Gal Gadot and Chris Pyne in Wonder Woman (2017)
Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) and Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) in Wonder Woman (Patty Jenkins, Warner Bros., 2017)
Stories & Ideas

Tue 01 Dec 2020

Maria Lewis
Maria Lewis

Assistant Film Curator

Men just aren't that necessary in the world of Wonder Woman.

If there’s one word that properly sums up the role of men in Wonder Woman (2017), it’s “unnecessary”. In the context of the scene where Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) and Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) travel from the magical lands of Themiscyra to London, England men are “unnecessary” to “the pleasures of the flesh”. When Trevor enquires about whether Diana brought all twelve volumes of Clio’s treatises of bodily pleasure with her, she assures him he wouldn’t enjoy the read. When pushed, she reveals that it’s because "they came to the conclusion that men are essential for procreation, but when it comes to pleasure … unnecessary". In a blockbuster loaded with multi-million-dollar special effects and large ideological themes, it’s this smaller, intimate scene that is one of Wonder Woman’s standouts. With a minimal set piece and the chemistry of Gadot and Pine bantering back-and-forth, it’s more than just establishing their characters burgeoning sexual tension.

In the first superhero blockbuster to star a woman, men are more than just “unnecessary” to a female’s sexual pleasure. They’re “unnecessary” when it comes to saving the day, something that Wonder Woman is able to achieve on her own after a cinematic history of women being sidelined at best, fridged at worst, in films just like this one. They’re unnecessary when it comes to defence, the German soldiers ill-equipped to deal with an island of Amazonian warriors led by Antiope (Robin Wright) who have spent their life training with all forms of weapons and in all forms of combat. They’re also “unnecessary” to the creative direction of the film, which was spearheaded by filmmaker Patty Jenkins over a mammoth 15-year period.

More than all of that, the line “unnecessary” is also a fitting wink to the origins of the character which was created by Professor William Marston and heavily influenced by his partners, wife Elizabeth Marston and spouse Olive Byrne. The academic – who also invented the lie detector test – initially came up with the idea for a comic book hero in a similar vein to Superman and Batman, yet one that was informed by matriarchal values and feminism. Both his wife and Byrne contributed key elements that helped shape not just the character of Wonder Woman, but the culture of Themiscyra itself. The polyamorous couple was unconventional for the 1920s, yet even after Marston’s death in the late 1940s, the two women continued to live together, raise their shared children, and maintain the legacy of the Wonder Woman character without Marston being alive to do so himself. He was essential to the Amazonian’s creation, definitely, but “unnecessary” when it came to Wonder Woman living on, thriving, and becoming a phenomenon more than 50 years after his passing.

– Maria Lewis

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