Why WONDER WOMAN Matters

Wonder Woman

I just got home from a second viewing of Warner Brothers’s Wonder Woman and I felt compelled to write, again.  I tried to talk myself out of it.  “No, come on, you can take today off.  You’ve already done your next four #ThrowbackThursdays ahead of time.  You stayed up an hour later than you should have, earlier this week, to write a column on America’s increasing lack of box office influence.  And you already wrote about Wonder Woman, just two night ago.  You gave it a great review.  You’ve done your part.  You’ve done enough for the week.”

But I wouldn’t listen to . . . uh . . . me.  I couldn’t.  I couldn’t listen because I was more relaxed when watching the movie the second time around.  I wasn’t worried that something horrible was going to happen to ruin my enjoyment of the film.  I knew it was all good.  So, I got to take it in and simply enjoy.  And it was a different experience.  Yes, I already wrote about the film.  But that was with my head.  And this movie deserves more.  Diana deserves more.  Gal Gadot, Warner Brothers, and DC all deserve more.  I had to write about it with my heart.  No film criticism, no self-imposed deadline, and no aiming for a certain word count.  I had to write to get it out and then stop whenever I was done.

Wonder Woman, after seeing it for the second time, has become my third-favorite comic book movie of all-time.  It’s behind only The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy.  If you’re keeping track, that makes Wonder Woman my favorite solo comic book movie ever.  And that’s because it plays as more than just an entertaining movie, though it is very much that, as well.  But this film is different because it’s important and because we all needed it, right at this very moment.  And Diana, director Patty Jenkins, and writers Allan Heinberg, Zack Snyder, and Jason Fuchs knew it.  And they had something they wanted to tell us.

Diana is the greatest single hero in film.  Not just the greatest female hero.  That discussion has been had.  It’s valid, but it’s not what I’m here to discuss.  Not just the greatest comic book hero.  And certainly not just the greatest female comic book hero.  She’s the greatest hero.  Period.

“But Batman!”  No.  I love Batman.  But Diana is a better hero.  Batman doesn’t care what he does to the villains.  He cares for the innocent, but that’s where his caring ends.  Diana genuinely, truly cares for all life.  If she has to hurt – or even kill – someone, she will.  If she absolutely has to.  But it hurts her.  She feels it.  She doesn’t have even the slightest desire to do it.  She cares enough about everyone to want to help them, but she also cares enough about herself to refuse to become them.  She sees the good in herself and in everyone else, too.  Everyone.  Like all of us should.

“But Superman!”  No.  I also love Superman.  I love Superman more than I love Batman.  Superman’s ideology is far more in line with that of a true hero.  But Superman loses faith.  He loses faith in himself.  He loses faith in his beliefs.  He even occasionally loses faith in humanity.  He always comes back around, and he always will, because he’s Superman.  But Diana doesn’t “come around”.  She doesn’t need to, because she never loses faith.  She knows her convictions are true and right.  She knows others can rise to meet them, too.  She knows right from wrong and she never allows anyone to convince her otherwise.  Diana never permits herself to be corrupted and remains steadfast, even against those with the best of intentions.  Like all of us should.

“But Spider-Man!”  No.  I truly, truly love Spider-Man.  I grew up on Spider-Man.  He, the Hulk, and the Fantastic Four will always be closer to my heart on a personal level than any other fictional characters, anywhere.  They helped me form my moral center and I will always be grateful to them and the writers and artists who told those stories to me during my formative years.  But Spider-Man gets distracted.  He lets his own personal battles and issues inform his decision-making.  He sometimes becomes reactive, rather than proactive.  As a character, that makes him interesting.  It makes him human and relatable.  But it makes Diana a greater hero.  She has personal relationships.  They mean a lot to her.  But they play second-fiddle to her real mission: to stop suffering and spread peace and love to all corners of existence.  Technically, she makes what we mere mortals would consider personal sacrifices in her ongoing efforts to meet this seemingly impossible goal.  But she’s such a hero that prioritizing her personal issues over the larger, global issues at hand would actually be the personal sacrifice from her perspective.  Diana remains focused on the greater good above all else, at all times.  Like all of us should.

“But Captain America!”  This is the closest one.  In his heart, yes, Captain America is as great and true a hero as Diana.  But he doesn’t have the ability to single-handedly effect change the way that Diana does.  He’s more physically and mentally vulnerable to attack and, despite his best efforts and great abilities, he can’t do what Diana do.  And he will sometimes place those he cares for above the mission at hand.  All other things being even, Diana is the greater hero.

“But the Punisher!”  You shut your filthy face, right now.

We – each and every one of us – are living in a frightening world, where we are completely uncertain of what the next day – or even the next hour – may bring.  More and more often, in more and more places, tyrants are somehow rising to power.  They make decisions for the good people of their respective countries.  Many corrupted citizens support them and thereby grant them even more power.  It often feels insurmountable, as if the world is slipping down into an unknown pit of blackness too quickly for us to grab it by the hand the pull it back to its feet.  And it often seems to many of us as though we are alone.

But we are not alone.  Now we have Diana.  Not in the physical sense, of course.  As amazing as it would be for her (or someone like her) to exist and be able to help us get ourselves and our multinational societies to a place of love and coexistence – to help us depose the despots who are seemingly destroying us from the inside out, a little more each day – we don’t.  We don’t have that.  And we won’t have that.  Diana doesn’t exist in the physical world.  But she exists in another way.  She exists in our minds and our hearts.  She exists in the mind and heart of Patty Jenkins.  And she exists in the mind and heart of Zack Snyder.  And Allan Heinberg.  And Jason Fuchs.  And that means that we are not alone.  They are with us.  And now she also exists in my mind and my heart.  And in the minds and hearts of people around the world who have already paid over $80 million to meet her and to see her story and to be inspired by her worldview.

I know I was.  For all the talk of Diana being an excellent role model for young girls (and she unquestionably is), she inspired the living hell out of the 39-year-old dude typing this column.  She serves as a reminder that there is more good in this world than there is bad.  The bad have a lot of power, right now.  But in order to overcome it, we need to see the good in everyone and cling tightly to the good in ourselves.  It will drain the bad of their power.  We need to remain steadfast in our convictions.  There is strength in numbers.  And we need to remain focused on helping everyone around us.  In helping others, we receive help ourselves.  And in completing that cycle, we put good back out into the world.

Warner Brothers released a series of three official teaser posters prior to the film that each featured a single word that is epitomized by Diana.  Here’s one of them.

Wonder

Here’s another.

Courage

And here’s the third.  (My favorite.  I’ve actually ordered one to frame and hang in my living area/TV room.)

Power

These are all very apt and appropriate, but there’s an important one missing.  There’s one more word that Diana truly embodies.  She embodies this word for all of us at a time when we’ve never needed an avatar for it more.  It’s what she reminds us of.  It’s what she brings us.  It’s why this movie and this character are so important.  It’s why Wonder Woman is the movie and Diana is the hero that we all so desperately need.  In experiencing this film, we are all reminded that there will forever be . . .

. . . hope.

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Why WONDER WOMAN Matters

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