LOS ANGELES: Wonder Woman saved Jacqueline Lee’s life. Which is why the 43-year-old is extremely excited to watch the movie with her husband, son and daughter. The iconic superheroine finally gets her first standalone film in the cinematic world and Lee cannot wait.
“Would you believe me if I told you that it was this very fictional superhero goddess who pulled me out of some of the darkest times in my youth, when I was dealing with zero self-confidence, depression and a terribly toxic relationship?” said Lee. “When I realised that no one rescues Wonder Woman and that she rescues herself, it was then that I realised I must do the same.”
For 38-year-old Siva Arjun, the impression Wonder Woman left was a little different but just as impactful while he was growing up in Mumbai.
“At eight years old, I suddenly realised I commiserated with an Amazonian princess named Diana Prince. And I was a little Indian boy!” he shared.
“It wasn’t just because of her awesome powers or fighting skills. It was because she was always about peace and justice. Whether she was the Wonder Woman in the comics I was reading or Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman I saw on television, I identified with her! And that helped this bullied little boy out of some tough moments.”
Lee and Siva are just two reasons out of arguably millions of others why the director and cast of Wonder Woman were compelled to make the best possible film they could.
After all, Wonder Woman has always been held up as the universal role model, a pacifist superheroine expounding love and peace. Created in 1941 by noted psychologist William Marston for DC comics, Wonder Woman has evolved into a feminist icon that represents so many different things to many different people.
After more than seven decades, the most iconic female superhero in the world is finally getting her own movie. Though she was immortalised on the small screen by the inimitable Lynda Carter in the 1970s popular television series, this is the first time Wonder Woman is headlining her own film.
A SYMBOL FOR INCLUSION
Director Patty Jenkins told Channel NewsAsia she can pinpoint the universal appeal of mythical Amazonian warrior-princess Diana Prince and why the character is so important in today’s cultural climate.
“I think she’s the idealised versions of ourselves — for little girls and women. She is completely realised in a powerful way that makes her able to be a hero but she doesn’t lose any of her femininity to do so,” she said during our interview ahead of the world premiere of the film. “She is loving and kind and beautiful and generous and thoughtful. It’s like (a) ‘how to become a more powerful version of ourselves’ that we can absolutely aspire to in every way.”
For Danish actress Connie Nielsen who plays Wonder Woman’s mother Queen Hippolyta, the universality of this demi-goddess stems from justice and fairness.
“It’s because she comes from a perspective of love and justice, so justice is really just the administrative arm of love. It’s a way of saying you know we have to keep this fair for everybody and that’s what she represents,” she told Channel NewsAsia. “I think our brains really understand fairness, or the lack of fairness, from an early age on.”
Inclusion, said Nielsen, is the all-important symbol of the Wonder Woman.
“Unfortunately when young girls are growing up, they’re not allowed to be who they really are. That goes for boys as well,” continued Nielsen. “So if Wonder Woman is a symbol for something, I think for a lot of people, it’s a symbol for inclusion. For everybody to have the right to be who they are, anything that they are.”
Israeli actress Gal Gadot, who plays the titular Wonder Woman reiterated her stance that she hopes the film will continue to show both boys and girls all the possibilities of what women can be and can do; that women are equal to men.
The mother-of-two told Channel News Asia that she thinks there is one big misunderstanding about what it means to be a feminist.
“I am a feminist, obviously! And I think being a feminist is not like burning bras and hating men or knowing the best,” she said. “It’s about freedom and choice.”
She continued: “You know people had been saying multiple things about my costume and I think that it’s great that she looks sexy. And it’s great that she feels good about herself! And that she’s capable to perform and to fight and to do all of these things.”
For Gadot — she feels that it’s extremely important to have strong female figures in today’s world — it’s been a long time coming for a Wonder Woman film.
“I think it’s a great thing we are finally going to show her story,” she said. “This is an iconic character that has been around for 75 years and this is the first time that we’re going to tell her origin story so it’s about time!”
I AM WOMAN, HEAR ME ROAR
In an industry dominated by men, another significant achievement is that Jenkins is the first female director to helm a comic-book superhero movie.
The fact that Jenkins, best known as the writer-director of Monster which won Charlize Theron her Oscar, took it all in her stride only made this milestone even sweeter.
“I think that the real challenge (in getting Wonder Woman made) is that she could be treated as universally as any of the (other superheroes),” she told Channel NewsAsia. “That it didn’t need to be different because she was a woman. I wanted to make her a universal hero in the same way and that’s what Warner Brothers wanted to do so.”
Jenkins confessed to going to the fan forums to have peek at what was buzzing, but she also made it a point to keep a tight hold on the overall vision of what she knew wanted this film to be.
“I’ve been a fan since the beginning so you couldn’t be a bigger fan than myself,” she said. “I know what that (vision) is and I love the original spirit of Wonder Woman!”
She continued: “However, I also wanted to honour (the Wonder Woman) that belongs to all of us,” she continued. “So I also did pay attention to (the fan forums) and surveyed all of that.”
She admitted when she took on a job like this, she was fully aware that “it was never going to live up to every single person’s fantasy of Wonder Woman."
“But if I could honour the Wonder Woman that the vast majority of us glean to, then that would be my job done.”