Wonder Woman (2017): A Battle of Truth

*contains spoilers*

Secrets. Ignorance. Betrayal. DC’s Wonder Woman (2017), directed by Patty Jenkins, is a story of Diana, a warrior princess who leaves her home to fight in a battle that leads to her discovering her true heritage and identity. 

The film begins with a prologue voiced by Gal Gadot, who plays Princess Diana of Themyscira aka Wonder Woman. It alludes to a change in attitude following an event where knowledge was gained. ‘I used to want to save the world, but I knew so little then.’ This self-reflection of previous ignorance intrigues the audience and bonds us to Diana. She reflects that this found knowledge has changed her forever: ‘Now I will never be the same.’ 

Visually, this is then demonstrated by a change in scenery as we are transported to Diana’s childhood on Paradise Island. Here, we see Diana as a child who constantly defies her mother, Queen Hippolyta played by actress Connie Nielson, and strives to learn to be the best fighter of the Amazons. It is clear to the audience that Diana exceeds the other Amazons through her passion and ambition to fight, despite her mother believing she isn’t ready to learn with them at such a young age.

As we watch Diana grow up, we learn that her aunt could see that she would become a great fighter for Paradise Island, and began to teach Diana how to fight, albeit initially against her mother’s wishes. Her aunt knew that Diana was destined to leave the island one day to fight Ares, the God of War – suggesting that perhaps Diana was destined to leave as much as she was destined to know the truth. She could foresee the future better than her sister, who’s judgement was clouded by parental love. This perhaps leads viewers to question whether parental love is a valid excuse for parents to hide secrets from their children, especially when important matters such as their heritage are concerned.

After the invasion of British pilot Captain Steve Trevor (and that’s all he’s at liberty to say!) combined with the German soldiers that were hunting him, the Amazons become aware of the great war taking over the human world. Blaming Ares, Diana believes it is her responsibility as an Amazon to fight him and stop the war among humans. Therefore, in the middle of the night, Diana steals the infamous ‘God-killer’ sword and shield then secretly releases Steve, demanding that she will free him on the condition that he would take her to Ares. The plan being hastily agreed upon, they begin their hurried departure. Alas they are caught by her mother but instead of objecting, she simply warns Diana that once gone she may not be able to return. The inability to return may also symbolise not being able to unknow the truth once it is learned. Perhaps this is why the queen chose not to tell Diana her true birth story, even though it is the last time she would likely see her daughter ever again. Or maybe, the real reason was that she was scared, as so many people are, to tell Diana the truth, fearing the betrayal Diana may feel at learning the secret her mother had kept from her for her entire life. 

Upon leaving the island and entering the human world, it is evident how ignorant Diana is to human life, particularly the rules of society. Many innuendos unknown to Diana are made on the boat between Captain Trevor and herself, with the former proclaiming ‘I do sleep with women!’. Diana is constantly learning in her new environment, from gendered societal roles to the realisation that people aren’t always good. As a woman, she is continually underestimated in her abilities, assumed to be all beauty (which is consistently brought up by friends and strangers alike) and no strength, but she constantly proves them wrong. Wonder Woman questions the gendered societal roles of 1918 as she queries the reason women were not allowed to fight, pointing out that women’s fashion was unfit to fight in. Here, Steve’s secretary remarks on the suffragette movement, saying that their fight to win the vote was the only fighting a woman would be doing. Diana struggles to understand society and has constant questions for the captain, mirroring people’s reaction to coming to terms with new truth. The constant role reversal between Wonder Woman and Captain Trevor – which began at their first meeting with Diana saving ‘the damsel’ Steve – defies stereotypical gender roles and is effectively portrayed by Jenkins throughout the film. It is ironic that Wonder Woman doesn’t fit into the human world having previously declared that the Amazons were a bridge to greater understanding among men, further foreshadowing the fact that Diana is not a true Amazon. 

Eventually, Diana is taken to the front line by Captain Trevor and his soldier friends. The distressing nature of war is highlighted, emphasising how important the fight between Diana and Ares really is. Soldiers are shown to be going into war without knowing the meaning of it, just as Diana doesn’t know the true significance of her battle with Aries at this stage. 

At first, she was mistaken and killed a man who she falsely believed to be Ares. She was shocked at her own behaviour and momentarily deterred. In that time, Ares (played by David Thewlis) reveals himself, like the truth which will eventually become known too. Proclaiming he is the God of truth rather than war, he tells Diana that she is the real God-killer because she is the daughter of Zeus. She is a half-god yet, only gods can kill other gods. This was a tactic aimed to distress her at a crucial moment in battle yet regardless, Diana perseveres, just as life goes on once the truth is learned, no matter how shocking it is at the time. She defeats Ares and the war ends. 

As an audience, we were kept in the dark as much as Diana despite a few clues that some eagle-eyed viewers may have picked up on, such as her unusual forceful power when she fought with her aunt in the beginning of the film. Just as Ares was hidden in plain sight, the fact that Diana was Zeus’ daughter, and the ‘God killer’, was too.

In the end, Diana remains in the human world, knowing her true identity as a half god. She keeps her identity private, the note on the picture remarking that ‘maybe one day you’ll share your story’. It is okay to keep your own secrets, but when they affect other people who can get hurt by it, problems arise, and relationships can falter. This is perhaps partly why Diana remains in the human world – unable to trust her mother again. Diana went into the human world ignorant of her birth right as much as we were, yet her ignorance was not through her own fault; she was shielded from the truth by her mother, for better or for worse and that is up to us to ponder upon and conclude.

Overall, through Wonder Woman’s journey from living in paradise to living in the war ridden world of humanity, we question whether she would have been happier living in ignorant bliss in paradise with her family or whether she is better off knowing the truth.

Rachel McEwan 

Featured Image Source: Still via Youtube // WONDER WOMAN – Official Trailer [HD]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s