9 Ways 'Wonder Woman' Could Have Been More Intersectional
Wonder Woman is undoubtedly a massive hit and milestone, both for the DCEU and for women in film overall. However, despite the movie's success, it's tough not to wonder how Wonder Woman could have been more intersectional. Even though watching it feels like watching the proverbial glass ceiling get shattered, there are still some shortcomings in the film's treatment of its protagonist, Diana, as well as its supporting characters. These issues become evident when you start to truly unpack the film and while it's totally OK to enjoy it for what it is, it's also just as valid to understand where, how, and why Wonder Woman falls short of some intersectional benchmarks.
That Wonder Woman is a major step in the right direction is certainly true. Look at the epic No Man's Land sequence — an example of female fighting prowess on display — or the fact that Diana grew up in a women-only society and saw representations of different kinds of womanhood. But it is also true that this superhero's origin story offered the opportunity for great intersectional feminism that never came to pass. There's a huge gloss over the appearance of women of color during the Themyscira sequence and, in another instance, there's an emphasis on how Diana is not like other women — a problematic sentiment when you take a closer look.
All things considered, we need to take a deeper look at some of the ways Wonder Woman could have achieved some truly intersectional victories.
1. Casting A Non-White Actor As Diana
This would have been a huge opportunity to explore casting Wonder Woman as someone other than a white woman. Yes, it's canon that she's white, but honestly, it's 2017. Who gives a damn? If you can deviate from canon by casting actors of color in previously white roles (see the casting of Idris Elba as Heimdall in Thor) for male-led movies, then you can certainly explore bringing a new element of representation to a female-led film.
2. Making Steve Trevor's Comrades Less Stereotypical
It was great to see Steve's team provide a united front of support for one another. However, there's a problem with the presentation of two team members, who happen to be people of color. The first issue is with The Chief, the Native American team member who is dressed as one might imagine a Native American who has been forced to assimilate to white culture would be dressed. While it's commendable that The Chief is there and that he points out the wrongs that "Steve's people" have perpetrated against Native Americans, there's still a whiff of tokenism about him.
The same could be said of Sameer, a person of color who is presented as a sexist, smooth-talking guy whose past criminal acts are hinted at. This characterization may have been done in an effort to present Steve's team as a band of rogues, but it feels problematic that Sameer is the one team member who is presented with these characteristics.
3. Giving Bigger Speaking Roles To Women Of Color
All the fist bumps go to the creation of an all-female society that shows women of different races, body types, and ages. There's no doubt this is one of the stronger creative decisions in Wonder Woman. However, that progressive choice falters when you realize the Themysciran women of color have a handful of lines at best. It would have been so much cooler if women of color in this film had been given a more prominent voice; it's not enough to merely show they inhabit a world.
4. Developing Etta Candy's Relationship To Diana
With such a great push on the empowerment of women, the fact that we barely got to see Etta Candy and the development of a strong friendship with Diana is a bit disheartening. In the comics, Etta isn't just a sidekick to Wonder Woman, but the film merely hints at her feisty nature (as in her disclosure she loves a "bit of fisticuffs") and never shows her in action. There's definitely more she could have connected to Diana over than just being women, although that's a great place to start.
5. Developing Dr. Poison, Too
Diana has three villains to fight, but oddly enough, it's the lone female evildoer she gets the least amount of interaction with. Dr. Poison is presented as a great threat, and audiences are even clued in on how she feels living in a male-dominated world. But so much more could have been done to examine Diana's own recognition that it's not just men who are capable of great evil, but women as well — especially when she's been presented with "good" women her entire life. The meeting of these two women should have happened, and instead it was glossed over.
6. Expanding On Diana's Sex Positivity
Diana's disclosure to Steve that she understands the difference between pleasure and procreation, as well as her statement that it's not necessary to have a man to experience pleasure, are huge moments for her development in Wonder Woman. Yet Diana's sex scene with Steve could've been shown, not just implied, in a way that didn't objectify her body but explored more of her own understanding on sex positivity.
7. Exploring The Implications Of An All-Female Society
The reality of growing up in an all-female society and the implications of that when it comes to love, relationships, work, and daily life were generally glossed over in Wonder Woman. While the film shouldn't exploit the queer possibilities presented by women living together in a closed society, if you're going to hint at it (as was the case when Antiope's second-in-command appears very visibly distraught over her death in a way that implies a closer relationship), you may as well explore it a bit more.
8. Refusing To Reinforce Diana's Otherness
It's pretty evident that Diana is not like other people from the very moment she sets foot on London soil. Heck, it's evident she's not like the others back on Themyscira, and it's a point that is repeated over and over again. This may be accurate, but the constant repetition that Diana is so great because she's not like others and especially not like other women gets tiresome. The notion of "otherness" where that otherness puts other women down is not OK.
9. Featuring A Better Depiction Of People Of Color In World War I
This may be a minor gripe since the film is focused on the European front of World War I, but it'd be nice if we got more than just brief hints and visions of soldiers of color in this war. To explore those implications of a truly international mix of soldiers coming together to fight for a common goal would have been interesting to see.
Make no mistake: Wonder Woman is a genuinely great film. It's so important it exists. That said, going forward, maybe the creative team behind future Wonder Woman films could approach the story, characters, and world of the heroine with intersectional concerns like these in mind.