I am not a comic-book kind of a girl and the number of superhero movies I’ve watched can easily be counted on one hand. However, I’ve been anticipating the Wonder Woman movie for months. For me the ideas of feminism, the belief in and promotion of gender equality across all aspects and walks of life, and Zionism, the self-determination of the Jewish people in their historic homeland, Israel are espoused throughout the film. As a Jewish, feminist woman, these two ideologies are the cornerstones of who I am and to see them reflected in such a widely anticipated film was invigorating.
Wonder Woman, directed by Patty Jenkins (2017) is artful, funny, intelligent and full of heart. But most important, the story rests on the strength, both physical and emotion, of an incredible woman. Throughout the film, Princess Diana grows from a young and naïve girl into a woman who crafts her own destiny. Diana also values learning: she speaks many languages, studies human culture and biology, and works hard to refine her skills. Jenkins even refers to Diana as the “emblem of feminism” because when she enters a room full of men making important decisions, she never questions whether or not she belongs. Instead, she shows them that she is capable and does not quiver in the face of expectations.
Feminist themes continue through the climax of the film, which calls for Wonder Woman to use her physical abilities and her conscience to save the world from the God of War. Her belief in her own capabilities sets a great example for young people, especially girls, that they can be the master of their own fate and accomplish anything they set their hearts and minds to.
While waiting for the film to be released, I watched interviews of the cast where they spoke about the importance of maintaining the integrity of Wonder Woman’s ability to love while showcasing her superhuman abilities. While watching the film, the clarity of this balance changed the atmosphere in the room. The audience was captured by the intensity of her spirit. Seeing such a strong and powerful woman who had been taught and trained by strong and powerful women who came before her was a brief haven from the sad and disheartening news with which we are inundated at every turn.
The movie clearly demonstrates that believing in love and accepting people for their differences is a “super power” in its own right. The cast was outspoken in supporting this message, particularly the actress who played Wonder Woman herself, Gal Gadot. Gal described in her interviews with American late-night talk show hosts, including Jimmy Fallon, how, as a girl from a tiny town in Israel, she never expected to be staring in a popular American movie.
Gadot’s open enthusiasm for both Israel and Judaism is truly refreshing. She does not shy away from her culture or her nationality, and uses her platform to highlight the values she holds dear. For example, when interviewed by Marie Claire for her cover shoot in May, Gal discussed her love for Israeli chutzpah and their willingness to speak openly about what’s on their mind. She has also mentioned that she is grateful to Israel and feels pride in having served in the army because it was a way for her to give back. Gal said in an interview with Glamour Magazine that, “Let me start by saying, I wish no country had the need for an army. But in Israel serving is part of being an Israeli. You’ve got to give back to the state. You give two or three years, and it’s not about you. You give your freedom away. You learn discipline and respect.”
Other famous actresses, including Mindy Kaling and Lupita Nyong’o, have expressed on their Instagram accounts their support for Gal and the message she is sending through Wonder Woman. Nyong’o describes Gal as having “[glued] her attention to the screen” and making her want to run to buy a Wonder Woman costume. Seeing all the endorsements of Gal as a feminist, outside of her role as Wonder Woman, makes me feel much more comfortable at the intersection of feminism and Zionism. To publicly embrace her as a feminist is to show that feminism and Zionism are not at odds. In many ways, for me, having Gal as a role model is just as important as having Wonder Woman.
Time and time again the cast has spoken about the value in having role models for young girls to admire. These role models are incredibly important for children, but they also have a lot of value for older crowds who are also not used to seeing such multidimensional and successful female characters. As I walked out of the theater, I could not stop smiling. I knew that both the message and the success of the movie were going to have a profound effect on audiences around the world. Hopefully, as a result, Hollywood will begin to make more movies of this nature and thus they will be less extra-ordinary.