WONDER WOMAN made history this summer, proving that female superhero films can be done well. The film earned critical acclaim, broke records for female directors (Patty Jenkins), and earned praise for its star, Gal Gadot. The movie was a phenomenon, but just like anything popular, some people did have complaints about it.

I pride being objective in my opinions, and I try to take in all the facts before making a decision. As much as I enjoyed the film, I did begin to wonder if the hype really did blind me and others to the film’s flaws. So, I recently rewatched the film, keeping some criticisms in mind. I enjoyed re-watching the film and while some complaints did have merit, there was one in particular that stood out to me. The complaint? The notion that Wonder Woman in the film is not brave, just naive.

The truth?

Wonder Woman is brave AND naive. And that made the movie better.

Roundtable: The Impact Of WONDER WOMAN

Naivete as a Character Flaw

To be clear, when I say Wonder Woman is naive, I am not saying she is unintelligent. What I mean by that is that she sometimes acts on an out-of-date mindset. This trait is essential to the film’s success though. The character of Wonder Woman can be difficult to portray if not done correctly. Her origin is that she comes from an island of warrior women from the time of ancient Greece. She came to ‘Man’s world’ in order to promote peace and help men better themselves. It is a noble goal to be sure, and the film makes it clear that Diana bravely accepts this responsibility. However, imagine that someone from centuries ago, dressed in a weird outfit, came up to you and insisted that they knew how to make you a better person. How would you react?

Yeah, probably like that.

Wonder Woman’s goal is noble, but she has no modern context. It is why I was grateful the film avoided the ‘Ambassador of Peace’ angle for Diana because it would have made her seem self-righteous and overbearing. The film needed to keep her goals but make her appear human. They achieved this by wisely giving her an appropriate character flaw: naivety. Diana wants to end war among humankind, which makes her noble and endearing to the audience. However, she has yet to understand the modern world, which makes her human as well. Her early scenes in London demonstrates this perfectly; without Steve Trevor, it is easy to imagine her asking random people where the war is, or looking like she wants to steal babies. It shows that for all her skill and nobility, Diana needs to learn about the world, which gives her the small imperfections all good characters need.

Ending War

Diana holds to old beliefs as well. She believes war can be ended by killing Ares. This works, since Diana grew up in a world of myth, but again, it shows her naivety. Her condemnation of the generals holds double meaning because of that. On one hand, Diana holds to noble standards that soldiers should try to exemplify. On the other, Diana has never pitted those ideas against reality. The generals are not perfect, but they know the costs of war, while Diana only has an education. They are both right, and both wrong at the same time.

Those beliefs lead to the most important part of the film as well. Diana believes that men are simply corrupted by Ares. She believes General Ludendorff is Ares, but killing him ends nothing. Diana realizes that men are not inherently virtuous. This moment works as the crossroads of Diana’s ‘hero’s journey’. She realizes that she has not seen the truth and has to either mold it to fit her worldview or abandon it entirely. Steve Trevor throughout the film speaks for all of us here, admitting our flaws but trying to show our potential as well. It shows Diana both sides of the argument and forces her to decide… until the actual Ares shows up.

It was British Old Man Jenkins all along!

Youtuber Ross Mcintyre argued how it would have been more powerful to not show Ares, but have Diana come to a decision on her own (personally, I like the idea of Ares saying he just feeds on wars that humanity starts). It holds weight, but there is validity in a more realized Diana fighting against the embodiment of war and suffering. It shows Diana growing as a character, and makes her fight more meaningful.

Successful Symbols: Wonder Woman

Comic Origins

The film’s use of naivety echoes the comic book as well. Wonder Woman gets compared to Superman in terms of power, but she has no Kryptonite. She has a weakness though, and it actually is closer to Batman’s. Batman’s weakness is his own ego; he tries to do everything himself, often pushing away allies (both to protect them, and because of his own sense of duty). Both in the comics and the film, Diana shows a similar stubbornness to look beyond her own perspective.

“Golden Perfect’, a 2003 JLA story (which largely focuses on WW), shows this perfectly. The League needs to sort out a political issue in Jarhanpur; a mother wants Diana to help her keep her child, the successor of the Rama Khan (king). The League learns the Rama is a literal avatar of the land, which allows for prosperity. Their tradition says the child must remain with the royalty, or the land will suffer. Diana (who has just lost her own mother) refuses to accept this and uses the Lasso of the Truth on the Rama. The Lasso reveals that the Rama is telling the truth; again, Diana refuses to accept it, and as a result, the Lasso shatters and truth becomes relative.

It’s pretty bad all around

The story resolves when Wonder Woman talks to the land itself and realizes that Jarhanpur wants a compromise. Like the film, Diana sees her own views have blinded her to a greater truth, and she must learn to accept it. The story highlights Wonder Woman’s true weakness– her absolute belief– and shows the danger of that mindset, but it also shows how she can grow from it.

C2E2 Interview with WONDER WOMAN Writer Greg Rucka

Flaws Do Matter

WONDER WOMAN stands as a tremendous achievement, but it worked because the writers realized that a good protagonist is not flawless. Even someone as important and meaningful as Wonder Woman cannot be perfect, or else she becomes something that has far less meaningful to us ‘mere mortals.’ Even a goddess needs to know what it is to be human.

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