Hoo Boy — Let’s Unpack This American Conservative Review Of Wonder Woman.
I left Wonder Women to a lot of women excitedly exclaiming about how much the movie had not only delighted them but inspired them. Sometimes you do not even know what you want until you see it. It turned out, what every woman in the women’s bathroom of the Regal on 42nd Street wanted wanted was a movie where a bunch of men form a human platform for a powerful woman to jump off of. How wonderful to see a movie that celebrated a female character that could be multidimensional and heroic.
Then the American Conservative came along to explain how we were wrong, because Wonder Woman maybe should have sided with the Germans? Let’s just unpack their review below, with a ton of spoilers, some of them, surprisingly, for the movie Gravity.
Wonder Woman’s titular character, the princess-warrior Diana (Gal Gadot), raised by Amazons on an island away from men, is only half of a warrior. Her other half is pure Hollywood ingenue. This combination, which is supposed to empower her and us, is the film’s internal contradiction.
As a determined Amazonian girl, Diana insists on receiving military training against the wishes of her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen). All the young Diana wants to do is fight. But it is not clear that she has ever shown the signs of a fighting spirit by, for example, actually fighting others. Diana does not test authority, nor does she play sports or hunt.
This movie definitely would have been better if, instead of sword fighting, young Diana had always been trying to get a lacrosse game going.
One wonders if young Diana has seen violence of any kind outside of her training. Training is a kind of violence without consequence, one could say; Wonder Woman is a kind of warrior without rivalry or heat.
This is literally the crux of the entire movie. Diana realizes that real war is horrifying and can utterly destroy one’s faith in humanity, but chooses to live a life governed by love.
Later in the film, she sees horses being whipped on the WWI battlefront and exclaims, “There must be a better way!” Her pacifist compassion does not discriminate between warring human beings — that is, between good and evil — and neither can it really discriminate between man and animal.
Because she doesn’t like people beating a horse?
The evil human being, for Diana, is simply the one that will do the most damage.
This seems like a pretty good definition of “an evil human being.”
She sides with the allied forces against the Germans because the Germans are developing chemical weapons — not because they are, say, seeking to dominate Europe.
It probably had something to do with a bunch of German showing up on her island and slaughtering a ton of Amazons (including her Aunt!) with guns, as well. That’s a hell of a reason to want to fight against them.
That said — the fact that they’re developing chemical weapons that are going to wipe out civilians seems like as good a reason as any to not side with them.
The logic of the film may or may not make sense of the details of WWI, but Diana’s mind emphatically does not. For her, the difference between mustard gas and the whip of a coachman is quantitative; both bring suffering to innocents.
Does this reviewer want her to side with the Germans?
Those innocents, in her understanding, are not just innocent, but pure and good at heart like herself.
She does decide to defend a village of old people and babies who are enslaved. The other option is siding with the group who, in one memorable instance, cackle while murdering their own generals. It’s weird that this is being framed as a hard choice, but, well, we’re living in weird times.
She is, like the people she saves, a true innocent, “never guilty” rather than “not guilty.”
The movie’s fight scenes, which are occasionally elegant, looking like slow-motion Caravaggios in their definition of monumental bodies, are not why the film will be so compelling. The reason is Gal Gadot. Diana’s stature, weapons, and outfit give her the air of a warrior, but Gadot’s luminous face and big eyes give her the air of a girl who never grew up.
She’s 32. She has 2 children. She’s grown up.
She is perfectly cast for a role that looks like it demands fierceness but really demands an indiscriminate and immature empathy. Gadot’s fierceness comes across as willfulness, her sexuality as mere curiosity. Diana does not flirt with men, but one could say that she flirts, through her wide-eyed interest, with everything else in the film. She also flirts with the audience outside watching the film: the wide-eyed woman is a stock character, of course, and one that is irresistible.
It’s nice you got an erection, but Gal Gadot was not flirting with you just because she has large eyes and symmetrical features.
It doesn’t help that Diana is a beautiful woman. The film never shows the realism of what great beauty can inflict on a person: the deathblows to maturity that are attention, flattery, and unearned affection, and the self-complacency and mistrust of others that can follow.
Sounds like Shayla from Kappa Kappa Gamma didn’t want to go to Winter Formal with someone.
Just as she is unaware of her superpowers, Diana is unaware of her womanly powers. She attempts to undress in public, oblivious to the effect it might have on those watching. She doesn’t understand the concept of partner dancing, complaining that it’s “just swaying.” When she tries it for herself she remarks, with the sterility of a doctor, that the bodies of men and women are very close in this kind of dance.
She and Steve literally have sex immediately after dancing, and I guess this reviewer has a very inappropriate doctor.
