It’s no secret that the comic book genre isn’t necessarily chomping at the bit to cast women in title roles within the comic book universe, however, DC Comics seem to be leading the way in breaking that mould, with Gal Gadot stepping into the fray and donning the shiny red boots of Diana Prince in a standalone Wonder Woman movie in 2017 and at least one Justice League movie. But first, audiences are getting a little insight into what to expect from both when we see her cameo in Batman vs. Superman, hitting cinemas later this month.
While critics have had consistent high hopes for Gadot’s portrayal of Wonder Woman, fans have been a little more cautious. Initially, fan critique lay in the actress’ figure; they argued that Gadot was too slim and that Wonder Woman should be physically strong and muscle-bound. Of course, the latter is how she has been historically portrayed – she is an Amazonian princess, after all. However, to discredit an entire movie based solely on her appearance seems somewhat infantile; Wonder Woman can still be physically strong without necessarily exemplifying the stereotypes attached to ‘strength’ as portrayed in the comic books. Also, let’s not forget, if we’re going to get realistic, here, if she was a true Amazonian princess, she’d have chopped her right breast off long ago, to make her bow and arrow aim stronger…. Luckily, following the trailer, this seems to have been subsided and now critique lies not in her appearance, but just how she will be portrayed in her upcoming cameo.
Upon seeing Wonder Woman peering over her iconic shield, donning a slight smirk and having been barely pushed back by the blast, she looks more than ready to carry the lads through a battle with Doomsday, and it is plain to see that she can handle herself, even without all of those initially sought after muscles. Unfortunately, this is where the excitement stops, and the hopes that Wonder Woman will be anything more than a prop for Affleck to proffer a snide jibe, are shattered. Those few words, I thought she was with you, ultimately delegitimise Wonder Woman as a standalone hero, making her nothing more than a female sidekick or potential romantic interest (re: the standalone movie in 2017).
In an ideal world, it would be nice to say that the snide jibe causing my trepidation is because Batman vs. Superman isn’t about Wonder Woman… But this isn’t an ideal world, and the very realistic revelation that DC Universe has opted to forgo traditional origin stories, instead opting for the new 52 comic books origins, leads me to believe that this is the type of relative snide remark and potential diatribe audiences are to expect from Wonder Woman and the other ten DC movies currently in production – including Suicide Squad.
Wonder Woman’s origin story was crafted by writer and psychologist William Moulton Marston in 1941. She was conceived as an entirely unique, brilliant and strong superhero, with the strength of Superman alongside the ‘allure of a good and beautiful woman’. Her origin story defines her as the product of love and magic, raised by strong, Amazonian women who left what was known as the ‘man’s world’ to live under the protection of Olympus. As a result, she has been given the well-deserved moniker of feminist hero, something Marston later revealed was his purpose, by stating, ‘frankly, Wonder Woman is psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who should, I believe, rule the world’, and even though her origin story being tweaked multiple times, one fact has remained steadfast: Wonder Woman is an intelligent, compassionate and formidable woman, who is both a warrior and a teacher.
Her ‘New 52’ origin story departs from her original origin story; she has been passed around by multiple writers and her unique origin and, ultimately, what made her the woman she is renowned for, has been destroyed. Her new origin sees her as nothing more than a carbon copy of Herakles (who was traditionally seen as her enemy, and indeed, the rapist of her mother) – her birth attributed to Zeus, rather than love and magic. Wonder Woman has gone from someone raised by the love and wisdom of legions of women, to having her powers and wisdom handed to her by men; this is what her creator believed to be her anti-thesis, which is what makes Gal Gadot’s portrayal of Wonder Woman both upsetting and largely problematic.
Allowing her core origin story to be diminished, this leaves only the well-established tropes that are reserved for women in modern cinema to become the forefront of the direction in the comic cinematic universe; rather than moving beyond that to give cinema and comic fans exactly what they want – an honest and true representation of their favourite superheroes – film makers are dismissing the strength, qualities, and indeed, existing equalities originally established for female superheroes, in favour of what seems to be a relatively damaging regression, both in the comic book genre, and overall interpretation of female superheroes.