Another Critical Look at the Wonder Woman Movie
Another Critical Look at the Wonder Woman Movie
Last weekend, when Wonder Woman hit theaters, I was excited to take my little girls to it. Of all the big name superheroes, Wonder Woman just hasn’t gotten her due. I was skeptical at first as the DC movies recently have not had that sense of optimism that the DCU is loved for. Mind you, DC has their share of darker characters which tend to translate better for modern audiences than beacons of light like Wonder Woman and Superman. So, after reading a number of spoiler-free reviews, I set out for the movie theater with my wife and children in tow.
When the movie was over we all left, some even teary eyed. Then while walking to the car we each exclaimed what moment within the movie cemented it for us as one of the best superhero movies ever. There, on the big screen, was a true Wonder Woman. A powerful, beautiful woman who is able to serve as a role model for both girls and boys. A woman who, though constantly underestimated, rose above her challenges to show others the way.
For days now after the movie I have spouted its merits to my friends, while also reading a few critical reviews of the film. Then, this morning while going through my Google feed, I came across the “Son of Baldwin” critical review of the movie and was shocked. Written by Valierie Complex and Robert Jones the review takes a “what is wrong” with Wonder Woman approach to their review. After reading their review I could only say to myself, Really? Being a white male, my perspective on many things differs greatly from the writers of the piece and I am hard-pressed to respond.
The first thing that they mention noticing on Paradise Island was the fact that little Diana’s caretaker is a PoC. They follow this up by saying, “Wow, they have Mammies on Paradise Island too.” To be honest this didn’t even occur to me. My only thought was Diana is driving that poor woman crazy. Maybe this scene wasn’t so much look they have mammies on Paradise Island but Diana is a handful. It seems that any perceived slight by the movie studio would be curtailed by the PC Police yet this got the green light. Perhaps they didn’t have enough PoC screening the movie before it was released to notice this or maybe, just maybe no one saw it as an insult.
As for the diversity argument, they claim that “diversity is equal footing with whites. PoC shown with equal importance, and in equal numbers.” Again this never occurred to me, but it seems that this idea of “diversity” is skewed in its own way. If diversity, is a true representation of the world, then why are PoC going to be represented in equal numbers in this movie? The current demographics of the U.S. according to Wikipedia stand something like this: White 72.4%, Black 12.6% and the remainder is everyone else (because for the purposes of this article, these are the big two I am addressing). To inflate the numbers of PoC within the movie to a 50/50 standing is a falsehood and not a true reflection of the world we live in.
Further watching the movie they claim that Ann Wolfe who is playing Artemis is shown as a “Brute”. That this is further proof of the stereotype that black women are hard and lack femininity. Artemis in the comics is described as the greatest warrior of the Amazons, she even carried the mantle of Wonder Woman for a time. Knowing this when I saw Artemis fighting alongside the Amazons the only thing that entered my mind was, “That is one seriously bad ass woman!”.
They also say “White Feminism lacks an adequate lens with which to dismantle White Supremacy”, this is why black women aren’t treated more fairly in the movie. Here again this came a shock. There are multiple types of feminism? A separate strain of feminism, one for each ethnic group? Why wasn’t I told this before? It seems to me that feminism would equally apply to all women. The constant separation of groups and division of movements is what reduces our strength. If we honestly stand together and quit pointing out what is different about each other perhaps more could be done to further our collective cause.
They pose the idea that most of the movie should have taken place on Themyscira and this is silly. Wonder Woman is the Amazon’s gift to man (meaning the whole world) she goes into the world to show us a better way. To be the guiding light that we need. This can’t be done on Themyscira, to teach the world you have to be in the world.
As for Steve having too much of a role in the movie and being too much of a love interest, this can be argued two ways. First, Steve has the role he has because he leads Wonder Woman to the world and is ultimately her guide in this new world. Secondly, in the comics which have been published for 70 plus years, Steve can play the bumbling love interest. In the movie though he is more or less the average man. Someone who wants to do what is right and is willing to stand up for the little guy. To this end, he is even willing to sacrifice himself.
