When Wonder Woman hits theaters in June, it’ll be the first superhero movie since 2005’s Elektra to feature a woman as the titular lead. It’ll also be the first film ever to star this Justice League character, who’s also known as Princess Diana of Themyscira. Wonder Woman could use its platform to convey a feminist message. Will it?
Based on recent interviews, it seems that the filmmakers, as well as the lead actress, Gal Gadot, have specifically tried to give Wonder Woman a feminist framework. We can’t totally predict how successful they’ll be, but that intention says a lot. Many within the entertainment industry continue to shun any association with feminism because the term still hasn’t received mainstream acceptance. In April, the cast of The Handmaid’s Tale insisted that their show isn’t feminist; lead actress Elisabeth Moss called it “humanist.”
In the Times interview, Gadot spoke of her attempts, alongside director Patty Jenkins, to ground the film’s feminism within the world-building of Themyscira, Diana’s fictional island home. Themyscira is inhabited only by women, so their tactic was to make Diana free of internalized sexism and any knowledge whatsoever of socialized gender roles. She’s a nonconforming outsider when she shows up in London. Gadot elaborated:
“Feminism is about equality and choice and freedom. And the writers, Patty and myself all figured that the best way to show that is to show Diana as having no awareness of social roles. She has no gender boundaries. To her, everyone is equal.”
Some may critique this tactic as too passive. It’s possible that characterizing Diana as “gender-blind” is a less effective way to make a feminist movie than positioning her as someone who explicitly confronts gendered expectations and sexism. For now, we can really only posit how effective the method will be; we’ll just have to watch the film to find out.
Wonder Woman premieres in theaters on June 2.