“I will always remember my first sight of her. Lois, you’re the most compelling woman I’ve ever met. But this…is the most magnificent.” These were Superman’s thoughts when he first lays eyes on Princess Diana, aka Wonder Woman, in Matt Wagner’s Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman: Trinity. I’m inclined to agree with him; it’s difficult to find an aspect of Wonder Woman that isn’t magnificent, be it within the pages of a comic book, in television or on the silver screen, or in her wider cultural impact. Wonder Woman has always been the most prominent super-heroine in comic books since her inception, and her popularity is only growing. I cannot help but think that her growing prominence is extremely timely given the current climate of our nation; she may be fictional, but her message and what she stands for are examples for everyone to follow.
Each superhero has something that makes them special, something that they represent and symbolize outside of their respective comics. For example, Captain America symbolizes the loftiest ideals of this nation, Superman is a classic, selfless do-gooder, and both are excellent symbols of hope and justice. But what does Wonder Woman symbolize? The easiest conclusion to jump to is that she is a sex symbol, and while it isn’t hard to see why, she is so much more than that. She is a timeless champion of equality, in a way that no other superhero is. Her Lasso of Truth – pretty much as famous as she is – is a testament to her passion for the truth (no alternative facts for this woman). She is a diplomat as much as she is a warrior, and her Amazon creed dictates that a hand must never be raised in violence if it has not first been extended in peace. Perhaps her most endearing quality (to me, anyways), and the thing we can learn from her most, is her absolute, unconditional love and compassion for everyone and everything. All human life is equally valuable to her; even her greatest enemies. One of my favorite lines she has ever spoken? “I. Love. Everyone.” In light of recent events, such as recent executive orders regarding construction of walls and banning refugees (to name a few), her attitude towards her fellow human beings is a welcome and refreshing example.
2017 is well poised to be the year of Wonder Woman. Her movie in 2017 is already building up anticipation, and the trailers so far are very promising (I recommend you watch them, if you haven’t yet.) There are valid concerns that the movie will be another DCEU flop; however, her presence was a shining moment in the otherwise steaming dump that is Batman v Superman, and Gal Gadot has proven herself exce llent in the role, so it is with great and anxious anticipation that I look forward to the picture. If the movie is a success, it will be a great victory both for the character herself and female superheroes across comic book universes (and female characters in general!); for too long, Wonder Woman has not been taken as seriously as her male Justice League teammates. One only needs to look at merchandise to discover that Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, and Flash (sometimes with Aquaman) are often depicted, but Wonder Woman, who is easily more prominent than the latter three, is usually absent. It is assumed that young boys, who are most likely the target demographic for such products, would not buy clothes/lunch boxes/poster/etc., if a girl is depicted on them. This is problematic; it undervalues Wonder Woman, and it sets a bad precedent for all children that female superheroes are not as “cool” as male ones. One only needs watch Wonder Woman slice off Doomsday’s arm in one fell swoop in BvS to show that she is just as badass or “cool” as everyone else. We now have a president who has said, and essentially gotten away with, some callous things about women. That already sends a bad, bad message to American youth. The last thing we need is for young girls and boys to think that strong, powerful super-heroines are worthless. A successful Wonder Woman movie has the amazing potential to shift attitudes about this and show young girls and boys that powerful women should be celebrated.
Wonder Woman recently enjoyed a short and controversial tenure as the United Nations Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls. The whole thing was quite a spectacle – Gal Gadot and Lynda Carter (if you don’t know who she is, shame) attended, and I thought that it was a wonderful opportunity for the messages of Wonder Woman to be shared on such a powerful platform. However, not two months later, she was dropped amongst strong protests, many of them admittedly valid. Not only had the UN recently passed over several female candidates for Secretary General, many took issue with the appointment of a fictional character as opposed to real life women. The loudest complaints criticized Wonder Woman’s more strongly sexualized appearance as opposed to other male characters. These complaints are all relevant, and I do not disagree with a single one. However, it was disappointing to me that people did not seem to care what Wonder Woman symbolizes; sure, she isn’t real, but she is still an exceptional role model for all people. And criticizing her appearance just reduces her to nothing more than a sex symbol. I’m not suggesting that some of her depictions aren’t problematic. Indeed, many artists have chosen to exaggerate her feminine attributes to the point of ridiculousness, often for blatant sex appeal; this too reduces her character. To me, however, it sends a worldwide message that no matter what someone stands for or what they advocate, they will nevertheless be judged first and foremost by their appearance, which is exactly the opposite of what Wonder Woman stands for.
So what’s so wonderful about Wonder Woman? She is so many things rolled into one awesome package. Looking for a badass? She has tossed around Superman, deflected bullets while blind, and has defeated gods. Looking for a strong role model with a timeless message for men and women alike? Wonder Woman treats everyone she meets with respect, compassion, and love. It doesn’t matter who they are, or where they came from. She loves all life indiscriminately. Is that not the message we want to be imparted on future generations – to treat all people, regardless of who they are, like people? To respect life in all its forms, be it plant, human, or animal? To stand for peace and understanding, rather than confrontation and bullying? Especially now, when a newly elected president attacks and rants at others behind the shield of social media, brands those who disagree with him “losers”, and who mocks and bullies his critics or those who hurt his feelings, she is more important than ever. I’m not ashamed to be inspired by Wonder Woman. You shouldn’t be either.