Wonder Woman’s reign at the box office shows no signs of slowing. Its deserved success comes from a number of different factors which all add up to it being a great movie overall; and it also happens to be a superhero movie led by a woman. For women everywhere, from the oldest to the youngest, Wonder Woman marks something we’ve not had before. A strong, well-rounded, likeable female character who stars in the central role, and who is every bit as equal as her other superhero counterparts, such as Batman and Superman, is unheard of for us. And maybe, dare we say it, Wonder Woman is actually far superior to the current incarnations of Superman and Batman we have in the DCEU. As portrayed by Gal Gadot, Wonder Woman is much more similar to Superman as played by Christopher Reeve; the strong, capable superhero full of good intentions.
That’s no accident; director Patty Jenkins has paid homage to the Superman of old, citing Richard Donner’s 1978 Superman movie, starring Reeve, as a big influence on her:
“I’m here because of Superman. I’m here because when I saw Superman 1 as a kid, it rocked my world, you know, and I was Superman. I was that little boy. And I took that ride and that journey… What Star Wars did for some people; Superman did for me.”
As adults, most of us can remember that feeling of excitement as we watched a true superhero at work, but girls only had male characters to deliver that. Now, young girls have a woman to look up to, and its having quite the effect. It’s not that movies have never featured female characters that inspire young girls, but they are few and far between; characters like Hermione Granger, Rey, or Princess Leia are all worthy of admiration, but the difference with Wonder Woman is that Diana Prince is front and center. This is her story, told her way, and she shines like a beacon of hope in the darkness.
The recent trend seems to be to paint superheroes as flawed beings. Not necessarily a bad thing; it’s healthy to teach young kids that everyone makes mistakes, but in Batman v Superman, both the male superheroes are capable of great darkness that belies everything we usually associate with a superhero. Diana kills, yes, because it’s sometimes necessary for the greater good. But she also helps, aids, rescues, and she carries a strong sense of morality with her. She is horrified at the thought of Nazis decimating an entire village, including helpless children. She is determined to kill Ares in order to restore peace and justice; and that is what she fights for, because peace and love is what she believes in more than anything else.
On a personal level, taking a 12-year-old girl to a Wonder Woman screening was an eye-opening experience. On the cusp of teenage years, she certainly knows her own mind, and had previously written off all superhero movies as “stupid.” Her reluctance to see Wonder Woman was somewhat eased by watching some trailers, and she begrudgingly admitted it “looked okay.” To see her face light up with pure joy as the movie played, was wonderful. To see a small fist pump and hear a “yes!” as Diana strides across no man’s land, was heart-warming, and to then have hours of discussion about how “entirely awesome” Diana is, after the event, confirms the suspicion that Wonder Woman really is the movie that young girls need.
Wonder Woman's No Man's Land scene is one of the most talked-about elements of the movie - a moment of thrilling and immense power, when Diana truly embraces what it means to be a Wonder Woman. But it’s also the softer, sweeter moments that let her shine, and endear her to so many. Her first taste of ice-cream; cooing over a baby; her vulnerability around and love for, Steve Trevor. All of these aspects make Diana a true heroine; someone who isn’t afraid of being her true self, and that’s a powerful message to send to young girls. Yes, women can be strong, determined, powerful, but it’s okay to be feminine, to love cute things, to find pleasure in the small things in life…and to love. It’s okay to be reliant on the love of another person when that person builds you up, gives you faith in yourself, and inspires you.
Genesis at 2 almost 3. She wanted to keep her fro. #WonderWoman
— Viola Davis (@violadavis) June 1, 2017
This pic right here. This is why you make movies. To inspire. pic.twitter.com/yLaaCJXl4s
— Matthew A. Cherry (@MatthewACherry) June 2, 2017
Across the globe, the joy that young girls have experienced when watching Wonder Woman has been shared on social media. The pictures say all we need to know; Wonder Woman has had a profound effect; not only on their enjoyment of the movie, but also on their self-esteem, and their own perception of self-worth.
Daughter has told me 50x already today at least that she wants to be Wonder Woman when she grows up. ?
— HappyRN?? (@annaRN32) June 2, 2017
— Ang (@outrjs1) June 2, 2017
If nothing else, the lesson from Wonder Woman must be that this can be only the beginning. One female-led superhero movie does not make up for years of devaluation, when female actresses have been worth nothing more than the token love-interest, or the one that needs rescuing. It’s time for girls to see this kind of female empowerment on the regular.
The tweet above aptly demonstrates why we need more movies like Wonder Woman. Guys grew up with superheroes they could look up to, and aspire to be like. Reeve’s Superman is a classic example of this. It would be truly amazing if young girls growing up today, in a tumultuous world, also had a slew of iconic female characters to admire as well.
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