by The Former Sapphist.
I had to wait a few days to let it simmer. Otherwise, it would’ve been just the rant of a mad, mad lover.
As a batang 80’s (child of the 80’s), I grew up watching Wonder Woman with eyes glued to the TV like it was all the world to me. When left alone in the house, I would grab the talcum powder and put some on the floor to help me spin in front of the mirror and wait for my clothes to change. It never did. I was six, or seven, dizzy as a 40-year old drunk at a bar.
But they never made a movie about her. The decades that came after produced male superheroes: high-protein, high-octane performances, with very little redeeming factor for the female persona, who was either a desperate princess, a seductive mistress, or a corporate lady boss out to destroy her male counterparts.
Nothing. Absolutely nothing ever came close to representing the female persona and what goes on in her mysterious psyche, with as much universality as Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman. The multiple layers of meaning in a plethora of contexts provide a harmonious re-telling of womanhood that adheres to the more triumphant narrative of Woman.
It would be easy to get lost in my own re-telling so it’s best that I categorize the areas that transformed my theater seat into a portal dimension.
What’s so exhilarating about this film was the accuracy with which a finer version of the feminine archetype, existing long before corsets and cages hid her body beneath a thick Victorian dress, was represented.
As a nurturer, she is compassionate and protective — sometimes, to a fault. Hippolyta fulfills this duty without batting an eyelash. Ever the mother, she sees her one and only daughter to the edges of the sea and fights the hardest of battles: letting go of her one and only child, without a tear.
Diana, on the other hand, displays what is typical yet commonly magnetic characteristic of all mature females that is the ebb and tide of the child and then the young lady, and then the warrior, and then the woman. There and back again, she pursues and recedes, the daughter surfacing only to dive deep and deeper still, to the core of who she is, rising again above water as the woman to be reckoned with.
With a woman’s acute attention to the most minute details, Director Patty Jenkins took the time to have an armadillo cross the road as a platoon of women warriors dashed off on the dusty pavement. Why an armadillo? Because when an armadillo is anxious or faced with danger, it coils up like a ball, able to bounce back, like a human in fetal position just waiting for this moment of weakness to pass in its right time. A woman who coils up is not retreating from the harsh world. She is merely protecting herself until she has grown strong enough to wear a different armor.
The pedestal that cradled the sword is not to be missed. Circular and swollen towards the lower half, it is accentuated at the center-top with a small, triangular, almost tear-drop shape. This is quite an allusion to the female labia, while in it is a phallic sword. When united, these two can unleash a power so strong that it can pulsate with the throbbing of the universe and all creation. I hope you didn’t miss that.
There are many more archetypes that I would love to discuss, but I do not want to leave out the other areas of the film.
The male-female dynamic
Much could be learned from the delicious tension between Diana and Capt. Steve. In his seemingly awkward and female-shy personality, he has proven to be a gentleman of his time, albeit the nude scene, which he clearly did not take as an opportunity to seduce an obvious virgin in an almost-lesbian island lacking in men.
If more men would recognize how women are indeed strong and wise, perhaps they would shield them from more bullets, to save more lives. Male-female collaborations need to be done with more courage and harmony, eliminating the need for male chivalry to dominate. Chris Pine did justice to what a true officer and gentleman ought to be. He had the right facial expressions to show the awkwardness of the situation. The nervous stammering was faithful to the natural context of a true, bleeding human beholding a magnificent female presence.
He never suppressed Diana’s powers, nor did he destroy her for being powerful, because he understood that she was simply who she was. There was no stopping her and why should he, when they were both fighting the same cause? A good man is wise enough to know that he can work with her not only because of her power, but because of who she is. Sounds like the makings of an ideal marriage, if you ask me.
The subtleties of spirituality
Powerful as she was a demigod, Wonder Woman knew that in order to beat an opponent who was ‘not of this world’ of bullets and missiles, she had to summon from deep within an equally ethereal force. Something that even she herself possessed. Mythological as it was, spiritual warfare was represented in this film with the pure elegance of Greek mythology, but without downplaying Christianity, instead championing it further with that posture that all Christians in the world know.
What drove me mad was seeing how she positioned herself in a crucified Christ-like posture to summon that strength. As a Catholic, I was not at all offended. It was all too happy a coincidence, the allusion to the highest form of love on the cross that would redeem mankind from all its ills. The film was very clear — only love can save the world.
Wonder Woman is so powerful an artwork because of the universality of the truth that it propagates. It does not try to preach or to enforce realities, but merely represents them in a way that makes us question ourselves about the realities we think we know all too well.
I will leave the other portions of the film to the true film critics — cinematography, screenplay, sound and visual effects, creative direction, acting and so forth.
I thought I would lose my hold on reality and become obsessed with Gal Gadot. Thankfully, the film and all its creators and participants remained true to their craft so much that it did not drive me to as much madness as would ruin my life. When the intention is true, only the good will be borne of it. The universe knows these things and arranges them accordingly, like arrows and swords and shields in an armory.