“Is this how guys feel, during other superhero flicks?” exclaimed Cammien Ray, talking about watching Diana Prince climb onto the battlefield of No Man’s Land.
A standing room only crowd filled Marriott M301–302 to talk about the highs, and the higher highs, that came from the summer blockbuster DC release of Wonder Woman. Panelists Ray, Kevin Eldridge, Tyra Burton, Jeni Green, and Jenna Johnson led the discussion through both the storyline itself, and the resonance for fans in the origin story of Diana(,) Prince(ss of Themyscira).
Much of the discussion, both between panelists and with the audience, was about how this particular portrayal of Diana is so strong and empowering for women who have quite literally never had this type of movie for them. Of all the superhero movies, of which there are many, and many franchises with multiple reboots, Wonder Woman offered the first leading woman superhero, and the first step to a female-oriented superhero franchise (the second Wonder Woman was confirmed earlier this summer, with a release date in December 2019). As of August 5, 2017, Wonder Woman’s box office take was just over $400 million domestically, and just over $800 million worldwide.
“It breaks a stereotype that definitely exists in society that being beautiful means you’re not smart, or your not strong, or that feeling like you’re not beautiful makes you just smart… beauty transcends; it’s not just about what’s on the outside,” offered an impassioned Johnson, as the conversation shifted to the negative online comments about Gal Gadot’s looks in her portrayal, and how ridiculous those comments were. Others touched upon costume choices, where when they could have objectified Gadot/Diana, but chose instead to give her (and the other Amazons of Themyscria) functional armor, that even came with breast support, which is something sadly many female characters are not afforded. A discussion around the idea of “Hollywood imperfections” also ensued, where it was pointed out that the film didn’t airbrush away wrinkles or crows’ feet of some of the older actresses, and also had a (30-foot-tall—average height of a movie theater screen) moment where Diana dropped to a knee and her thigh jiggled. One clear take-away from everyone in the room was that, while everyone involved in the film was Hollywood-standard beautiful, they weren’t “perfect,” and those small things offered a more realistic, and more personal, connection for the audience.
Eldridge wondered at the setting for the film, which takes place during World War I, a setting not used for many films at all, especially in the superhero genre (which seem to prefer the “war against an ideology” setting of WWII, rather than WWI, which as an audience member pointed out, was not a war for something, but more of “a really big mistake.”). Green offered that it was “super appropriate, given everything going on in the world right now.” An audience member with a degree in American history pointed out how pivotal to the direction society went in WWI was and that, therefore, both the setting and the war-based aspects of the story were important for the direction of the movie itself as well, and that they were, for the most part, historically accurate.
The discussion between audience and panel was passionate, funny, poignant, and could have easily continued for hours if there had only been time. But Amazons and fans are in luck, as there will be another Wonder Woman panel, Wonder Woman: Life Beyond Themyscria, on Monday at 11:30AM in Marriott M301–302.