So I went to watch Wonder Woman after reading and hearing rave reviews. The movie lives up to all the hype about the fighting sequences, the costumes and the weapons.
It indeed has tear-jerking moments where groups of tall, strong women live and train together, learn sword-fighting, archery and shoot arrows while hanging sideways on horseback.
A strong value system based on ability, honour, justice and compassion lies behind the decisions made by these Amazonian women.
But I couldn't watch it till finish. Something about it resonated with my general disillusionment with the type of characters women end up playing in cinema.
On my way back home, I reflected on what I was expecting to be different in the first ever movie about a woman super hero. Did wonder woman actually break any stereotypes at all? I think not.
Here's why :
The archetype of a Superman, the first glimpse of which I came across in Man vs Superman, has a set of unique features that our collective fantasies feed on. And the gender of the Superhero has little to do with it.
The Superhero's charm, charisma, confidence, intelligence and invincibility intrigue us and make these characters forever etched in our memories.
Their seemingly unending positive self esteem though comes often from super human strength, enhanced sensory perception, sharp intuitive abilities, unlimited wealth and arsenal at disposal sometimes, and a drive to side with the innocent and righteous - which is often motivated by subconscious guilt (over a childhood traumatic incident) instead of blind altruism.
To make this super inflated estimation of abilities believable, there is the innocent boy with wide-eyed wonder, the awestruck reporter (gwen), a young orphan teenager who idolises our Superhero (robin), goosebump giving music every time he makes an appearance on screen, streets full of panic-stricken helpless people looking in reverence and gratitude.
All these elements contribute to the magical cinematic experience that this genre offers.
How many of the above elements does our Wonder woman has at her disposal?
Not many that I noticed. Instead :
1) Through most of the film, everybody including the fearless queen Hippolyta tries to keep Diana from harm's way. Completely ignoring the fact that she's been trained to do exactly that : defend herself.
2) For all his best intentions, Steve Trevor(ST) doesn't let her finish her sentences. (Batman beat the shit out of Joker when Joker wouldn't directly answer his questions, just saying)
3) Inspite of displaying exalted fighting prowess and fearlessness, the valiant Amazonian princess still has to use words and raise her voice to make her point. Does Robin ever come in Batman's way ?
4) The bunch of people who set out with Diana on her journey to find Ares do not exactly belong to anyone's dream team - a person recovering from PTSD caused by war doesn't need to be dragged into another war. He needs rest. Why doesn't Diana have a say in deciding who remains on her team ?
5) ST makes Diana change her costume saying she isn't dressed. Ever remember any policeman making Spiderman change his clothes?
6) How do random people who are mostly dismissive of her abilities even hope to be accepted by her ? For in my mind if indeed an Amazonian, lasso wielding, sword fighting Princess landed on earth, most men would be dumbstruck at best, if they didn't first pee in their pants out of fear.
7) To Steve, I wish Diana said "you'll have to do much more than just be well-endowed". Thank God he redeems himself in the end by sacrificing his life.
Back where I come from, the elder men from ancient times, irrespective of how they treated their women in real, did a terrific job of creating the ultimate super woman fantasy.
The mighty demon Mahisasur had tricked his way into immortality and was wreaking havoc in the lives of innocent people.
The Trinity, for all their powers, were at wit's end suddenly - that they were Men - came in their way , to kill the demon. For the demon could be killed only by a Woman, an enchantress, a Goddess.
Thus the primordial one - the Devi manifested herself when the Trinity invoked her name. Seated on a ferocious lion , clad in resplendent attire, bedecked from head to toe in riches, a crown mounted on her head, long tresses of black hair flowing over her shoulders, the Devi smiles kindly and bestows boons while accepting the task entrusted to her.
The Trinity stand with hands folded, heads bowed in supplication, marveling and surrendering in front of their creation, singing praises in her name.
As the battle between the fierce Goddess and the mighty demon rages on in the firmament of my imagination I realise that though Princess Diana is superwoman the world wants she is hardly the Superwoman I need.