After watching Wonder Woman this weekend, I’ve decided to write a review. First and foremost, Wonder Woman is an excellent film. The scenes are beautiful. The casting is perfect. The dialogue is strong. Aside from a few hiccups(when did Diana learn to fly, how did an American Steve Trevor end up working in British intelligence, and why is the story behind Diana’s birth rushed so much?), the plot moves well. This is a great film and a must-see.
Still, one aspect of the film jumps out; Diana Prince’s supreme confidence that drives her world view and her self-perception.
Our introduction to Diana shows a headstrong girl who matures into a determined but naïve woman. After growing up as the only child among Amazon warriors, she aspires to become one, and she gets her chance to fight when Steve Trevor crash lands on the beach of Themyscira. His enemies follow him and kill a few Amazons before they are overwhelmed by their pure, unadulterated badassery.
Seriously, Amazons throw down, even when they’re at a technological disadvantage.
Diana now has a goal that reveals her simplistic world view; kill Ares in order to end World War I and then all war for mankind. It’s obvious she’s at least partly wrong, but who can blame her after growing up in perpetual peace and paradise trained by some of the strongest fighters on the planet? What’s striking here as how everyone she knows understands the flaw in this plan. Even her mother, Hippolyta, explains that what she told her about Ares’ role influencing mankind into wars was “just a story.” She then reminds her that she’s “not an Amazon” like the rest of them, meaning she hasn’t seen the horrors of war: the cruelty, the sheer scale of destruction, the hopelessness. Diana shows on the beach that she isn’t afraid to kill, but she knows nothing about true bloodshed. Her mother knows her ignorance, and her apprehension is only matched by Diana’s will to fight for those who can’t defend themselves no matter the obstacle.
Diana’s character growth stems from what she believes and what she learns. She believes in love, justice, and fighting for them both. She doesn’t know how to fight on the battlefield of World War I, but she hits the learning curve quick and excels against man’s weapons. As great as the Amazons are on the beach, they don’t compare to Diana against enemy combatants in Europe. Her fights are exhibitions of graceful destruction that leave confused soldiers dying in her wake.
As she travels and wages war in a foreign land, it becomes clear that Diana’s confidence in her principles and fighting ability is a product of an Amazon culture sheltered from the male-dominated superpowers of her time. While much of the world in the early 1900s tells women what they can’t do and where they shouldn’t go, Diana’s homeland holds no such limitations based on gender. Hippolyta is a warrior queen who raises her daughter like royalty, and Diana trains under her aunt, Antiope, a general who leads an army of lethal women. Further, these strong women do everything in their power to fortify Diana’s self-esteem, especially Antiope who tells Diana she is stronger than she knows and commands her to stop doubting herself. So when Diana arrives in London, she is a fully-developed warrior and visionary filled with opinions that women aren’t allowed to voice in European male spaces. She comes from a land where male chauvinism does not exist, and where women’s rights are an expectation, not a struggle. She is immune to sexist expectations.
Diana’s unflinching confidence is standard on Themyscira, but in London during World War I, she is ahead of her time, and her awkwardness in women’s clothing and obliviousness to her “place” in government settings shows it. She may be naïve when it comes to the darkness of human nature, but the men around her are fools when it comes the capabilities of a determined, strong woman, and Diana’s very presence proves it. She never takes a back seat to anyone who hasn’t earned the right to lead through merits alone, despite the rampant male entitlement around her. So she calls a high-ranking man in London a coward to his face because on Themyscira, Antiope, a true general in Diana’s eyes, dies leading her army to battle instead of sending soldiers to their deaths from behind a desk. Diana is not discouraged by war zones like “No Man’s Land” because she refuses to fear what men tell her is impossible just because they say so. Yes, her plan is simplistic, and the results of her victory over Ares will lead to disappointment (we do have a World War II after all), but her confidence is exactly what the world needs. Without it, she would never leave her home, kick copious amounts of butt on the battle field, or stand up to the god of war in the name of the love she believes in.
Diana’s unflinching belief in herself despite the odds makes her a hero because her martial arts prowess is useless without it. It isn’t Diana’s super strength, advanced speed, and mythical powers that makes her an iconic figure. It’s her confidence in the woman she is and aspires to become that makes her legendary.
Take a bow, Patty Jenkins. You knocked it out of the park with this one.
Stay confident, my friends.
Photo Credit: Man Ng