Wonder Woman (2017) Review

(written in January 2018)

~

Last night I finally got the chance to watch Wonder Woman. Today I’ve decided to review it. *THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS*

Firstly, I knew nothing-nil-zilch about Wonder Woman prior to yesterday, and I know very little about superhero culture period. Maybe that means I’m not the right person to review this film; maybe it puts me in a unique position, having no preconceptions about Wonder Woman beyond knowing that she’s supposed to be a feminist icon.

Either way, I realise what I have to say goes against most of my friends’ opinions, both on- and offline. I can’t tell if this review is an ‘angry feminist rant’ or if I have something worth saying—after all, the two aren’t mutually exclusive. I’m not here to answer those questions right now; take my thoughts as you find them, and please do tell me if and where you disagree.

~

Whenever I review a book or story, the first thing I look for is the primary relationship. Wonder Woman began strongly: there was potential for a royal tug-of-war between Diana’s duties to her mum and her dream to train with her aunt. Sadly, after the first plot point we saw no more of the Amazons—in fact the film barely passes the Bechdel Test thereafter! Instead to the forefront comes Diana’s relationship with Chris Pine’s character, Steve. And there most of my issues begin.

I’ll briefly mention instalove, because I’m forever criticising it and frankly it bores me. I classify the romance between Diana and Chris/Steve as instalove because they fall in love, have sex, and are parted by his death within the space of mere days (three/four days?). Throughout this time it’s unclear why she likes him, beyond the fact that he’s the first man she ever sees (EWWW). There is no chemistry; they don’t get to know each other beyond what her quest requires. The whole thing feels like an overblown statement of rejection to her all-female upbringing.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t have a problem with a woman having a relationship with a man, loving him, or having sex with him or with anyone else. It’s just as feminist for a woman to love and want a man as for a woman to do otherwise. What was not feminist was how the men treated Diana when she arrived in 1918 England.

Steve’s first move is to bundle Diana into the arms of his (female) secretary and abandon them at a clothes shop so Diana can find something less conspicuous to wear. While this scene was treated with practicality, mostly in Diana’s reactions to the uncomfortable and restrictive outfits with which she was presented, a makeover scene of any sort was surely unnecessary. How would a Wonder Man be introduced to Steve’s world? He would electrify himself on a toaster or accidentally crush a door handle. Wonder Woman was taken to a clothes shop and taught how to blend in. That made me really sad.

Sexist comments abound, which I will not permit even for the sake of historical context (my criticisms of the setting to follow). Most of the humour in the script comes from these comments. I like humour; I understand humour is a social construct; in this instance I also found it alienating, considering Diana’s naivety and cultural vulnerability. The humour is clearly aimed at men—come to that, the whole damn movie is written with one question in mind: “what would a man think of Diana at this moment?”

In another scene, Steve teaches Diana how to dance—again, something that would never happen with a Wonder Man. Then they go into a bedroom, he pushes her backwards as they make out, aaaand cut to black. Given that they met two days ago, have next to no chemistry, and he hasn’t stopped mansplaining since they landed in his country, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to wish there’d been some verbal consent. And that’s notwithstanding her two-day whirlwind introduction to the male sex! Her position to consent at all is dubious at best.

Yes, it’s established that Diana is well-informed about sex. Yes, she read all twelve volumes of a book that concludes men are not essential to female pleasure. So Diana’s decision to have sex with Steve a few days later could be an act of curiosity, if not true love (I am sceptical). Yet for me, it seemed like an opportunity for men to get off on the idea of an inexperienced woman thinking she knows about sex, and a man stepping in and showing her what’s what. Plus there’s a sick reek of entitlement about the fact that he’s the first man she ever sees.

And if it’s my own insecurity imagining men are laughing at her as she admits proudly to having read all twelve volumes, and actually nobody’s laughing at all, then let that be a sign that everybody needs to do better.

Diana’s naivety is understandable given she grew up on an island paradise in a tribe of warrior women. What is not understandable is why some bloke called Steve was allowed to control and instruct her in fitting into his world merely for his comfort. It’s plain unnecessary.

The crowning glory came with Steve’s death. Because that was the moment Diana amassed the strength to beat her enemy. BLEUGH!!!! Yes, that’s right: Wonder Woman’s lover had to die for her to come into her full potential. Through heartbreak, she learnt that love was the only way to beat the God of War. Love of a man. Just, why?

~

Now let’s untangle my issues with the World War I setting. I’m still racking my brains for why this particular war and time period was chosen.

From the beginning, ordinary German soldiers are demonised. One of Steve’s first lines goes something like, “I’m the good guy; they’re the bad guys.” And the Amazons proceed to slaughter the ‘bad guys’ for no apparent reason. It left me contemplating how differently the movie might’ve gone if the German boats had landed on the island ahead of Steve’s plane crash—or if maybe Steve had been a German spy and the boats full of Allied pursuers. Diana’s allegiance would surely have been reversed, and German lives would’ve been spared.

