Last week I went to see the new Wonder Woman film starring Gal Gadot. The film did a great job of explaining the origins of Diana Prince, making her an engaging protagonist, and weaving a narrative with heart. Needless to say, I enjoyed the film.
I’m not here to give a movie review, though, or discuss Wonder Woman as an American icon. She has been through quite a lot as a character, adapting to the many waves of progression as the roles and perceptions of women have changed since the early 20th century. Instead, I want to talk about what Gal Godot brought to the character- unwavering confidence.
Sure, Wonder Woman has superhuman strength, cat-like reflexes, bullet-proof bracelets, and lasso skills to rival the Lone Ranger, but, really, the trait that allows her to accomplish her mission- stopping humanity from killing each other in The Great War and defeating the god Ares- is her belief in her abilities and convictions.
In the beginning of the movie, Diana is a child who knows that she wants to be a warrior. As the only child among the fearless Amazons, she watches as the warrior women train in the arts of combat, archery, and swordsmanship. Her mother does not want her to learn these combat skills, but Diana knows it is her calling and she defies her mother by following her curiosity and interests. Diana grows up to become an accomplished fighter, possibly the best of all the Amazons.
When Steve Trevor’s plane crashes near the Amazon’s secret island of Themyscira, Diana rescues him without a second thought. Steve’s enemies pursue him to the shores of the island and the Amazons defeat them. Diana protects Steve and he tells her that he must return to London to save his people from a deadly German gas and help end the war. Diana feels that all signs point to Ares being responsible for men killing each other in the war. As an Amazon, it is her duty to defeat the evil god of war.
Diana tells her mother that she wants to accompany Steve back to the war. Her mother refuses and says that Steve will remain their prisoner. Here, Diana must take a stand. She, again, defies her mother. Diana’s intuition tells her that Ares is involved in the war and she listens to herself. She knows her calling is to help humanity.
When Diana and Steve arrive in London, she feels no shame in the differences between her Amazonian wardrobe and the Londoners’. Her focus is on the war, alone. Wonder Woman isn’t wasting time thinking about whether she fits in. She focuses on accomplishing her goal.
At the Western Front in Belgium, Diana, Steve, and their team finally confront the war. Diana sees that she can help on the battlefield, where the men are struggling and a village is under siege. Steve wants to press ahead with his own mission of finding the German’s and stopping their deadly gas. He tries to push Diana to forget about the situation they’re looking at and focus on his task. Diana will not be pushed, though. She stands her ground and knows that she can help save the village. While the soldiers are hiding in their trenches, Diana charges into the no-man’s-land toward the enemy. I doing so, she gives the soldiers confidence as well and they follow her into the fight.
Diana’s arc builds as scene by scene her belief in herself grows stronger and she becomes more confident as a fighter for people. This is why I admire her as a character in the film. It is unusual to see a female character show such leadership and it’s captivating, inspiring.
It can be argued that all superheroes have confidence or at least gain confidence by the end of their story- they wouldn’t be very good at their jobs otherwise. However, it seems that Wonder Woman really needs this trait to be successful as a character, beyond her hands-on-hips power pose.
If Wonder Woman didn’t have confidence, she would not leave Themyscira with Steve Trevor, go out onto the battlefield when everyone tells her not to, or hunt an enemy that no one else believes is real. It is her self-belief that makes her character so great in this film. Without it, she would be a flimsy caricature- a novelty as a female superhero, alone, and not a real character that people are loving.