Wonder Woman and the Loss of Innocence

Pop Culture

Wonder Woman and the Loss of Innocence

Illustration: Sushant Ahire

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elow one of the YouTube trailers of Wonder Woman, lies perhaps my favourite comment ever: “Is this what guys feel like when they watch male superhero trailers?!?!?!” The comment is in equal parts innocent and heartbreaking, descriptors which can easily be attributed to Wonder Woman herself.

Somewhere near the 1 hour 20-minute mark of the film, on her way to the front line of war, Gal Gadot’s rendition of the Amazonian princess gets tired of the ambivalence shown by her fellow travellers toward loss of life and destruction of property, and decides to fight an entire army to save a village. Her inability to understand the concept of “For the greater good” baffles her spy friends; one of them exclaims, “We can’t save everyone.”

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Wonder Woman doesn’t care though. She, unlike the rest of humanity, hasn’t yet normalised insensitivity. It’s similar to what happened when we asked our parents why can’t we too fly, and then were explained that we must play by the rules and cannot go about flying. Wonder Woman doesn’t understand why she must wear “proper clothing” when they could be easily torn in time of war. She’s mystified when Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor lies to his boss, and is confused by the slave-like deliverables of his secretary. Heck, she can’t even ask Steve to lie down next to her without him telling her that they have ignored steps leading to people “sleeping together”.

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The current state of our minds though, if an alien like Wonder Woman were to observe, would be of a people lost in their ways.

Courtesy: DC Entertainment Inc

This realisation, this feeling of smallness in front of her inhibited wonder, dawned upon me when it hit her too after she killed General Ludendorff, that one man isn’t the reason for humanity’s moral corruption. We keep thinking that we want to do some good but are chained by constraints created by other men, money, gender, and privilege. Like when I was young and naïve, and asked my father why  people with big houses and big cars do not give some of their money to children begging on the street.

The story of Wonder Woman then, is the story of mankind’s innocence lost – our submission to the uselessness of war and the futility of structure to fight corruption. Like a high tide, this washed over me while Wonder Woman screamed looking at the night sky. I wondered what would happen if all of us retained our innocent filters to look at the world, if all of us hadn’t normalised insensitivity. It seemed like a radical idea to me, so my mind traversed toward a far more logical one: What would happen if Wonder Woman were to come to our current world?

Would she understand modern religion? What would she say about caste? Would she read books on peacock sex, or would she read about science? Would she be bothered that Indians care more about declaring new national animals even as most of the country goes to bed on an empty stomach, or would she rally with gau rakshaks and kill the innocent? Would she be declared anti-national? And if she too, like our police, would run over a 60-year-old woman and her three grandchildren while trying to save a cow.

I was reminded of the end of Terminator Salvation (an underrated film), where Marcus Wright, half-terminator, half-human, has to decide where to go. As he decides to give his heart up for a transplant, he asks, “What is it that makes us human? It’s not something you can program. You can’t put it into a chip. It’s the strength of the human heart. The difference between us and machines.” This sentiment sits opposite to what Plato once said, when he described men more simply as “two-legged animals without feathers”. Many have tried to decipher what Plato meant by feathers, and if it was a metaphor for something greater. The current state of our minds though, if an alien like Wonder Woman were to observe, would be of a people lost in their ways. Perhaps Plato really only meant “feathers”.

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The wonder of Wonder Woman is that she’s an innocent human first, a demigod second, which lets her see how crappy things have become for us.

Courtesy: DC Entertainment Inc

Wonder Woman hasn’t given up though. Near the end of the film, tired of the destruction, she speaks of love as a cure for everything. She doesn’t understand our normalisation of insensitivity, and actively rejects it, implying that empathy, then, is the superpower we all have but don’t use, as we prefer to see gods do our fighting for us.

The wonder of Wonder Woman is that she’s an innocent human first, a demigod second, which lets her see how crappy things have become for us. Perhaps it’s time for us to put our innocent human costumes on, see whether we can be wondrous too.

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