Is Wonder Woman a Feminist Film: Yay or Nay?

I went and saw the “Wonder Woman” movie starring Gal Gadot this week with one of my besties and wanted to share a few points on it. After all, this feminist likes to write and, well, I sat and watched the shero for 2 hours and 21 minutes, so I had time to form some opinions. Namely that “Wonder Woman” is a feminist gem, and here’s why.

Feminist movie time with Gal Gadot

the “Wonder Woman” 2017 movie and feminism: Do the two get along? Flickr, CC BY 2.0.

Women Get Their Spotlight Too

From “Justice League” to “Thor: Ragnarok,” there has been a lot of testosterone on the big screen already in 2017. These are primarily male casts playing manly superheroes. Yes, Wonder Woman is in “Justice League, ” but she’s not the lead role. So when the trailers for Wonder Woman’s self-titled movie began to release on YouTube and TV, I was intrigued.

I wanted to see her take the reins in the lead role of an action movie based on a comic book character. Although I do recognize that “Logan” and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” both of which are also 2017 movies with superheroes, have females in them, their roles are not as big as Gal Gadot’s presence in “Wonder Woman.” Heck, the movie’s title is her name; the spotlight can’t get much bigger than that.

So, let’s dig into the plot of the film a bit, shall we?

Diana Prince and Steve Trevor

The movie (no spoilers here, don’t worry) goes right back to when Diana Prince (the secret identity of Wonder Woman) saves Steve Trevor. I like that she rescues him, rather than it being the other way around like so many superhero movies and many of the other flicks and books that have the male playing the hero. There’s none of this in “Wonder Woman” as she doesn’t need a man to save her. Instead, she saves his life after his plane nosedives into the water with him in it. A damsel in distress? Nope.

Then, after examining the conversations and interactions between Diana and Steve in the film, I note that he makes advances at her while she does not return them. Indeed, women have a mind of their own and don’t just go for any guy. Hooray for intelligent women!

Steve does not have control here the way that a man would if the movie reinforced gender stereotypes. Of course, there’s the flip-side where women would rule, but I don’t want to encourage that either. Instead, this feminist see it as a two-way street in any relationship, including a romantic duo. And Steve certainly doesn’t put down Diana the way that Superman often has with Lois Lane (another subject for a future post, perhaps). I’m all for equality, whether it be gender or another attribute.

No King pawn to bow to in Diana Prince's eyes

Diana Prince will have none of this patriarchal system. Pexels, CC0 License.

Oblivious to the Patriarchal System

In this movie, you will see Diana burst into meetings full of men and ignore people around her when they say she cannot do something. Indeed, she comes from another land and knows nothing of the patriarchal happenings of this new-to-her society. These movie moments create many laughs among the viewing audience, but if you look deeper, you’ll see that the movie is questioning why there are still places where only men can go.

Diana doesn’t realize the different expectations society has for her as a woman than for men, and when she is told about this way of being by Steve and others, she doesn’t care. She sticks to her mission to find a certain bad guy (no spoilers, remember?).

Furthermore, her superhero abilities do not waver as her emotions go up and down throughout the movie. Indeed, her powers remain strong. Her loving spirit, including wanting to help injured people during the war or her wanting to hold a baby she sees, add to her character rather than making her seem less.

Wonder Woman Takes on a Battlefield

When she crosses a battlefield with her shield and sword, Diana is battling against what appears to be a never-ending onslaught of bullets. This scene is a pivotal one in the movie, and she’s not about to stop halfway through it. Her determined spirit is obvious.

This scene is a powerful metaphor for a woman’s journey to be all that she can be in a patriarchal society. After all, all of the army shooting bullets in the scene are men. Diana is going, pushing through, in spite of obstacles, and for that I commend her. I think a woman who continues on her path this way, overcoming obstacles with true grit and spirit, is admirable.

Wonder Woman costume

Wonder Woman’s outfit: a feminist nightmare or not? Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain.

