In the first part, I talked about the fact that Wonder Woman the film cannot win in terms of pleasing everyone. In this post, I want to talk about how Wonder Woman the protagonist does not win at all.
Oh, it goes without saying.
The great reveal of Wonder Woman takes place in No Man’s Land. Wonder Woman heroically decides to stop the German assault and save a Belgian town. She begins a counter attack entirely on her own, but with the help of her friends, she is able to stop the assault. There is peace, but it does not last. The next day, there is a terrible gas attack on the town, and all of the people that she saved are now dead. Her heroic actions are rendered meaningless.
This is not the only time Diana loses in the film.
Diana believes that if she kills Ares, the god of war, she can stop the soldiers from fighting. She then meets the real Ares, who tells her that her mother lied to her and much of what she has taken as gospel truth is wrong. She believes that men are good, and that they are under the spell of Ares. Ares explains that he is not using mind control to force them to kill each other; he merely suggests ways for them to do this.
After this, Diana loses Steven, who is her love interest in the film and her guide to the world of humans. She feels this loss keenly and is deeply distressed.
Finally, she loses Ares. This may not seem like a loss, because
1 he is her enemy and
2 she kills him.
But it is a real loss.
First of all, she destroys Ares, but she also destroys an excuse for the bad behavior of men. For the next 100 years, Diana will live among men, watching all of the atrocities of the twentieth century knowing that this is a part of humanity.
Second of all, as Diana kills him, she says, “Goodbye my brother.” Diana has discovered that she is a goddess, and she has killed the only other remaining god, so far as we know. We do not know that there are any other gods. Diana discovers that she is a god, but she is forced to be completely alone, the last of her kind.
I do not know of many other superheros that lose so badly in their films. Red Letter Media talked about the message that this movie sends: “Save the world. But it will ultimately be meaningless.”
Why is that?
I think that this is because Wonder Woman is a coming of age story. Diana is literally a child at the beginning of the story, and she remains childlike throughout the beginning of the movie. Growing up, learning, changing, involves struggle. It involves letting go of childish beliefs and loss. It involves stepping out on ones own.
Wonder Woman does not win in her film. But by allowing her to grow up, she may win in the future.