This article is about the film, the character, and not so much her sexuality. I know that it’s an odd way to start my Pride month posts, but really, I needed to tell people about this film.
Eleven days ago, my friend J and I went to see Wonder Woman in the cinema. Now, neither of us are really DC people – we much prefer Marvel – but I was excited by the female-led movie, and we both love Chris Pine, so we thought we’d give it a go.
Wonder Woman is the best film I’ve seen this year. I know I’m not the first to sing it’s praises, far from it, but this film has single-handedly saved the DC movie universe. Put aside the unnecessarily dark Man of Steel, the ill thought out plot point of ‘our mums ar both called Martha’ in Batman vs Superman, the poor editing and general rubbish-ness of Suicide Squad. I’m now genuinely excited for Justice League, and all because of this utterly brilliant film.
I’m not saying it was flawless! I’m sure there were things I didn’t like… I just can’t remember them. I loved the cast, the quips, the highs and lows – I even enjoyed the special effects and fight scenes, during which I usually totally zone out. There’s a scene on a boat that was apparently completely improvised, but was done so well that I had no idea when I left the cinema.
Okay, so the villain ‘surprise’ was a bit predicable (SPOILER never trust an English man in an American film, what can I say). Some people have said that at times it was tonally off, that the film could sometimes be a bit directionless. But not only did I not pick up on that – I left the cinema feeling genuinely giddy. This month, I watched a film where a woman fought alongside men, not caring about how she was perceived by them, or at any point having to give up something to be taken seriously.
Women in films (particularly of the superhero variety) are allowed to be strong, but not without losing something. Women can be tough – but they have to be masculine, or overly sexualised. Think Catwoman, whether Eartha Kitt, Anne Hathaway, or anywhere in between, dressed in skintight leather or lycra, purring away. Think Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad, dressed in next to nothing and flirting her way in and out of trouble. I’m not saying these women don’t exist, or that they’re not powerful in their own right! But we never get to see them just be people. Diana Prince has a love interest in this film, true, but that’s something on the side. Like Tony Stark, she has her Pepper Potts on the sidelines, being a strong person but still not the focus.
People have compared the film to Captain America, and her in turn to Peggy Carter, Captain America’s love interest. Peggy, too, is a strong woman, making her way in the predominantly man’s world of her time. The two Steve’s – Steve Trevor, WW, and Steve Rogers, CA – have a lot in common, it’s true, but I think people are missing the point. Diana Prince and Steve Rogers are the strong, opinionated, superhumanly powerful heroes, out to save the day. Steve and Peggy are the more worldly-wise, quick thinking human interest, there to be both relatable to the audience and to guide the heroes on their quests. They, too, are heroes, but the human kind – the sort to be first responders, the people who immediately went out to help after Grenfell Tower this week.
Diana Prince is an astounding character because she is a woman. Not a parody of a woman, just overly sexualised or mothering or masculine or vulnerable, but all of these things in one. We see her fight like a warrior, and shriek with glee at seeing a baby (something we assume doesn’t turn up too frequently on the all female Pleasure Island of Themyscira). She is wears short skirts, but not just for the sake of being provocative – she is made to dress like women of the time, and complains that women couldn’t possibly fight wearing so much skirt. She walks bravely into battle, but also feels deeply for those she hurts as she tries to defeat Ares. Diana doesn’t feel the need to fight for people’s attention – she grew up outside of our heteronormative, patriarchal dystopia, and so fully expects people to pay her the respect she knows she deserves.
Pop culture critic Angelica Bastien writes, ‘Wonder Woman is also often burdened with having to represent all facets of womanhood in ways other female superheroes, like Black Widow, Storm, and Captain Marvel, have not’. We have all expected a great deal from this film. We knew that if it didn’t go down well, Hollywood execs would assume it was because it was female-led, not because of flaws in the film itself. Wonder Woman had to be feminist, but not so much that it offended too many people; well written, but not too intricate and so forgettable; visually beautiful, but not so beautiful that the plot was irrelevant. The character of Wonder Woman, as Bastien so rightly says in her Vulture article, has always had to hold up the values of women everywhere, and her being the first of DC’s female superheroes to get her own movie has not changed that.
Now, I know this article has been seriously lacking in Pride – but you’ve got to remember that it’s only recently that Wonder Woman officially ‘came out’. The current Wonder Woman comics writer, Greg Rucka, said in an interview with Comicosity: ‘…Diana has been in love and had relationships with other women…for a number of reasons… if [not] then she leaves paradise only because of a potential romantic relationship with Steve [Trevor]. And that diminishes her character. It would hurt the character and take away her heroism.’ Diana Prince is, I would say, bisexual, but you could call her pansexual, or omnisexual, even. She comes from an island of only woman, some of whom have had relationships with one another. And her father, Zeus, has mythologically speaking never been shy about sharing ‘free love’. Okay, so we’ve only had definitive proof of Wonder Woman’s queerness for a little while – but that doesn’t diminish the fact that she, from her paradisaical matriarchal island, is definitely a #bisexualicon.
Gods bless Wonder Woman. She could punch me in the face, and I’d just be grateful.