When I was a child I loved two things: consuming great stories through any medium and playing outside while creating my own stories.
One of my favorite sources of stories was a massive tome called The Book of Virtues. Compiled by William J. Bennett, this book contains various stories from a wide variety of genres including, but not limited to, American history, poetry, modern fiction, fairy tales, and, my personal favorite, Greek Mythology. Granted, Greek myth is not Biblical (there is only one God and that is Jehovah) and often times the characters in the stories are not admirable. Yet William J. Bennet, a man who has a profoundly Christian worldview, saw the simple truth to be gleaned from them. Even as a young child, I saw it too. I was able to look past the gods and demi-gods to enjoy the fantastic adventures and profound truth.
That is what DC's latest film Wonder Woman is: a Greek myth, with a few parts and characters that aren't admirable, but still rich, entertaining, and containing truth. *Warning: spoilers ahead.*
A Classic Hero
The plot of the film surrounds Diana (a.k.a. Wonder Woman, though she is never actually called this in the film). She is one of the Amazons, a race of women warriors created by the Greek god Zeus to help guide mankind. A long time ago Ares, the god of war, decided to kill all the other gods and corrupt mankind. But before Ares could kill Zeus, he gave a weapon to the Amazons that could one day defeat Ares. Then the Amazon's were put on an island, hidden away from the world, where they could continue preparing for the fateful day they would strike Ares down once and for all.
Everything was going according to plan until a WWI pilot named Steve Trevor crashes his plane near the Amazonian shores. He tells the Amazons the world is at war and his mission is critical to putting an end to the bloodshed. Diana assumes Ares is at work in the outside world. Surely this war to end all wars is the infamous god's fault, right? And surely it is her responsibility as an Amazon to stop him.
Gal Gadot is a delight in this film. In addition to her ability to take out several baddies with the Lasso of Truth, a shield, and a sword, she is also quintessentially feminine. In a world where culture is so concerned with muddling the differences between men and women, it was refreshing to see a female superhero like Wonder Woman. Diana is compassionate, kind, and gentle. She encourages everyone she meets and has a high moral compass in most areas (more on that later). Her passion is not driven by anger or pride, but by concern for others. When she sees the horrors of war, she doesn't brush it off but rather weeps for the lives lost. Her character has a heroic innocence that I haven't seen since Christopher Reeve's Superman.
A Stereotypical Worldview
Though she has a desire to do what is right, Diana isn't the peak of morality. She and Steve have a lengthy talk about sex and pleasure, though it's not explicit. Diana also doesn't understand the concept or purpose of marriage. She and Steve kiss passionately and it is implied that they sleep together. I was disappointed in this, but not surprised. I find it sad that those with a secular worldview can often define right and wrong concerning some things, but when it comes to sex, anything goes.
This is a PG-13 film so there may other things that may give some viewers pause. We glimpse Steve in the buff, his hands covering himself strategically. Several characters swear, drink, and smoke, as is sometimes the aesthetic of a wartime film. Diana and her fellow Amazons also wear revealing outfits as they jump and fight, though to be honest, they seem to be more practically designed than sexual in nature (a refreshing change from what we’ve seen in a lot of other superhero movies).
Gal Gadot served in in the Israeli army and is one tough chick in real life. Because of this, the fight sequences seemed much more realistic than many I've seen in previous films with a female superhero. Most fights are bloodless, though they involve a lot of shooting, punching, slashing, kicking, stabbing, and being thrown around. There are several explosions and gun battles, which is to be expected in a film about WWI. Diana gets a brief glimpse of the bloody and wounded soldiers on the battlefield. Several people are killed by poisonous gas. A man takes a cyanide pill and kills himself. Another man shoots a fellow soldier point blank.
A True Strength
When Diana is confronted with the truth, that mankind isn't brainwashed by Ares but is truly depraved, she is tempted to condemn them. She laments that humanity doesn't deserve the help of the Amazons and are not worth saving. Yet, when Steve sacrifices his life for her and his fellow man, she understands the truth: choosing to believe in love and compassion, instead of anger and hate, will defeat evil.
“It’s not about what you deserve," she says. "It’s what you believe. And I believe in them." This quote reminded me of Titus 3:5 “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us….” Mankind doesn’t deserve to be saved. Their only salvation can come through mercy and love and in our world, Jesus offers us mercy and deliverance from our depravity through His blood shed on the cross.
Switching gears, remember that second thing I loved as a child? I was most definitely a tomboy growing up. I wore a baseball cap, old t-shirts, and jeans on most days while crawling around in the woods catching bugs and building forts out of sticks. Hanging out with mostly boys, I definitely felt like the odd person out. Because of this, I had to work extra hard to be tough and strong because I was "just a girl." Traits like compassion and love didn't get you very far when you were in the middle of a nerf gun battle or pretending to fight dinosaurs.
Now let me clarify: I am not a feminist in the modern sense of the word today. I believe men and women are different and have different roles in this world. We do different things better and that is the way God made us. When I moved from high school to college, I ditched the baseball cap and casual wear for a blouse and a nice skirt. This was a personal choice of mine, because, as I grew into a woman, I stopped loathing all those girly things that I avoided when I was a child (though I still love a good adventure in the woods now and then). I did this not because I am weak, but because I came to understand what true strength was.
Strength wasn't asserting myself and clinging to my pride to make up for my shortcomings. True strength is knowing my limits, accepting who God made me to be, and clinging to Christ to pick up the slack. I am a woman who understands who she is and I am secure enough in my identity in Christ to pay more attention to what I have been called to do rather than focus on what the world tells me.
That is what DC's Wonder Woman is: The story of a woman who understands who she is and what she is meant for. A person who, despite all she is told to the contrary, chooses compassion and love over anger and hate. Her greatest strength is not being able to lift tanks or take out the enemy. Her greatest strength is choosing to believe in what is right.
It’s a story that is truly inspiring and, dare I say, wondrous.