The “Son of Baldwin” review goes on to say that Steve was emasculated in the movie when Wonder Woman saves him and is further emasculated every time she saves him. In a lot of these scenes Steve came across as to me as trying to be the hero but was so outshone by Wonder Woman that he simply could not compete. Yes, in the alley Steve gets the last punch in only after Wonder Woman has dispatched all but one of the German soldiers. This was more of a I can take care of myself comic relief moment than a “I’m the man!” The scene had a lot in common with Lois punching out Ursa in Superman 2 but I guess that was forgotten.
In the movie I will give you Wonder Woman and Steve are more of a team than Lois and Clark. In the Superman movies he frequently saves Lois from herself while Wonder Woman is showing Steve how to be heroic. Steve knows what it means to be heroic and self-sacrificing but needs Diana to show him how. One could even argue that it is Wonder Woman’s example that gives Steve the will to sacrifice himself in the end.
The idea that sex with Steve was so good it gave Diana the strength to escape Ares is lost on me. Steve, the first man Diana has ever seen does eventually have sex with her. I’m sorry but this is a shoe in, it was going to happen. To push the idea that Diana’s love for Steve and not his sacrifice is what gives Wonder Woman the power to escape Ares seems misguided. Steve shows Diana with his sacrifice that not all men are evil. This is the exact opposite of what Aries thinks, to him all mankind is evil and not worth saving. What did bother me about this scene was that right after Wonder Woman escapes Ares she rises into the air in a standard Christian Crucifixion pose. Here, once again we are shown that the hero has come to save us. I think this is one of the most overused scenes in superhero movies. Let’s see, it was in Superman Returns, Spider-Man 2, Wonder Woman and it is even in the trailer for Spider-Man Homecoming. I get it, Hollywood, drop it, I don’t need to see it anymore.
They continue on to discuss the depiction of the Chief in the movie, the only American Indian in the movie. Here I somewhat agree with them. The Chief may suffer most from stereotyping in the movie unless you count the drunk Scotsman. Here is an American Indian called the Chief, who wears a Native American necklace as well as other accoutrements plus he is a foot taller than everyone else. Hell, why don’t we just call him the Super Chief and be done with it.
There are a number of other things brought up in the review that I won’t touch on. Now reading this you may ask did I agree with anything they said, well the answer is yes. Personally, I hope Zack Snyder finds a new set of movies to direct as I think his time with DC has come and gone. Wonder Woman was the first DC movie that I have seen in theaters since the Dark Knight. Having watched the majority of the DC movies at home I feel that they lack the optimism of the DCU. The majority of heroes in the DCU are more inspiring than the heroes of Marvel (with the exception of Batman). The heroes of DC have largely come into the world to save us or show us the way. The heroes of Marvel are largely reluctant to be heroes but have become them nonetheless.
In the end, I enjoyed Wonder Woman and am glad that my little girls were able to see a powerful woman depicted on the big screen. After reading a few more criticisms of the movie I must say it has somewhat tainted my enthusiasm for the film. Where once I saw a powerful movie of Feminist ideals I see a what could have been. Or a what it could have been forced to have been. This forced diversity is one of the things that is killing comics. Marvel even somewhat said so recently before backtracking. Diversity in modern comics and movies provides both artists and writers with a more real world with which to work in. However, diversity should reflect the real world and not someone’s ideal of it. Unless this is understood you run the risk of alienating others.
Wonder Woman is a towering success. Even with all of its faults it is both a critical and commercial hit and this should not be forgotten. What bothers me with reviews such as this is Hollywood may say, “Why bother, it doesn’t matter what we do.” If this happens we may lose all of the ground that has been made by Wonder Woman. Diversity for diversity’s sake and hypersensitivity are driving us further apart today when we should be coming together.
Here is some additional reading you may find interesting.