Which comes to that scene in the trenches. A glorious, sexy Wonder Woman heroically goes over the top, murders some Germans who, by the way, probably don’t know what they’re fighting for either, and what do we learn? That she’s pretty much bloody invincible. Whose idea was it to put a superhero in the trenches? I didn’t think the trenches could get much more unfair. I was wrong.

I was genuinely shocked when I discovered that this is an original WW story. The entire setting, in my opinion, was a sloppy decision designed to minimise worldbuilding—for a movie stuffed with gratuitous scenes that centre the male gaze! A feminist movie? Who was I kidding?

~

The most feminist thing they did was include a female antagonist: a brilliant Nazi chemist. But why did she have to have facial deformities? It hurts me every time an aesthetically diverse antagonist is juxtaposed against a hero with the world’s most symmetrical face. I’m so tired of the same trope over and over again: the demonization of the ‘ugly’ woman for the greater idolisation of the heroine, the ‘pretty’ woman. It reinforces the whole traditional beauty=good, physical deformity=bad thing – a narrative chiefly pushed by men, and frankly they can stop it. In fact, stop pitting women against each other without any nuance whatsoever. It hurts. And you know I said I was tired of the trope? I’m more tired still of Diana’s beauty and sexiness being referred to by the men around her again and again and again. Who wrote this damn script? Yeah, she’s attractive. Get over it.

~

I will admit that the feminist issues in this film are far from straightforward. Even the scenes that make me most uncomfortable contain acts and dialogue that do debunk the objectification of women. For example, in the makeover scene Diana asks, “How does one fight in this?” of an outfit. Yet for me, there did not seem to be any layer of awareness that it is a choice to include such scenes at all. That would have required Diana fighting back against the patriarchal stereotypes. There were throwaway comments, written in, probably, for either humour or brownie points. But there was no real substance to the so-called feminism in this movie, in my opinion.

In one respect, I acknowledge that Wonder Woman was not treated exactly the same as if she were a Wonder Man. Her gender is inherent to her presentation. But is that the aim, or is that the special hell of discussions around gender equality? My criticisms come down to the fact that the same movie can talk about men being inessential to female pleasure, and an hour later conclude that the ultimate female warrior cannot defeat evil without the knowledge of a man’s love.

In truth, I have barely even begun to unpick that.

And in fact, I hate that I’ve spent this entire review doing my angry feminist yelling about MEN THIS and MEN THAT. I loved Gal Gadot’s balance of strength and sensitivity. I loved the incredible Amazons, just…goals. I loved the shooting style and the CGI and the beautiful choreography. I wish there had been more of these complex, layered women and less of the insidious objectification and subordination of them.

I wanted a feminist icon and I suppose, all things considered, I got one. But that icon was Diana, who learned that drawing a sword does not maketh a warrior, and not Wonder Woman, who learned that to fulfil her destiny, she needed the context of a man.

That really brings me to my conclusion. My expectations were too high. Clearly, after all the hype, I imagined this film to be a feminist antidote to the male dominance centred in most superhero stories. But beyond having a female lead, Wonder Woman did not deliver. It’s another Hollywood blockbuster: a mediocre-to-decent superhero movie, but its feminism is as shallow as a gutter.

Four Learning Styles

Another interesting branch of interpersonal psychological differences. This time it isn’t MBTI, but learning styles (though there’s nothing to say the two theories aren’t related).

Up until about a month ago, I’d thought there were three recognised learning styles: Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic. They’re pretty self-explanatory, but for purposes of completion and self-satisfaction, I’ll explain anyway.

Visual Learners:

  • Are often good at visual art forms and enjoy excursions to art galleries
  • Remember things by picturing or visualising them
  • Perceive others’ meanings through their gestures, body language and facial expressions
  • Are distracted by sights
  • Are likely to take notes, draw mind-maps and ‘obsess’ over colour coordination
  • Are likely to dress for fashion and take pleasure in aesthetic ‘perfection’
  • May visualise the worst-case scenario in case of a misfortune
  • You like my emboldenings and italicisings? I’m doin’ that for you, Visuals!
Pretty picture? Well, it's certainly colourful.

Pretty picture? Well, it’s certainly colourful.

This is a common type, probably the most common. We many of us rely very heavily upon our sight, so that’s not surprising.

You might be able to perceive from my style of writing that I am not a Visual. No, sir; I am not. Not to say I don’t like pretty vistas et cetera.

Auditory Learners:

  • Are often good at speaking, debating and have a high appreciation of music
  • Remember verbal instructions and may have the ability to repeat speeches word for word
  • Perceive others’ meanings through their diction, articulation, dynamic and tone of voice
  • Are distracted by noise
  • Are likely to sing, whistle or hum…a lot
  • Are likely to enjoy talking on the phone
  • Easily perceive subtleties of voice and music
Yup, an ear.

