I grew up with a handful of cousins who loved superheroes. These were the times when kids would go outside and play make-believe: we’d switch our imagination on and re-enact Power Rangers or Superman, or whatever floated our boat at the time. The boys had an easy choice. You could simply slip into one of the big characters and conquer the world. But can a girl become, say, Spiderman, if she wanted to?
I climbed trees like a boss and drove a massive tractor a couple of times (yes, I was nine, it’s probably illegal, don’t ask), but we still couldn’t agree on that. The original Wonder Woman series never aired on the Polish TV, and the availability of stuff that was considered “niche” in a small town was also quite limited. I haven’t had a superhero that’d be something I could identify with and become when we sprang into the fierce stick battle outside. I had to wait for 23 years of my life (oh, I do try to make myself sound older and wiser, please forgive my pompousness!) to get the superheroine I needed. Finally, she came in, being no less inspiring than she’d have been if I watched the film being nine or ten.
From the onset of the film, the girls are taught that they can do whatever they please. Diana learnt to fight better than any of her counterparts, but she also becomes a well-versed intellectual: she can tell you what the deathly gas is made of from chemical perspective and speak a handful of languages. I was lucky to have inspiring female teachers, too: from my first teacher ever that pushed me to learn, the maths and physics teacher who made sure I understood how the world works, to my English teacher who always encouraged me to do more. And it’s important for a girl to have these people in her life — they help her realise her real potential.
When Diana leaves Themyscira to fulfil her fate, she has to bid farewell to the ones who she’s lived with all her life. It’s a tough decision, but she knows all too well it’s the only way: people are dying, and she’ll be able to put her skills to use in the world bigger than her own. She’s idealistic, and the sweet naivety of a dreamer helps her to leave — the dangers of the new reality don’t faze her much just yet. And it’s not the last time she has to say goodbye to somebody she loves. I feel for Diana: saying goodbye to family and friends wasn’t easy when I decided to hop on the plane and move to a different country; I felt, however, that I could only reach my dreams if I got out of my comfort zone.
Later in the film, when Diana speaks to Steve, she is stunned to find out he wouldn’t just sleep by her side; for her, it’s the mutual respect and trust at heart of her beliefs. As he explains the conventions, she tells him she’s read all twelve volumes of the treatises on body and pleasure and she knows her stuff about reproductive biology, to finally conclude that “men are unnecessary for pleasure”. Well, in a small town, you’re often subject to judgement. If you’re a girl, people assume your value by the ring on your finger, or the lack of it; and sometimes it surprises you how little that changes when you move into bigger social circles. But our heroine empowers us to change that way of thinking. She’s confident and non-judgemental, and that only fuels her curiosity.
Even if Diana is a superhero with cuffs that deflect bullets, she has so much more than a surreal superpower, personal vendetta or sense of duty under her belt. She’s open-minded and sees the world with fresh eyes. She goes out to save the entire village because of compassion when everybody else fearfully tells her that they moved the trenches for just over an inch over a couple of months. And finally, even when she finally learns how complicated human nature is, she responds with love and understanding despite the doubts. She’s the empathetic heroine for the times destroyed by big egos and wars on everyone who’s different — and that’s what makes her so inspiring. In a way, that’s what you face when you adapt to new settings after the move, and only forgiveness and empathy will help you truly thrive.
Right now, it’s not enough for me to see Wonder Woman help shorten the First World War. I want to see her in the Second World War, countering the dictatorship. I want to see her in the lead-up to the fall of the Berlin Wall. I want her to show that women were doing all these fantastic things in history — and are role models and superheroes every day of their lives, in big battles and small towns far away. I want sequels. Many of them. And that’s because she’s the girl that went out of her comfort zone and left the little dot on the surface of the Earth that meant so much to her. And despite the struggles, she fought her way out of the disillusionment of a new place.