It's not only girls but also boys who see 2017's kickass Wonder Woman as worthy of emulation.

Whats Wonder Womans superpower Making the patriarchal world shut upScreengrab
Flix Cinema Monday, June 05, 2017 - 16:10

The fourth instalment in the DC Extended Universe, Wonder Woman has taken a mammoth opening worldwide and done fantastic business. Minting 200 million dollars overall in its first weekend, Wonder Woman is the biggest opening that a female director has ever received. 

It signals the arrival of an idea whose time has come. 

The only woman to be part of the founding members of the Justice League, Wonder Woman, as a character, has been around since 1941. Its creator, American psychologist William Marston, once said, "Frankly, Wonder Woman is psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who, I believe, should rule the world." 

Not surprisingly, Sensation Comics in which Wonder Woman appeared was blacklisted  in 1942 by the National Organization for Decent Literature because "Wonder Woman is not sufficiently dressed."

The Wonder Woman comics have been analysed and discussed from various angles, especially in the context of feminism. This includes a rather controversial statement that Marston made about the torture that Wonder Woman is subjected to, claiming that women enjoy submission. Largely, however, the comic is seen as challenging the status quo through a female superhero who comes from a fierce women-only tribe that has broken away from the shackles of patriarchy. 

The Wonder Woman of 2017 is leagues ahead of her first appearance in film. It was 1974 when she was first brought to screen through a television film which was supposed to be a pilot for a TV series. 

The Diana Prince of the '70s film, played by Cathy Lee Crosby, did not wear the costume that the character wore in the comics and her story arc, too, was different from the one described by Marston. The dark-haired Diana of Themisycira became blonde in the film and did not exhibit any apparent superpowers. 

The 2009 animation film, directed by Lauren Montgomery, however, was near faithful to the character developed by Marston although it came under some criticism for the extent of violence in its visuals.

The 2017 Wonder Woman, played by 32-year-old Israeli actor and mother of two, Gal Gadot (yes, this description is relevant, considering the sexism in movie industries across the world) pulls off the amazing feat of making its audience buy the character as not a female superhero but as a superhero, period. 

However, the film doesn't do this by simply reversing gender roles or ignoring gender politics altogether. It's apparent in Diana's stride as she walks the streets of London, least bothered by which part of her body is showing even as Steve (Chris Pine) and his secretary are ruffled.

Although presented as an extremely attractive woman, director Patty Jenkins does not subject Gal Gadot's considerable sex appeal to the male gaze. Instead, Diana is confident about her sexuality and owns it - she even tells Steve that while men are necessary for procreation, they are unnecessary for pleasure. We're allowed to see the female body beyond its usual sexualisation in powerful scenes where Diana and the other Amazons perform gravity defying stunts. 

The extent to which women are limited in public and political spheres also comes through as Diana is constantly interrupted by men around her - Diana, however, couldn't give a fig. She excels in doing what she's told not to do and wears an expression of amusement whenever there's mansplaining on screen. 

The feminist stance which has historically been anti- war is cleverly woven into the film's politics although the average viewer might just see it as the usual fight between Good and Evil. And oh, Diana doesn't shy away from crooning at a baby just because she can wield a sword. She isn't forced into a "tomboy" mode just because she is physically strong and displays prowess at traditionally masculine skills.

Many of the ideas we see in the film, of course, find their origin in the comics but it's encouraging to see such widespread popularity across countries for a live action movie that breaks so many conventions when it comes to women and cinema. 

However, the female villain in the film, resurrected from DC literature is disappointing in imagination. In this story developed by Heinberg, Zack Snyder, and Jason Fuchs, Dr Poison is a woman scientist in Germany who comes up with "creative" gases to cause mass killings during World War 1. It's pretty cool to have a woman superhero pitted against a female villain, however, Dr Poison's characterisation is underdeveloped. 

There's more than a suggestion that Dr Poison craves for male attention - she's angered when Steve, who'd been trying to seduce her into revealing some secrets, gapes as Diana enters the party dressed in a stunning blue dress. While in the comics Dr Poison wears a mask to disguise her gender, in the film Dr Poison appears as a woman with a disfigured face. She's more an obsessed freak than a rounded character which seems a tad unjust in a film that is invested in exploring the feminine. Perhaps we'll see more of her in the Wonder Woman films to come?

2017's Wonder Woman in the kickass, badass avatar that she was meant to be bulldozes many gender limits that young girls and boys set for themselves. Not only girls, it's boys too who see her worthy of emulation, just as they consider a Batman or Spiderman. This is not an easy gulf to bridge and perhaps that's this Wonder Woman's biggest superpower. To get the sexist, misogynistic, and patriarchal world we live in to shut up and watch as she explodes on screen. 

 

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