Yup, an ear.

We all tick boxes in other categories. Meself, I can whistle the ‘Sailor’s Hornpipe’ at full speed. And so can all my protagonists 🙂

(By the way, if this sounds like you, go and listen to Dvorak’s Ninth Symphony. I am at the moment, and I’d forgotten how much I love it. Probably the nostalgia—the soundtrack of Barbie Rapunzel is basically Dvorak. Anyway…)

(Is it just an inconsequential theory of mine that many Visual and Auditory learners are also MB Sensing types? Okay, forget that.)

Kinaesthetic Learners:

  • Are often good at practical tasks such as crafts, mechanics and sports
  • Remember things by acting out and trying for themselves
  • Communicate through ‘touchy-feely’ gestures such as hugging for affection or a firm handshake for respect
  • Mostly buy clothes for comfort
  • Must often endure a traditional school learning environment favouring Visual and Auditory learning styles (let’s have a big loud ‘awww’)
  • According to one source, they have high intuition (hm, interesting, though I’d like to know exactly where such a conclusion came from)
Yes, he's pushing a chess piece. *shrug* Well, if it helps him learn how to play chess, what are you looking at?

Yes, he’s pushing a chess piece. *shrug* Well, if it helps him learn how to play chess, what are you looking at?

Okay, I was always awful at Science practicals. But whenever someone touches me—say, they tweak my elbow or measure the circumference of my wrist (yeah, seems pretty meaningless)—I feel automatically better about myself. I don’t know why. Perhaps I’m just starved of physical contact because I pretend to be detached and independent.

But no, I don’t believe I’m a Kinaesthetic learner, either. I just discovered the fourth learning style.

Auditory Digital Learners:

  • Can be difficult to identify (is that why I’d never even heard of the type before?)
  • Work best with information and data
  • Remember things by creating steps and procedures
  • May struggle with social interaction
  • Apparently the Socratic-debate style of question-and-answer might help with learning
  • I don’t know where the name comes from

Well, how else was I supposed to illustrate it? Nothing like a good tunnel of binary.

This is brilliant for characterisation. Understanding a character’s learning style is just as vital as nailing their personality—one might even argue that learning style is an integral part of character personalisation. Probably is. All these tests, we do them for ourselves because we’re interested in who we are and how we operate–and how we operate in relation to others who don’t necessarily understand or relate to us. Is it not just as vital to understand our characters, since we conceive every part of them ourselves, and set ourselves the task of determining all their goals, motives and methods?

Let’s have some characteristic words for each type: (Yes, I lifted these straight off http://mymindcoach.com.au/communicate-better/, which has frankly proved the basis for most of my observations. So, yeah, thanks for that.)

Visual: see, looks, appear, view, show me, dawn, reveal, imagine, illuminate, crystal clear

Auditory: can you hear, that sounds good, listen, make music, tune in, be all ears, that rings a bell, it resonates

Kinaesthetic: feel, touch, grasp, get a hold of, slips through, catch on, tap into, concrete, solid

Auditory Digital: sense, understand, think, learn, process, decide, consider, change, perceive, insensitive, conceive, distinct, know (each of these words I would probably use at an average of five or six times a day, depending on the conversation, whereas those in the other lists no more than twice or thrice at the very most)

Yes, we all use these terms all the time. But perhaps one particular person will pop into mind when you read each list. Or, even better—a character.

My thoughts linking to MBTI: we live in a Sensing world. We also live in a world of predominantly Visual and Auditory learners. Draw your own conclusions. I don’t mean to generalise.

My good friend dictionary.com details ‘learning’ as ‘the act or process of acquiring knowledge or skill’ (definition two).

My definition of the second MB dimension according to my first post on the subject claims it relates to the ‘methods we use to intake information’. (Yes, that was poorly worded. I should’ve edited that better. …Is this my Auditory Digital side asserting itself—feeling uncomfortable when something isn’t done to its best effect?)

In any case, I don’t think anyone will disagree that learning style and method of information intake are closely related.

That’s right. Have fun thinking about that a bit more. I’m going to bed.

___

Visual learner picture: http://www.wallcoo.net/paint/Jean-Marc_Janiaczyk_Painting_1600x1200/wallpapers/1600×1200/Jean-Marc_Janiaczyk_Art_Painting_cabanon%20aux%20lavandes.jpg

Auditory learner picture: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-c_c4pr3yvsk/Tx8a6xCVbuI/AAAAAAAAAKA/CZKl-ftNdIw/s1600/Ear_14439206.jpg

Kinaesthetic learner picture: http://members.tripod.com/teaching_is_reaching/images/j0078744.gif

Auditory digital learner picture: http://doktorspinn.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/digital-tunnel-wallpaper1.jpg

Too many tags? D: