Suspension of Disbelief

Suspension of Disbelief: Wonder Woman

cross posted from Coffeefied,Operafied,Fluffified,Beglittered

I went in to Wonder Woman with low expectations.  All I wanted was for it to pass the Bechdel test, but I was pleasantly surprised that not only did it pass the Bechdel test in the first 5 minutes or so, it is one of the better superhero movies made recently.  I realize that is a low bar but one that Hollywood writers should be able to at least stumble over.  Nonetheless, I really liked it.  There weren’t any cringeworthy moments in which Wonder Woman has to learn she needs men, she is Wonder Woman.  She’s got this.

I still had some issues with the film.  The science is ridiculous, as in the mad German scientist is developing some sort of new hydrogen based gas, because apparently the uber hydrogen gasses are now heavier than air somehow magically and also can destroy gas masks.  We also seem to be pretending that gas attacks in general were very effective and only used by the Germans. Whatever.  At least since the word hydrogen is involved we know that firing a gun in the general direction of any gas canisters causes massive explosions.

That aside, this was the feminist superhero movie I always wanted to see. The women warriors have muscle.  They are not your typical slender Hollywood leading ladies; they have backs and thighs and upper arms.  I initially thought that the token male love interest I could have done without, but he was set up to invert tropes.  Wonder Woman had to rescue him, he got in her way, tried condescending to her, and never succeeded.  I particularly enjoyed him attempting to seduce the mad German scientist but getting distracted and failing.

The movie even made an attempt to make the point that no one in war is blameless and the situation is more complicated than good guys vs bad guys.  In fact our incompetent male love interest has a personal plot arc in which he starts by describing himself as one of the good guys and ends by accepting blame for the war, as everyone is to blame (except Wonder Woman). This acknowledgment of the horrors of war still gets overshadowed by the movie centering around the use of gas in the first World War with absolutely no mention of anyone except the Germans using it, and our mad German scientist has some facial damage for which she wears a mask.  As we all know, in Hollywood (and Victorian novels) evil people are ugly.  At least when Wonder Woman is told to destroy the mad German scientist because she (the scientist) is disgusting, Wonder Woman throws a tank at her interlocutor, which is the most satisfying of all possible responses to that.  Her interlocutor is of course, Ares, god of war who seduced men away from the perfect state in which Zeus made them. The Greek mythology seems oddly Christianized here.   Nonetheless, her conclusion that no, humans don’t deserve her and it doesn’t matter, she’s going to help them anyway is beautiful and not at all Christ-like because she is actually doing useful things like stopping bullets.  Additionally, the fact that she is around being herself and believing in people helps a man with PTSD to start singing again.  It doesn’t do anything to help the native American dispossessed by the USA but this is an American made film.  That it even acknowledges the treatment of native Americans is a major step.    Diversity, as always, is a bit of a stumbling block for American movies, but there are Amazon women of color who have dialogue.  Other than that, it’s a very white film.

The science is ridiculous, the mythology sanitized, the military history a mite propagandist, and I don’t care.  I teared up during this movie.  The little girl in me who was told that she could grow up to be a preacher’s wife needed a Wonder Woman to stride across No Man’s Land and shove aside the men who told her condescendingly that they could not “let” her do things.   She is a superhero without fatal flaws, the perfect god-killer created to help a world despite everything, because she believes in love, can stop bullets, and wants to help us all.

featured image credit: Craig Duffy via flickr

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Elizabeth is a professional belly dancer, a flaky computer scientist, and a returned Peace Corps volunteer. She lives in Georgia (the state of the U.S., not the country) but is nonetheless somehow not a combination of stereotypes from Gone with the Wind and Deliverance. Her personal blog is Coffeefied. Operafied. Fluffified. Beglittered.

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