In the first act of Wonder Woman, when Diana decides to leave her idyllic homeland of Themyscira in order to join the world of men to end the war, her mother Hippolyta (Gladiator’s Connie Nielsen) tells her that she can’t return. The film glosses over the reason why. Rather, it uses that moment as an emotional parent-child beat before moving on as Diana sets sail with Steve Trevor.
Spoilers for Wonder Woman are below.
At the end of DC’s Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot’s Diana is still in the world of men, decades after World War I. She seems to be working in the Louvre. In a casual voiceover, she mentions that she stayed to help. While the film doesn’t need to answer the question of why she doesn’t return to Themyscira, it actually has an answer. Or rather, several.
The Wonder Woman comics have changed their canon several times. Most notably, Wonder Woman’s sexuality and her relationship with Steve has undergone several different incarnations.
Themyscira is a secret, peaceful island, populated by Amazons and shielded from men. It was called Paradise Island in the comics until 1987. It’s a utopian realm full of diversity and equality — terms like “queer” and “bisexual” are alien to this world, because it adheres to a “love is love” mentality.
The name Themyscira has roots in Greek mythology, so the island’s exact location is vague in most stories. As the movie revealed, Steve’s compass is wonky there. It isn’t exactly easy to return to once you leave unless you know where it is.
In the original Greek myth, Aphrodite helped Queen Hippolyta and the Amazons defeat Hercules. The cost of her help, however, was that the Amazons must live isolated from the world of men.
Another reason Diana stayed away, however, is that when enemies look to diminish her power, they turn to Themyscira. In one comic storyline, Hydra turned most of the Amazons to stone. In another, Darkseid invaded and turned Amazons to stone. That would have been a major downer for the surprisingly uplifting DC film.
In other comics, Themyscira holds a doorway to the Underworld, or doom. The population of Themyscira must guard it — which would certainly restrict its border-control policy.
Although Wonder Woman does not linger on Hippolyta’s reasons for telling Diana she couldn’t return to Themyscira, the most likely answer is a combination of lore from various comics. As Hippolyta showed in scenes with her sister Antiope, she’s eager to maintain Themyscira’s peace and isolation. Perhaps she has an inkling that Diana would make friends in the world of men, who would be curious about the island. As well-intended as Diana’s pals Sameer, Charlie, and Chief are, adding them would change the chemistry of this land that is constantly on the brink of shifting the balance of its fragile peace.
Wonder Woman is currently in theaters.