The movie attributes this unawareness to cultural barriers, and it is true that Diana grew up in a land without men.
Yes. And reading this I can only think, ‘If only we all had.’
But what Diana “learns” in the movie is not how to act toward this new creature man — biologically and psychologically foreign yet incomprehensibly attractive — but that she has self-contained, un-relational powers.
YES!!! ISN’T THAT GREAT!!
She learns that she can shoot lightning bolts, not that her sensuality holds an even stronger power.
Hoo boy. Whoever thinks that female sensuality is a stronger power than SHOOTING LIGHTNING BOLTS OUT OF YOUR FINGERS either spends a tremendous amount of time with superheroes or very little time with flesh and blood women.
Diana has entered a new world that brings new longings and new problems, and all she learns is who she was all along: a demigoddess. She does not change but actualizes, into a fantasy of omnipotence. It is fitting that the last power she discovers in the movie’s final scenes is flight. Diana flies away from self-knowledge in this origin story.
This reviewer thinks that this movie would be better if, at the end, Diana learned that men — men just like this reviewer — wanted to bone her. And then she… had sex with them? Or just, like, walked around saying, “no more lightning bolts for me, all I require is my feminine wiles?” I guess this would also lead to the Germans maybe winning the war, so, wins all around as far as this review is concerned.
Likewise, the fact that no male character makes a smarmy pass at Diana is most significant.
You know who makes a smarmy pass at Diana? The evil General Ludendorff. He grabs her on the dance floor, makes her dance with him, and then attempts to mansplain Greek mythology to her, the daughter of Zeus.
Later in the film she stabs him until he is dead.
It’s a nice moment.
This writer will not defend smarmy passes,
How gracious of him.
but it is enough to say that an aggressive or ill-mannered man would be a threat to a solipsistic beauty that expects its admirers to be captivated by it yet keep their distance, lest that beauty turn out to be shallow and incomplete.
Just for the record: the problem with smarmy passes is not that men might be disappointed in the woman that they’re making them towards. Again, though, it is a real shame about Shayla.
In a contest of erudition, Diana claims that she can “recite Socrates in ancient Greek,” but she does not appear to have learned Plato’s lesson on bodily beauty. The beauties of the soul and body do not correspond.
There has been a recent trend of mainstream movies putting attractive men and women in sexually charged situations and pretending that nothing will happen: no “unwanted advances,” no complications, no threats to one’s composure and comfort (see 2013’s Gravity for an egregious yet subtle example).
Gravity is a movie about two astronauts on a space walk gone horribly wrong as they struggle to survive. The fact that the reviewer thinks that they should have found a way to have sex through their space suits — again, while struggling to survive — is very optimistic.
Maybe Sandra Bullock could have had sex with George Clooney when she was hallucinating him? I guess that’s possible. Sure would have been weird, though.
At an early point in her romance with Allied spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), Diana invites him to sleep in the same bed with her, and apparently has no idea that this could be seen as something other than an act of kindness. When he finally gets in the bed, Trevor just lies there.
Yeah, see, what the filmmakers are subtly suggesting there is that he’s not a rapist.
But okay, let’s say that Steve Trevor was a scumbag anti-hero who immediately made unwanted sexual advances towards a women he’s just met and maybe forces himself on them. You’d have to assume he was also an idiot to make them towards a woman who he just saw slit the throats of a bunch of armed German soldiers.
I guess he could be that too, but then this would be one of those really dark shows you watch on Starz before realizing “I hate everyone in this show”.
The movie wants us to believe he’s a gentleman.
Like… a hero ought to be.
Just as Wonder Woman gets to be omnipotent through a sham self-knowledge, her counterpart Steve Trevor gets to be impotent through a sham chivalry.
They have cheerful, consensual sex maybe two weeks later.
The virtues of these characters are part of a con game of a film that wants you to find them to be good, honest, and refreshing. Diana and Trevor are honest and good, but they have the goodness and honesty of children, and children are, after all, refreshing. Unless they stay that way forever.
The post-war Hollywood taste for naiveté in sexy women, which kept American women bored at home as much as any glass ceiling did,
No, I promise you, it did not.
comes full circle in this film. It is not going away in a feminist triumph, it is coming back to haunt those who might read the film that way. Americans still want their women to be doe-eyed and dumb;
Diana takes maybe a full month to adjust to a new culture while also navigating a ship, speaking every language, offering her services translating, liberating a town and defeating the actual God of War. Being a fish out of water who learns to breathe is not the same as being dumb.
the difference is that now they want them to be their saviors at the same time. Such responsibility would seem to require the omnipotence of a Wonder Woman. The lesson of the film is that you can purchase that omnipotence at a high price: at the cost of knowing yourself.
Shayla made the right choice.