I’ve now watched this film three times: once on the big screen, and twice at home. Tonight, my 7-year-old daughter chose it. I know, it’s probably not ideal for her age group. But she has older siblings, and she’s seen it already. For at least a week after she first saw it, she pressed me to explain on a daily basis why I hadn’t named her Diana. And she’s not a girly girl: usually she wants to be Captain America. So I couldn’t say no.
It occurred to me this time through that the ‘wonder’ about Wonder Woman is twofold (at least). Of course, Diana is a wonder. She stops bullets and deflects bombs. She’s amazing with a sword. She vanquishes the god of war. And she does it all exquisitely: she’s stunningly beautiful. She’s wonderful.
She is also full of wonder. Little Diana is wide-eyed at the myths her mother tells her. She wants to fight like the rest of the Amazons, little knowing what will come of her training. When she sends Antiope flying across the field, she is amazed at her own strength. Even her meeting with Steve Trevor fresh from the healing pool is a scene in which she seems full of wonder. I could go on–so much about her time in London is characterised by wonder.
For Diana, the most unbelievable thing, it seems to me, is the way in which human beings are able to compartmentalise, to seal themselves off from the suffering of others far away, or to turn a blind eye to the wounded and needy right in front of them. She passes soldiers returning from battle–missing a leg, unable to walk, bleeding, staring vacantly past her. And all she can think is, ‘How can I make this stop?’ When she encounters the woman (totally out of place, of course) in the trench (really!), she cannot walk away. She cannot believe that anyone would–which is a different facet of that same wonder, I think. So she crosses no-man’s-land. (So much about this is a historian’s nightmare. I know, because I am married to one.) She saves a village and then has a fresh experience of wonder when it starts to snow.
I know why I couldn’t say no to my 7-year-old when she suggested that we watch Wonder Woman. Like my 7-year-old, she is full of wonder; like my 11-year-old, she is sure that she can defeat the baddies–and so she does. But she does it without swagger. She does it because it needs doing. She does it with a sense of amazement and hope that I find refreshing. She never loses that sense of wonder. And maybe that–even more than an ass-kicking superhero–is what we most need from Wonder Woman. I know I do.