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Wonder Woman is a feminist conundrum – but who cares?

The DC universe has finally given its most famous heroine her own film – Wonder Woman, directed by Patty Jenkins.

Most people are familiar with the premise having watched Lynda Carter’s excellent portrayal of Diana Prince on the 70s hit TV show. So what is it about Wonder Woman that people struggle to take seriously? Well on one hand she’s boldly feminist – ambitious, strong (in every sense) independent, and most of all – fearless. Like every hero should be. But on the other hand she is created equally with the male audience in mind.  She is beautiful, sensitive, caring, athletic, and wears an outfit that displays an exorbitantly revealing sex appeal. So she is literally perfect, yet displays features that both frustrate and bewilder modern feminism.

The New York Times wrote:

“the lack of body hair on the female warrior makes us wonder if feminism was swept aside in favor of achieving the ideal female aesthetic.”

Wonder Woman receives a criticism that is unfair, purely because of her physical appearance. Batman and Superman are both perfect human specimens and neither receive such scrutiny based on their appearance. And lets be honest – if Superman was short and overweight we wouldn’t consider him super, so of course Wonder Woman needs to be beautiful, otherwise less people would be interested in her. It’s sales and marketing at the end of the day.

But let’s forget the gender wars for a moment and look at the film. It follows the discovery of Amazonian princess Diana, on the all female island of Themyscira. Set during World War I, American pilot Steve Trevor crashes on the island to discover these strange inhabitants. It’s not long before she abandons her home and family to run off on an adventure with a “man”, where she can learn about humankind and put her powers to good use.

And by powers I mean – immense strength and agility, bracelets that can deflect bullets, and a lasso of truth to get the bad guys to own up to their wrong doings. Granted the last feature is very campy, but this has always been part of Wonder Woman’s charm – for all her sophistication she is also extremely virtuous, and in many ways naïve and innocent to the cynicism of the world around her.

This, I believe is where the character gets a lot of criticism – apparently a proper feminist would be very wary and defensive around men, quick to attack and defend with easy access to the tough bitch mode. Wonder Woman being from an all female home, is fascinated by men and somewhat trusting of them. Combine this with he natural beauty and she gets pillared for being just a male fantasy.

Ok, back to the movie. I wanted to hate this film as it is yet another somewhat formulaic superhero vehicle that’s cashing in on its existing comic book fanbase.  But yet I enjoyed it anyway, Gal Gadot beings the right blend of youth, vulnerability and intelligent to the Diana role, and she certainly looks the part.

Chris Pine is a terrific choice as Steve Trevor. As he shows in Star Trek, he is a very able actor that can effortlessly bring drama and comedy to a role in equal measure. His chemistry with Gadot is pivotal to the Trevor / Diana relationship, as a sexual chemistry is needed to keep a suspense throughout the story. There are genuine laugh out loud moments, combined with some really emotional scenes that had me truly buying into this story. For that reason Wonder Woman despite its clichéd flaws works. It has genuine heart, and most importantly doesn’t try to take itself too seriously. And this is the main issue, too many superhero films try to either be too serious ( Batman) or forget to bring a brain and story at all, (Suicide Squad) which makes them grow tiresome.

Wonder woman is a simple comic book blockbuster that doesn’t forget what every blockbuster is supposed to do  – make you laugh, make you cry, – and ultimately entertain you. Lets leave the deep symbolism for Oscar season.

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