lots of research trying to find it), Amazons are nurturing to one another or at least to Diana – this feels like a pretty safe extrapolation based not just on the scenes of young Diana on Themyscira, but also from the context of a couple of seemingly throw away comments Diana makes (minor spoilers here, but one is totally from the comic):

Wonder Woman’s First Ice Cream Cone. Justice League Origin, DC.

While preparing to leave London Diana and Steve walk through a train station past an ice cream vendor. Diana receives a cone and is astonished at how delicious it is, she turns to the vendor and pointedly says “This is very good, you should be very proud of this achievement.”

After the battle in No Man’s Land, one of Diana’s companions has a bit of a crisis and considers leaving the group. Rather than go into a possibly uncomfortable conversation of emotional exploration in a time of war where time is of the essence, Diana simply asks “Who will sing for us?” She reframes her companion’s place in the party and gives them a sense of pride in their current abilities without shining a spotlight on a trouble that cannot be otherwise immediately remedied.

In both of these cases, Diana steps out of the ordinary storytelling process which would show her experience something, have a self involved reaction, and move on. Rather, Diana experiences something and she pauses to acknowledge that experience and lift up the other person she is interacting with as a thinking, emoting individual. This says to me that her time as a child was spent with people who honored one another’s strengths and worked together to overcome their weaknesses. This kind of behavior is taught and learned, for one to be more selfless and generous with others.

Lesson 3: We need this representation

Unless you’ve only been on the internet to read my blog (which is really sweet of you, thank you), you’ve probably seen the backlash from fragile men who cannot accept that the world wants or needs Wonder Woman or diverse representation. A movie theater franchise collaborated with Planned Parenthood to have women only showings and honestly, it sounded like the world was collapsing in on itself for some men.

Other “concerned” male commenters were quick to remind everyone that this was “just a movie” and that women really can’t defeat men in combat. Women actually *can* defeat men in combat, but certainly your average man is larger and more likely to be able to subdue your average woman. Of course, Wonder Woman is hardly your average woman and given the propensity of men to underestimate women, some training goes a long way in elevating a woman’s challenge rating, for example, you can listen to Rhonda Rousey talk about her incident in a movie theater.

As something of a relief, it was good to hear male voices proclaim that they didn’t even know what they were missing until they saw this movie. NPR show The 1A’s Movie Club discussed the film at length, this is NOT spoiler free, so listen to it after viewing the film.

Amazon, Wonder Woman. 2017

In Wonder Woman, Diana works with a diverse group men, the Amazons are not all wispy white women (they were female athletes, professional boxer Ann Wolfe in the role of Artemis, and other trained professionals), there is always room for more representation, but this film shows both POC and women in speaking roles and some prominent screen time. We even hear the lamenting of one character who cannot pursue their life’s dream because of the color of his skin.

At the end of the day (and the movie) it remains clear to many of us that we live in a world where there is a broad and deep span to humanity. To ignore those aspects of humanity that we do not personal encompass is a blind spot and we don’t collectively have to be like that.

If you see no other summer films this year, I do strongly recommend Wonder Woman and if you’re like me, you’ll need some tissues.

 

Monica Marlowe

Monica Marlowe is the 2015 Paizo RPG Superstar. Winning the contest launched her freelance game designing career. Her winning adventure, "Down the Blighted Path" and PFS scenario "Captive in Crystal" are available through Paizo. She’s publishing additional gaming materials under Marlowe House and through 3rd party publishers. Monica is also active in the ongoing education in gender, sexual, and racial equality in the gaming community. Driven by a desire to see a more diverse gaming community, Monica has joined the Know Direction network to help and encourage all gamers, veteran and new, to find their voices. Monica lives in southwest Ohio with her husband, Andrew, and 2 children, Kate and Thomas.

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