Wonder Woman 1984: Fall of the Divine Feminine
Like many people, I watched Wonder Woman 1984 with eager anticipation for the latest saga of Patty Jenkins femme émerveillée. While I must admit the idea of 1984 with its bad hair, lack of overall style and an obsession with fanny packs wouldn’t have been my first decade of choice, I was highly intrigued nonetheless at what might lay ahead for Diana in the synthesized world of the eighties.
As I dove into the film I became increasingly excited at the idea of what an Orwellian-themed DC Universe might look like for Wonder Woman. And while they certainly did touch upon it through the machinations of the ego-maniacal Maxwell Lord, the full potential of it felt never fully realized. As a matter of fact, most of the film seemed to be more of a deliberate dumbing down of an iconic superhero, whose unlimited potential for the embodiment of feminine power was crushed under the weight of archaic storytelling.
There seems to be a real issue with women being powerful and independent of a man, and this film falls right into that narrative. I am not talking about physical strength as Wonder Woman has plenty of that and more, I am focusing more on the emotional strength of the character. In the original comic book series, Princess Diana was carved from clay by her mother Queen Hippolyta. It was the goddess of love, Aphrodite who then breathed life into her without the need or seed of a man. Later on, the comics were then changed to having Diana’s parentage be that of Hippolyta and Zeus, and the first film combines the two with Hippolyta carving Diana out of clay and Zeus breathing life into her. It seems that these overly patriarchal themes somehow find their way into the re-telling of the divine feminine diminishing the creative and destructive nature of raw feminine power by regelating its dependency on that of a man’s love or approval.
In the case of Wonder Woman, these overly pro-man themes just don’t seem logical considering where she hails from. The Amazons according to Greek Mythology were not only all-female warriors but when they did procreate with men they often killed them afterward. If they should give birth to a son they would commit infanticide or sell him into slavery. In the Wonder Woman mythology, the Amazons were immortal and so, therefore, did not have to procreate, they were justice seekers and of defenders of truth. Either way, the goddess Diana raised by the immortal Amazons of Themyscira speaks to a pedigree that would not be prone to pining over the loss of a man. While it was nice to see Chris Pine reprise his role as Steve Trevor, there was something inauthentic about the whole experience. The idea of a woman longing for a man is an outdated, patriarchal mythos that keeps women trapped in the idea that they must be with a lover or end up depressed for eternity. But more importantly, it goes against everything Diana is. She is not human and is therefore not limited to the confines of human emotion. The realm of the gods is a higher dimensional reality where emotions are mastered, so it might have been cool to have seen Wonder Woman go on and live her life as the empowered goddess she is guiding humanity to ascend to their highest good rather than use her one wish to manifest her deceased lover.
Where I might have been inclined to see a love connection would have been between Barbara Minvera and Maxwell Lord, the film’s two sycophants. As these two characters engaged in a flirtatious bought of juvenile petting, I thought for sure there might be a love affair imminent. This would have set up an interesting alliance. As a matter of fact, I would have much preferred watching those two characters fall in whatever form of self-possessed love they could muster than to watch the awkward rekindling of Steve (in another man’s body) and Diana. It would have highlighted the theme of love from the polarity perspective of two outcasts in possession of untold power they cannot control, which ultimately destroys them.
Speaking of manifestations, let’s chat for a minute about the Dreamstone. Many films use a MacGuffin (a plot device that drives to story forward) the most notable being the Indiana Jones films (i.e. Arc of the Covenant, Holy Grail, Crystal Skulls, etc.) and they use them to great success with the seekers having to unravel the mystery of the relic by uncovering its inexplicable origins. While there was an amazing opportunity to really delve into the mythology surrounding this coveted Dreamstone, it was sadly never realized. Rather than sitting in a plane gazing at the imposter Trevor, it would have been totally awesome (Eighties speak) to be off on an epic adventure, discovering the demonic history of the Dreamstone, then watching them have to solve the mystery of reversing it. Instead, we are gifted with a wannabe Shaman living in something metaphorically akin to his mother’s basement conveniently in possession of the very book that has all the answers they seek. Anticlimactic to say the least, but okay, now we know what this thing does.
“Nothing good is born from lies and greatness is not what you think…”
This wasn’t my favorite of the two films, but it still has elements we can all agree upon:
- Cheaters never truly win even if they happen to take over the world.
- Good usually prevails but not before getting an epic ass-kicking.
- Power unchecked leads to a dystopian society.
While I love the idea of humanity saving itself, as it’s a powerful theme that with the proper set-up could inspire humanity to rise to its greatest potential, this is not that film. I have a hard time getting behind the idea of Diana inspiring the world at large to renounce their wishes. It is certainly a noble idea to show the humans the world they had created with their thoughts, as that is an existential theme on all existence, yet it wasn’t realistic for me. Someone who is wishing for death, money, fame, power, etc. is not spiritually evolved enough to be illuminated by truth even if it is coming from a goddess extolling the virtues of it. It just isn’t feasible that these kinds of people would so readily give up their wishes. This opens up the idea that there may in fact be more super villains coming our way, somehow spawned from Maxwell’s 1984 alternate reality broadcast event. Finally, while I appreciate the sentiment of Maxwell Lord renouncing his wish due to the love of his child, this is just not realistic for sociopaths. There was no evidence at all of any true love between Maxwell and his son other than the narcissistic yearnings for his son to be proud of HIM, and the most notable psychological profile of a sociopath is a lack of empathy. In truth, a more noble ending would have been if our enlightened goddess had quietly wished for world peace. Sure, those opposing energies of creation and destruction might have caused a paradox that could have sent us spiraling into another dimension where those who renounced their wishes and those who did not are now trapped in polarizing realities of the time-space continuum BUT hey, it would have given our hero another opportunity to save humanity from itself. Alas, I digress.
Is Wonder Woman worth watching? Yes. The film certainly has its moments where we can once again bear witness to the strength and fortitude of our main character, and we can admire her determination to save those who cannot save themselves. It also weaves in some spiritual elements I for one can say I sincerely appreciate. We need more heroes like Wonder Woman; champions of the underdog, inspiration to all, and an example of feminine strength and dignity in action. I just wish we could be okay with embracing the divine feminine without relegating our female superheroes to mushy lovesick teenagers.