Why We Expect So Much More From “Wonder Woman” Than Other Superheroes

I saw the new Wonder Woman: 1984 a few nights ago, and I really liked it. This was surprising to me, because I struggle with liking super hero movies lately. I think I’ve just been worn out from too many Avengers movies. You know, there are the movies featuring ALL the Avengers, then you have at last two to three for each hero. When it’s all said and done, there are now 22 of them. Twenty-two! That’s a lot.

Before everyone has a heart attack, YES I KNOW that Wonder Woman is DC and not Marvel. There is no way I could live in this family and not know this. Even if I managed to remain ignorant within the confines of my home, I couldn’t teach high school for several years and not make the connection. The kids would not let me.

As a girl, I loved the Justice League. Superman was my favorite, probably because it’s one of the first movies I remember seeing in the theater. Christopher Reeve haunted my dreams. SO CUTE. Besides his looks, I loved the villains (Lex Luthor!) and Superman’s general bad-assedness. I mean, HE’S A GOD. Say what you want about Batman being great, but if you strip Bruce Wayne of his money and toys, he’s basically a low-key Mr. Miagi. I would bet on Mr. Miagi winning that battle.

There have been SO many super hero films over the years, and let’s face it: most of them aren’t THAT great. They recycle the same hero’s journey story over and over. They are predicable. The writers sprinkle in humor and a love story to balance it out, but nobody expects anything new or groundbreaking when we see a new movie coming out. Sure, movie fans will wait in line to buy the ticket (pre-Covid days, sigh), and spend the money to buy the merchandise and clothing and special edition copies, even so.

So tell me, why we expect Wonder Woman to be better?

Why does Wonder Woman need to start out above the bar from what we’d expect from the 10,000 Spider Man remakes? Why does she have to be smarter, sexier, more athletic, funnier, more badass than all the others?

It’s simple.

We are STILL sexist.

Bear with me.

Even though Diana Prince (portrayed by Gal Gadot) has a Ph.D. (don’t ask the opinion writer at the Wall Street Journal his opinion on this), and holds a job as the Senior Anthropologist at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C., that’s somehow not impressive for us. In comparison, Clark Kent is just a beat reporter, and Peter Parker takes photos for a paper. Barry Allen is a forensic scientist, which means he has some sort of degree, but it’s not a Ph.D. Bruce Wayne has a law degree, so I acknowledge that’s pretty educated, but can we give Dr. Prince her due? She’s not Batgirl, who has been depicted as a dizzy college coed.

DC combines a few myths and legends for Diana’s origin story. She’s Amazon royalty, descended from Ares, the God of War, a tribe of women so hard-core that they sawed off their breasts to accommodate their swords, were rumored to have tattoos, and possibly smoked pot. Diana is also known in Roman mythology, the Goddess of the Hunt, and virgin goddess and protector of women and childbirth. Even though she radiates sexuality, she doesn’t use it for her own gain. She fights Nazis. Come on, y’all. She’s the perfect woman. Psychology Today agrees.

DC makes sure that Kristin Wiig’s character (Cheetah) seems to be the dark mirror reflection of Diana. The name “Barbara Minerva” caught my eye, since I was taught that Minerva was the Roman goddess of several things, including war. She’s a worthy opponent, and a heavy hitter in her own right. She’s not a villain that became so because she accidentally fell in a convenient vat of acid. Her name implies she had a destiny to go bad. She’s not Cat Woman, a laughable campy joke who could barely be called an adversary.

Did you know that in the original Wonder Woman comics, the creator of Wonder Woman, William Moulton Marston, admitted that ““Not a comic book in which Wonder Woman appeared, and hardly a page, lacked a scene of bondage.” Apparently, he didn’t want her to become too powerful and intimidating, so he wanted to keep her in check somehow.

Could it be that we haven’t changed too much, even in 2020? We still expect Diana to be everything to all, and we expect her movie to be head and shoulders above the others, but why?

It seems Wonder Woman has her work cut out for her. She’s taking on the patriarchy and evil as well.

Don’t agree with me? Let me know in the comments!