About Wonder Woman’s Outfits

That’s right, costume matters. Just ask my friend and Canadian costume designer Resa, and she’ll tell you. The costume designer for 2017’s “Wonder Woman” was Lindy Hemming. Hemming styled the Gal Gadot as a fashion-savvy superhero who was sporty and strong, as well as elegant.

The ensembles reflect the particular movie scene, whether it is a warrior outfit or one for the palace. As Hemming says of the outfit worn by General Antiope (Diana’s aunt), “It made it look like she had hunted and caught animals and made her armor, rather than her being delicate…”

Yes! As feminists, we don’t want to be put into a category of what we must or must not wear as women. Stereotypical costumes? No. Sure, there are pretty outfits in the film, including Diana’s long blue gown, but there is always a strength to her look – in this case, she had the sword down the back of the dress. In other scenes, Diana wears menswear or pencil skirts and shirts that do not show too much skin.

As for her legendary suit, it is revealed in the movie after she sheds a long black coat. I admit this is where I still have an issue. Why does the female superhero wear so much less than male superheroes who reveal almost no skin at all? Seriously, they’re almost completely covered from head to toe! Batman, The Flash, Spiderman… But, on the other hand, I could argue that Gal Gadot has an athletic body and women deserve to be confident in their fitness.

‘Wonder Woman’ Supports Female Empowerment

So, as you can tell from my words above, I think that overall “Wonder Woman” is a feminist film that is worth seeing. It does not encourage gender stereotypes – with the exception of the one costume issue – and I like that the film reveals different levels of the character Diana Prince.

Want to read more about Wonder Woman? Check out Happy Wonder Woman Day on Precinct1313. Also, head over to Assholes Watching Movies to read their “Wonder Woman” movie review.

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85 thoughts on “Is Wonder Woman a Feminist Film: Yay or Nay?

  1. I have loved Wonder Woman since I was a little girl watching Linda Carter strut her stuff on TV, so I was excited to see the character get the big screen recognition she deserves. To me, Wonder Woman embodies all the best traits of the female gender-strength, grace under fire,confidence, and beauty. She is so supremely competent that no one, not even a man raised in a totally male-dominated culture, can deny her abilities and convictions. Steve Trevor has long been her sidekick, though like a true heroine, she doesn’t belittle him. Can’t wait to see how they play out her story in Justice League and beyond.

  2. One of my favorite DC Superheroine heroes of all time.
    DC nailed her character and what a woman should represent to all women and girls alike. She is strong, intelligent, a fighter, and she is hope to everyone. I cried when she went into battle and fighting all the soldiers. She gave me hope and made me think of my mom. I love my mom so love and she too, is my wonder woman and she raised me so well and I am proud to she kindness and support for my mom.

    I’m a Marvel hardcore fan…so, I’m glad DC hit their mark with Wonder woman. Their last 3 movies sucked bad. Wonder woman proves so good and a masterpiece. Now, it’s Marvels turn to pull off a good “Captain Marvel” superheroine movie. I’m hopeful and let us cross our fingers that Marvel can bring hope to all women. 🙂

    P.S Thor Ragnarok: will feature their first Female villain named: Hela. She is going to kick ass! 🙂 I’m excited to finally see a female strong woman fight Thor. 🙂

  3. I enjoyed this review, Christy. Wonder Woman has always been a favourite superhero for me. I’m very happy that your review contained no spoilers because I haven’t seen it yet!

    • Ohhh I do hope you see it on the big screen, John, as it’s got a lot of great action scenes. Thanks for all of your comments and the smile of your profile photo here 🙂

  4. Ummm…I can partially agree with you on this one Christy. Personally, I don’t see Wonder Woman/Diana Prince as a feminist. She’s from a different world where she was never categorized or seen as weak. Expectations were never limited or lowered. She didn’t have to fight or speak out to be seen as equal. She doesn’t leave her home to show the world “what a woman can do,” but simply to help. Even when she learns of society’s patriarchal ways, it doesn’t change her – she remains true to who she is. Some WW portrayals have shown Diana Prince as innocent and nerdy ala Superman/Clark Kent, but IMHO, that’s not a true depiction.

