Who identifies with Wonder Woman? Sculpted from clay by Amazonian queen Hippolyta, Diana—here played by the gorgeous and wonderful Gal Gadot—was raised on the women-only island Themyscira, the only child of a matriarchal civilization. She was taught to fight and ride horses, and she was told how the god Ares sowed discord in the hearts of men and led them to war. Conveniently, once Diana grows to outmatch her teachers, spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine, easily the best of the Hollywood Chrises) crashes his airplane on Themyscira and tells her of the world beyond, where WWI is raging. Steve is adorable and kind, and Diana decides to go with him to save humanity.
Who looks at that and says, “Yeah, I can identify with her”?
Maybe the perspective offered by Wonder Woman is what it feels like to be a confident, powerful woman. As a woman in the real world, I can’t identify with that, but it is thrilling to watch Diana and her fellow Amazons leap and twist and shoot men with arrows. Women killing men?! That almost never happens!
But maybe asking to identify with Diana is the wrong question. Do we demand to relate with her buddies Superman or Batman? Who are those dudes? They’re light sketches of Halloween costumes; they’re metaphors we use to communicate ideas. (I always thought my dad was a Superman-type because he grew up in Iowa, but he told me he preferred Batman, because Batman has more gadgets and gets broody.)
Wonder Woman, though created by a man, was created by a pretty freaky man who was into polyamory and helped invent the polygraph. William Moulton Marston envisioned Diana as a model for how he wanted the world to be—all matriarchy, honesty, and bondage. (Check out Diana’s magic lasso.) To Marston, Wonder Woman was an ideal; to women, she’s come to express the dream to be free, to be indomitable, to wander innocently into world. Wonder Woman walks home alone at night with no bad consequences.
In Wonder Woman, innocence is Diana’s foil. She’s read at great length about the world, but has never lived in it. And as Diana deals with her naïveté and her foes, Wonder Woman is exciting and fun—even though it devolves into typical blockbuster spectacle near its end, I’d recommend it to anyone who loves action films, and there’s also just enough subtext to feed a philosophical mind. How much harm does Wonder Woman do when she strides boldly into war? Is this what power looks like? Is it cool just because she’s a woman? Hopefully these questions will be answered in future films. For now, Wonder Woman is a thrilling start.