“But who will sing to us, Charlie?” The Defining Power of Wonder Woman
Since opening on June 2nd, many have taken to social media to express their love for the first theatrical going of “Wonder Woman”, starring Gal Gadot as the titled character, and directed by Patty Jenkins.
A plethora of blogs have already been written about the importance of the film. Whether focusing on the significance of spending the first third of the movie on an island filled with badass female warriors, or the defining moment Diana does what she knows she’s capable of despite everyone telling her “No”.
There’s much to praise about the film, but for me the moment that made me realize what made Wonder Woman different from all the other heroes wasn’t a grand battle, or any big defining scene. It was tiny moment. In fact, it was just a single line in a passing moment as Diana and crew were ready to head into the final battle. A familiar scene that can be found in many wartime movies.
Our heroes Diana and Steve Trevor, played by ever charming Chris Pine, get ready to head off into the final battle. Currently joining them is Sameer (Saïd Taghmaoui), a British actor turned con man due to the war. The Chief (Eugene Brave Rock) a Native American just making a buck selling weapons and resources to whomever is buying. And Charlie (Ewen Bremner), an expert marksman trying to drown the ghosts that haunt him with as much booze he can find. The thing is they were only hired for two days and those days are up.
Sameer and The Chief quickly volunteer as their time with Diana have inspired them to fight for a cause. Charlie, however, hesitates. You see Charlie can’t shoot anymore. His PTSD is too overwhelming and he’s afraid he’s become useless. “Maybe you’ll be better without me,” he says, pained by the idea that he’s too “broken” to help.
“But who will sing to us, Charlie?” Diana asks. It’s a simple question that brings a smile to Charlie’s face, a song in his heart, and the group continues on their way.
On the surface, it’s a tender moment. One that shows just how close this group has become since dropping onto the front lines of World War One. But with one simple line, Wonder Woman has redefined what it is to be a man.
Obviously being a tough soldier isn’t just a “man” thing, but there seems to be an unsaid rule in action movies that a man that can’t kill is considered weak and their arc will eventually lead them to be able to kill, whether for the first time or just again. In war movies specifically, a soldier that can’t kill is broken, and a man that can’t protect someone is useless to the team.
The arc is nothing new. A character hyped as an expert killer, ends up having sever PTSD, and can’t perform under the pressure. This tends to happen at the worst possible time, usually leading to someone getting injured or the bad guy getting away. You don’t have to look much further than 2016’s “The Magnificent Seven”. This time Charlie is Goodnight Robicheaux, played by Ethan Hawke, who’s dealing with the ghosts of the Civil War. His chat with Denzel Washington’s Chisolm doesn’t go the same way as Charlie’s talk with Diana though.
When Robicheaux is caught leaving, Chisolm relates, but still tries to convince him to stay, tries to inspire him by saying that he’ll be making up for the bad kills, and ultimately tells him he can’t keep running. None of it works of course. The warrior will always leave, but return just in time to save the day, because that’s the arc. Because to be whole again and to find redemption one must be able to kill again, just for the right reasons this time.
Patty Jenkins’s Diana, however, doesn’t ask Charlie to continue to fight for her. She doesn’t need him to kill for her. She doesn’t try to encourage him or make him feel guilty for not being able to kill anymore, or turn him away because he’s can’t. She simply asks him to do what he can. She simply asks him to sing, and tells us that we don’t need to fight to be strong enough to stand beside Wonder Woman.