    Wonder Woman is definitely a symbol of feminism – it’s part of the character’s original creation – but I’d like to believe the character is who all girls/women could be (minus the demigoddess powers, of course 😉 ) were it not for centuries of society being steeped in patriarchal rule and misogyny.

    Have a great weekend! 😉

    • Hi Felicia, thanks for your comment here. I didn’t mean to say Wonder Woman herself is a feminist but instead that the film upholds many feminist values. I should have better distinguished between the two so my apologies for that. I agree that the world she comes from is without its patriarchal ways and I so wish we had more of that here.. well at least we can escape into film when we need to 😉 Aww I wish you a wonderful weekend too!!

      • Hey Christy, Felicia. Thanks for this particular part of the discussion. I am working on a book with a strong female heroine and this insight is truly interesting. Will think about how to make this more clear.

  5. Diana actually saves Steve twice–once off the island and once in the alley in London. The important thing is the second time he never appears resentful that she stepped in to save his bacon: he accepted that it happened and that’s it.

  6. Fantastic review Christy, an enjoyable read indeed, and thanks for linking to my article at the Precinct. On your point about her outfit, the most recent interpretation (including Gal Gadot’s) are representative of ancient Greek warrior armour – Spartan or Trojan, that’s not to say some of her outfits haven’t been terribly stereotypical though, like the awful bathing suit style from the 70’s. Wondy though is such a strong presence in the comics and all other media that she transcends such barriers and stands tall above her peers! Once again loved your review my friend. 🙂

  7. So happy this was a great film. So much was riding on it. I’m so glad they didn’t make the guy an idiot either. She was humane, honest, caring, brave and never stopped asking questions. I wasn’t thrilled with the ending but the film before that was incredible. I’m really hoping it will lead to other films with a female superhero lead.

    • You’re right Alex that there was a lot at stake with this film. Like you, I hope it’s a sign of more female superheros getting their own spotlights 🙂

    • If Steve had been a fool, the movie wouldn’t have worked. It required two equally vocalized world views in conflict with each other, even as both of them faced off against a third, villainous one.

  8. Your review is pretty comprehensive in its sweep of Wonder Woman. I too did watch the movie as it hit the multiplex near to my home last week. While the movie does not scale up to proportions of a David Lean or Steven Spielberg classic, I relished the feminist content and marvellous portrayal of the character by Gal Gadot. In fact she literally carries the entire film on her shoulders by sheer grace and athleticism she brings to the role. Incidentally, it is reported that Gal received the same remuneration as her male companion for her role in WW. Which is where patriarchy is managing to retain its grip, for Gal’s remuneration should have topped over that of everyone associated with the movie…😋

    • And so the pay gap continues… ! I’ll try to contain my unhappiness with that while I finish this comment… But I am glad you enjoyed the movie too, Raj. I may have had some M&Ms with my friend too while watching the film 😉

  9. Hi, Christy. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but let me tell you I expected a take like the one you described here. It is inevitable with a reboot of the character in times like these. Although in recent “Wonder Woman” comic books it is not always like this.
    Machismo has always been a prevailing element in the layout of superhero comic book pages, this is quite evident in DC comics and they push it far because it sells. I find this marketing attitude a quite dull element, but cinematography can help fix things, sometimes.

    • Exactly, the comic books can be quite different so for this post I just focused on Wonder Woman’s portrayal in the movie. I think it’s great how you point out cinematography’s role in helping gender equality (at least in the case of this movie).

  10. This was a great movie, not just a super hero flick. It was relevant and responsible to building up strong women who can save the day. Sure this is a feminist statement but it is much more than that, its a movie that talks about how good can overcome evil when everyone is on board.

