Like many others, I walked out of Wonder Woman feeling unexpectedly empowered. I had just taken my SAT subject tests and was desperate for an action-packed, CGI-filled distraction. What I got was much more: uncontrollable laughter, spine-tingling action sequences, my new female inspiration, and more than a few possibly cheesy life lessons.
Here’s a quick plot rundown: Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), who goes by Diana Prince in the film, lives on an idyllic island populated by fierce female warriors, where she was born, raised, and trained. After pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes onto the shore and informs them of a great war that is raging outside, Diana follows him back to dreary 1918 London, believing she can end it.
Besides the fact that, clearly, women can be just as strong, assertive, and powerful as men, Wonder Woman conveyed other messages that stuck with me.
Women Don’t Have To Give Up Their Feminine Qualities to Be Strong
When soldiers arrive on the island of Themyscira, the women pack their arrows, charge into battle, and slaughter every German invader without hesitation – all while sporting beautifully styled hair and revealing armor. And there’s Wonder Woman herself: she’s breathtaking in the draped blue dress she dons to infiltrate a party, but the sword nestled between her shoulder blades reminds us that she’s ready to take down a villain at the drop of a hat. While other female movie characters flaunt their masculinity to convey their strength (often by cursing, dressing in modest black, and/or keeping a stone-cold expression), Diana Prince and her fellow Amazons know that this isn’t necessary to put up a good fight. They prove that femininity – and traits like compassion and love – is never a weakness.
The Safe Option Is Not Always the Right One
After Steve Trevor tells the Amazon warriors about World War I, Diana insists that they leave Themyscira to help restore peace. Her mother Hippolyta refuses her plea, not wanting to place the island in danger to fight in an unfamiliar war. Diana, left with no other option, retrieves her weapons late at night and sneaks away with Steve. Pursuing happiness, love, or — in Diana’s case — duty can be a compelling reason to leave the comfort of safety. Just because one path is “safer” doesn’t mean we should drop our own dreams and beliefs to follow it.
Happiness Comes From Appreciating the Little Things
Diana is happiest in the film when she explores the real world for the first time, marveling at the small delicacies we often take for granted. She gasps at the sight of a crying baby, and when she tries an ice cream cone she proclaims to the vendor, “You should be very proud!” There’s also a touching scene in the middle of the movie where Steve teaches her how to dance, and for a moment Diana is in a peaceful state of bliss. In the end, (SPOILER) it’s not ending the war or killing Ares that brings Diana joy. Those were the necessary, right things to do, but they weren’t accomplished without heavy losses. Instead, it was the minor, unplanned experiences that brought her happiness and encouraged her to keep fighting for what she believed in. That goes to show we shouldn’t rely on external achievements like winning a medal to give us happiness – often it comes from treasuring the things and people already around us.
Female Standards Are Ridiculous
Since Diana grew up in an all-female paradise, she’s baffled by how women are treated in mainstream society. While shopping for clothes to blend in with twentieth-century London, she comes across a corset and asks why women need to keep their stomachs in. She raises her eyebrows when she learns Etta Candy has basically given up her life to be Steve Trevor’s secretary (or “slave” as she calls it) and is confused by the outrage she caused by entering a male-only meeting. Through the eyes of someone who grew up surrounded by strong, talented women and is just discovering the real world’s limitations on females, we see how unfair and (literally) restrictive they are. Diana’s reactions remind us that these conditions really don’t make sense since women are just as capable as men.
People Are Worth Saving
The villains in Wonder Woman plan to murder millions with a poisonous gas they’ve developed. Corrupt, hateful men prolong the war. And Steve Trevor stops Diana from killing a villain, which causes an entire village to die. But despite having been shown humanity’s malice again and again, Diana chooses to see how kind, loving, and selfless people can be. (SPOILER) This ultimately gives her the strength to end the war and prevent countless deaths.
As tragic events splatter the news and screenshots of people spelling words like “metiocre” as “meaty oaker” pepper BuzzFeed, it’s tempting to lose faith in humanity. But these are just a few pixels from a greater picture; the one percent of the one percent. No one is perfect, but the majority of us are trying our best to be good, to be people who – unlike what Hippolyta believed – deserve Wonder Woman.