The Wonder Woman I am about to describe is the heroine in the phenomenally successful movie that carries the name of a DC comics character, "Wonder Woman," with box office numbers racing past $700 million, as of this writing, while still holding strong at the ticket office. And the challenge to which I am referring is this: How does a movie that features a female action character, capable of love and romance, trained in the noble art of a warrior who does not compromise the ideals of honesty, justice for the underdog, and bravery in the face of overwhelming odds, capable of showing compassion and mercy, while reflecting the beauty and dignity of a princess (which she is) -- a movie that portrays all these idyllic qualities -- how does avoid the challenge of being described as, well, "cheesy?"
I wondered how a movie with those qualities would fare in an age such as ours that is trapped under the spell of Ares, the mythic god of war, who thrives on violence, sarcasm, misogyny, nihilism, conspiracies, titillation, cynicism, and cowardice by politicians. Well, apparently, Wonder Woman, the movie and the heroine, is playing very well in a public fragmented by just about everything else.
Much of the credit for the movie's success must go to the idealism of its director, Patty Jenkins. In an article by the New York Times, June 4, 2017, titled "Bullets, Bracelets and a Big Heart," Ms. Jenkins responded to the question of "cheesiness" put to her by the reporter, Cara Buckley. This segment of the interview is worth repeating here as follows:
THIS MAY BE A CHEESY QUESTION, BUT WHAT DO YOU WANT PEOPLE
TO TAKE AWAY FROM THIS MOVIE?
Did you say cheesy? Cheesy is one of the words banned in my world. I'm
tired of sincerity being something we have to be afraid of doing. It's been
like that for 20 years, that the entertainment and art world has shied away
from sincerity, real sincerity, because they feel they have to wink at the
audience because that's what the kids like. We have to do the real stories
now. The world is in crisis.
I wanted to tell a story about a hero who believes in love, who is filled with
love, who believes in change and the betterment of mankind. I believe in it.
It's terrible when it makes so many artists afraid to be sincere and truthful
and emotional, and relegates them to the too-cool-for-school department.
Art is supposed to bring beauty to the world.
And this is what Patty Jenkins brought to the world with her movie. It helped that the assembled cast put their shoulders to the task of showing how love and beauty still trump cynical violence and ugliness. Chris Pine played the leading male character with strength and poise but never in a dominating way. He never tried to show up or control Gal Godot (Wonder Woman, Princess Diana) and would have failed had he tried because she was well trained and nurtured by Robin Wright (Diana's "aunt"), and Connie Nielson (Diana's "mother") -- both of whom are powerful women, tempered with mythic wisdom, physical strength, warrior skills, and a compassioned consciousness that filled Diana with love and a strong sense of gender equality as well as justice for all people. And I need not repeat the outstanding choice of Gal Gadot for the role of Wonder Woman, as Ms. Gadot is in her life off-stage not only a former Miss Israel but also a combat trainer for the Israeli Army.
So, no, Patty Jenkins did not show fear in facing the spirit of our times that puts down the soft arts of love, compassion, mercy, and respect for others. Those qualities permeate the story of Wonder Woman, but they do so with a warrior's determination to show strength in hardships and resolve in battle.
It is no wonder, then, that women resoundingly applaud the movie. They know very well that the crisis in our world, to which Patty Jenkins refers, is a crisis brought upon us by the brutality of patriarchy in which men are trapped. Just as the men in the movie's combat trenches could not/would not break out to enter the field of combat, so are the male would-be leaders of our generation stuck in the trenches of ideologies, patterns of pseudo-masculinity and cowardice in facing the paralyzing truth of patriarchy. Men fear losing their favored positions, as well as their expectations that the world of tomorrow will be like their world of yesterday. But it is that world of male-created patriarchy that is receding. Women are preparing to move to the front lines of our domestic, social and international battles, encouraged by the new generation of young men and women who are not trapped within the bewitchment of Ares' love of power.
But not yet. Ares still sounds his battle-cry for all those who would fight for the status quo. And we men, as in the movie, do not appear to be up to the task of challenging those entrenched fears that keep us stuck in time. Which reminds me of an incident back in 1972. In the first issue of Ms. magazine, Wonder Woman appeared on the cover with a caption, "Wonder Woman for President," a bold "nomination" by Gloria Steinem.
After 45 years, it is not too late -- yet. Now, more than ever, I think the time has come.