  11. This is definitely on my watch list! ⭐
    However, it is Emmy Season, and I have just nominated my faves for 2016.
    Before I could do that, I had to watch hours and hours and hours of product. I think many could be envious of all the free CD’s and streaming I get from networks and production companies. However, I almost need to buy a bigger home to store the CD’s and the fab presentation packages they are in. LOL
    About Wonder Woman’s costume…. I love it! This is the thing, she is so much more resilient than the men. They need all this covering… why… their skin will get pierced? Oh boo hoo men! Buck up! Good grief, you look like the weakest sex. Except Thor… and I am not oiling him with baby oil. LOL that’s make-up’s job. (old show I worked on where they wanted me to oil Thor). I said NO, obviously
    Where am I?
    Oh yes, I’m here on When Women Inspire!
    Wonder Woman inspires!
    Christy inspires!
    AND
    Susan Sarandon & Jessica Lange inspire in FEUD!
    I’ve got shivers thinking about it all!
    #GreenWhiteViolet

  12. ❤ TY for the shout out, Christy!
    I never put my Art Gowns on real women until recently. I have good reason, which is another discussion.

    • Resa, love your comments here! You deserve every mention as you are truly a woman who inspires me!! I look forward to more art gowns, more feminist posts, and lots of love to share ❤ I want to see FEUD and it is killing me that I don't have access to it at the moment ackkkkk – tell me what I miss 😉

  13. I have forwarded this to a film student who teaches women’s studies. I enjoyed it immensely. Wonder Woman was my sheroe as I grew up in the 50’s and read her comic books. I liked her because she had something much cooler than Dale Evan’s horse, Buttermilk; Wonder Woman had an invisible plane. Her lasso and bracelets were pretty cool too. She didn’t need a Roy Rogers to rescue her; she rescued the guys. Coolest heroine ever!

  14. Would it be OK if I cross-posted this article to WriterBeat.com? I’ll be sure to give you complete credit as the author. There is no fee, I’m simply trying to add more content diversity for our community and I liked what you6 wrote. If “OK” please let me know via email.

    Autumn

    • Jeri, yes! I’m thinking there was quite the expectation on the makers of this film. In spite of the pressure – or, perhaps because of it – they surpassed my expectations. I’m glad you enjoyed the film xx

  15. I loved the movie but I grew tired of all the press around it being some kind of ground breaking feminist film, mainly because for many critics it just couldn’t be a good movie about a strong female role model. Lots of journalists were trying to turn it into a debate about race, and crying foul because only a certain ‘type’ of woman was represented. It just starts to get a bit sensational after a while.

    Also, Wonder Woman is a meta-human, practically a god, and to aspire to be her is about as unattainable as any guy aspiring to be Superman.

    I know that all sounds pretty rich coming from a privileged white male though. 🙂

    I did like the fact that it may have educated a great many people about just how oppressed women were not so long ago. Specifically around the scenes where she is introduced to the male dominated world of the 40’s. Also that scene where she stepped out onto the battlefield gave me chills.

    I do like that Patty Jenkins seemed to recognise the character’s potential and turn her into something more powerful than her origins (i.e. being shackled by villains at the hands of her kinky male writers and flying an invisible jet).

    Also, I think it’s the best movie that DC have put out recently. Take that Batman and Superman! It is good to see a strong female character in what has been a superhero sausagefest as far as the DC films go.

    • There are so many great points about the film. I didn’t know after all the hype about the movie if it could live up to expectations but I’m glad it did so for many people. DC did right this time round.

    • “for many critics it just couldn’t be a good movie about a strong female role model.” I think that is because to have a superhero movie with a strong female role model is so rare that doing to is a feminist act, the same way Alien and T-2 broke ground in science fiction. If it wasn’t for feminist consciousness seeping into the culture, women would only be the leads in romantic comedies.

  16. I appreciate how thoroughly you described your points I have not seen the film however your description makes me think that wonder woman sounds like an extremely powerful person which is what I feel makes a good feminist depiction of a character. The only place I disagree with you is that I think that both men and women are hypersexualized when it comes to a lot of media but specifically in comics .

  17. I didn’t think Steve hit on Diana, more of a slow, tentative shuffle towards her. If anything, he showed so much Victorian restraint that at least one conservative movie reviewer thought he’d been neutered. And I think at first he found her confidence intimidating.

  18. I just saw it a couple of weeks ago with my mom. We both loved it. Great review, all your points are spot on. I’m looking forward to seeing Justice League when it comes out in November. 🙂

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