“Wonder Woman” and the rise of the female hero


Julia Zaksek , Sr. managing editor

The tales of superheroes, told for years in graphic novels and on the big screen, are a fundamental part of America’s fictional narrative. Although they are often super-human or even alien, spandex-clad vigilantes often boast the all-American values of bravery and self-sacrifice, whether in their gallant defense of the world or more covertly in their costumes of red, white and/or blue.

In accordance with our patriotism, superheroes often symbolize our supposedly vital values. After all, what’s more American than a muscle-bound, dashing vigilante with the weight of the world on his broad shoulders? For decades, comic books have nurtured and grown these characters, and while there have been a number of strong female heroes within their pages, these classic defenders still dominate the glossy pages and, more recently, the movie theater.

However, “Wonder Woman” is beginning to change a largely male history. “Wonder Woman” is the very best of what superhero movies offer. The film and the many action sequences are well-done and enthralling. The costumes, sets and plot are simultaneously faithful to the comics and fit for a modern audience. The plot is fairly simple and coherent while still providing exceeding entertainment. There is smartly-placed humor and several quotable lines. “Wonder Woman” represents a prime example of fictional adaptation and a popular summer blockbuster. It is not a good movie just because there is a female lead–though it definitely helps.

In the age of superheroes, any brooding jawline with a morality system can save the world, but it takes a true hero to save humanity. Wonder Woman, or Diana, is strong, intelligent and an undeniable force. In these respects, she is clearly equal to her male counterparts. But she brings different aspects to heroism that either are either ironically incompatible with the common hero’s messiah-complex, or foolishly considered too feminine to be applied to a male hero. Diana is compassionate, sympathetic and kind-hearted. And these qualities do not make her any less of a hero; they make her an even greater one. She can and will save the world, but for her, that also means saving individuals.

She does not rely solely on her strength or ability to throw a shield and fight with a sword. She believes in the power of empathy and human decency. These are the very qualities that she recognizes in those around her as she experiences human society for the first time, and these are the qualities she rightly believes makes humans worth saving.

So, Marvel and DC, give us your antiheroes, your conflicted saviors, your self-righteous fools. Give us your ethical men and boys with their hearts in the right place. Give us symbols and parodies, ironies and paradoxes. But don’t forget to give us our impassioned and indestructible heroines, our literal and figurative goddesses. Please, take note of the first woman who so fittingly walked fearlessly into no man’s land.