As we are quickly approaching the live-action cinematic debut of Wonder Woman in Batman v Superman, now seems like a good time to get into a Wonder Woman character analysis. Wonder Woman is one of those characters who basically everyone knows by name, but they don’t really know who she is, so let’s change that!
It isn’t surprising that people don’t really know who Wonder Woman is, aside from her name. Because unlike the other two of the DC Trinity, she’s barely had any adaptation outside of the comics. But now that she’s finally getting some spotlight in Batman v Superman and then in the upcoming Wonder Woman film, she’ll be a lot more well-known to the mainstream audience.
First of all, as for her role in the movie, it won’t be big. But many people have said that Wonder Woman is a standout in the film, which is exciting to hear. This will of course pave the way nicely for her upcoming solo movie. Her solo movie being a success is a big deal, not just for superhero movies, but for genre/action movies in general. Hollywood are still iffy about giving women leading roles in such huge blockbusters, so her film being successful is pivotal to changing the way Hollywood thinks. So no pressure Gal and WB!
Okay so now let’s dive into this Wonder Woman character analysis! First of all let’s just rundown who Wonder Woman is and her origin story. The problem with Wonder Woman is that often when writers come on board, they want to reinvent Wonder Woman. So there’s been a lot of drastic changes to her character in the past. So I’ll just briefly go through her current origin, and the one that will mostly likely be followed a little more in the movies:
Princess Diana grew up Themyscira, otherwise known as Paradise Island. This island full of only women is completely detached from man’s world. The group formed their own society and cultivated their world. Diana grew up believing she was born from clay, but it wasn’t until later that it was revealed that Diana did indeed have a father, that being Zeus. She trained with the God of War as she was growing up, only to leave him after she realised the importance of mercy. Later on she meets her first mortal man, Steve Trevor after he crashed on the island. This eventually leads her to man’s world where she becomes Wonder Woman.
I know a lot of people have a problem with this origin as there are men in her life that influence her (which wasn’t the case before). She has a dad in Zeus and was trained by a man. Not only that, but the Amazons are now represented as being a lot more cruel than they once were portrayed. So I understand the hesitation. I hope they combine the best of all Diana’s past origins. I would prefer the Amazons being represented more as the peaceful and loving type, but personally I don’t mind that Zeus is her father. Just because she gets her power from him, doesn’t mean that how she uses that power is derived from him.
Moving on from her origin, most people know that Wonder Woman is a major feminist icon. And this has everything to do with her creation. Wonder Woman was created by psychologist William Moulton Marston. Marston had an interesting life that involved a polygamous relationship, so he was surrounded by a lot of women. Marston believed that female leadership was necessary in a world that was currently drowning in masculine hate and violence (Wonder Woman was created during WWII). Marston once wrote, “Frankly, Wonder Woman is psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who should, I believe, rule the world”.
Hence Wonder Woman was created at a time when women were assuming more roles in society, as men had gone off to war. She represented the evolving female, one who wasn’t limited by what men had forced them to be, but rather one who was a free and independent spirit.
Just look at her origins: she comes from an island of free spirit women, who were granted a place to live that allowed them to break from the bounds of man’s world. In many of her early stories, Wonder Woman often found herself tied up by ropes and chains by male villains, symbolising the harmful constraints of patriarchy. The victory was her ability to break free from those shackles of male dominance.
Also, being created in a time of war and hatred, Wonder Woman represented a different force for counterbalance. Whereas the other heroes would often straight away go to violence to defeat their enemies, Wonder Woman would at first try a more diplomatic approach. She would try to talk to them, even help reform them. And if that didn’t work, then her warrior side would come out.
For me, this is one of the most interesting aspects about her character. She has two very diametrically opposing sides. One, the peaceful diplomat, the other, the raging warrior. She’s an incredibly loving person, always looking out for others and nurturing them, but she’s also fierce and powerful. Wonder Woman, like most people, has a number of different roles she has to play in her life. It’s up to her to find the balance between her two opposing sides to fulfill those roles adequately.
So it’s pretty well understood that Wonder Woman is a feminist icon, but what about her as a person, not just as a greater icon, what are Wonder Woman’s characteristics?
I think one of the most pivotal aspects about Diana is that she is constantly being judged. Looking at the recent Wonder Woman comics, and comics from the past, she is judged by her fellow sisters for being overly curious, judged by her mother for wanting to leave the island, judged by civilians for the way she dresses etc etc. But what Diana has had to learn to conquer, is to not internalise the judgement, to acknowledge her own truth about herself. Diana is the ultimate judge of herself, and sometimes not everyone agrees, but she has to learn to trust herself and her own judgement.
A big aspect of the most recent Wonder Woman comics was Diana’s new role as Queen of the Amazons and God of War. Not everyone agrees with her new status, many judge her for her actions (or lack of action). But Diana knows that she can’t dominate others to make them accept her power. Instead she has to prove her worth, by as corny as it sounds, by believing in herself. She is the embodiment of confidence, but again, that doesn’t mean she’s perfect. There’s often times when she does feel insecure and unsure of herself, and so there is always this barrier to overcome, that’s overcome by truly understanding and embracing who she is.
And to understand who she is, she must understand the world around her. Diana is an inherently curious being. She never really accepts what is told to her, constantly questioning the truth. Truth is of course a big aspect of her character. Her creator invented the lie detector, so it’s not surprising that one of her prized possessions is her Lasso of Truth. The Lasso of Truth provides the objective truth, people don’t. When people tell the “truth” they are telling it through already existing filters. Filters made from their pre-existing beliefs, experiences etc. So when the Amazons tell Diana man’s world is cruel, not worth it, she questions it. She seeks to find out the truth herself. This happens often, one thing is told or known to Diana, but she wants to find out herself.
Back to her feminist roots, Diana is a true feminist because she isn’t out to condemn man. She knows how her people view men, but instead of accepting that as an absolute certainty, she goes out to explore that herself. She goes in with an open-mind hoping to be a bridge between her people and man’s world, she wants acceptance and equality. This will be a big part of her solo movie, as was revealed by the DC Films special.
Personality-wise, I think the best Wonder Woman is written by Gail Simone. She writes Diana with a sense of humour, she’s cheeky and sassy. But she still has a huge heart (she even let the army of gorillas who attacked her, live in her apartment). One of my favourite Diana quotes come from Simone’s run, and I think this quote helps to really understand her character:
“We have a saying, my people. Don’t kill if you can wound, don’t wound if you can subdue, don’t subdue if you can pacify, and don’t raise your hand at all until you’ve first extended it”.
I feel like sometimes Wonder Woman gets put in the same trap Superman does, just being seen as this very strong and powerful figure, who isn’t actually an interesting character. I think that’s total crap, and I really believe that the cinematic Wonder Woman is going to show the world what an awesome character Diana is! So get ready because Wonder Woman is about blow everyone away!
Categories: comic book characters