A lot has been said about Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. And by a lot, I mean critics have universally panned it’s convoluted story while also lamenting Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck’s uninspiring performances as the iconic Man of Steel and Caped Crusader. Disappointing story and male leads aside, critics have agreed on the movie’s one redeeming quality: Gal Gadot’s portrayal of the unageing Amazonian goddess — Wonder Woman.
So with this in mind, let’s talk about the (wonder) women of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Warning: Spoilers Ahead.
Making her first silver screen appearance ever, Wonder Woman’s introduction in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice sees her alter ego — Diana Prince — outsmarting The World’s Greatest Detective himself. At a party hosted by Lex Luthor, Wonder Woman makes off with Batman’s decryption device, only to return it to him later in the film, but not before leaving the Dark Knight with this gendered quip: “You know, it’s true what they say about little boys: born with no natural inclination to share.”
This line is interesting for a lot of reasons. Gadot’s Wonder Woman, as she stands in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, is not a challenge to the portrayals of women in the media. She is physically flawless, and her natural Israeli accent, which some argue speaks to diversity in casting and suits Wonder Woman’s Amazonian origins, undeniably typecasts her as an alluring and sexually exotic female character. These women are a dime a dozen on our television and movie screens, and her appearance in a male dominated story is not enough to push the dial on female representation in film. That being said, I’m excited to see Gadot’s 2017 stand-alone film Wonder Woman, and hope to see her character evolve.
Tropes and expectations aside, in this moment, there is an intentional message that Director Zack Snyder wanted his female heroine to make clear — in a world constantly under siege, people and superheroes need to work together. This message seems like an obvious one and nicely sets up the forthcoming Justice League movies. But it takes Gadot and the rest of the female cast nearly two and a half hours to remind our male heroes that they need to stop fighting each other and start playing nice.
In the movie’s highly anticipated and climactic bat vs. cape throw-down, Superman is only able to avoid death when Lois Lane (Amy Adams) shares with Batman that Martha Kent is Superman’s mother. Having a mother named Martha, too, Batman is moved by this admission and immediately gives up his nearly two hour quest to kill Superman. This scene sounds ridiculous (
because it is) and makes the entire movie premise and superhero showdown irrelevant, but having been raised by the world’s biggest Superman fan, I found it important because Batman is finally able to see Superman — not as an alien threat — but as a man with a mom. Yes it’s sentimental, yes it’s problematic, but if the prevailing message of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is that women and mothers bring powerful men together, well — that’s a message I’m okay getting behind.
Keep in mind this is coming from a superhero fan girl, who’s father weeps when Pa Kent dies of a heart attack in the original 1978 Superman with Christopher Reeve. At the end of the day, that’s the message a sentimental fan like me is reading into the film.
Ultimately Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice isn’t about mums or women, it’s about reestablishing DC Domics as a superhero juggernaut that can compete, rival and mirror the success Marvel Comics has had with the Avengers. This is made abundantly clear when Bruce Wayne attends Clark’s funeral with Diana. After the ceremony, Bruce has an epiphany — to start a Justice League where superheroes come together to support one another. He asks Diana to help him find and recruit these extraordinary individuals. He doesn’t give credit where credit’s due, and unlike before, Diana doesn’t correct him. Instead she talks the DC Comics party line and solemnly and wholeheartedly agrees to help. Wonder Woman gets that working together is important, and is happy Batman finally gets it, too.
It only took him an entire movie.
Image credit: Tumblr/mayoboi