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Psychology of Wonder Woman

Most superheroes typically have a certain value that they stand for. Superman’s is “truth, justice, and the American way.” The Green Lantern’s is willpower. Spider-Man’s is personal responsibility. Wonder Woman has two main values: truth and love.

I think my favorite part of the movie, the part that gave me chills, was when Diana took off the social constraints (20th century clothes) despite Steve’s arguments and embraced her true self (Amazonian armor) to defend the innocent and defenseless.

Diana represents being true to oneself despite all of society telling people to conform, but she also represents a connection between all living beings. Denying this connection leads to war and pain, but believing in it is strength.

While so often superhero movies and comics depict femininity as Wonder Woman redefines femininity. She is the nurturing warrior: decisive, headstrong, commanding, yet caring and compassionate. Diana is beautiful and graceful, but deadly. So often women in any media only express certain emotions, like happiness or sadness. Media depicts anger as a masculine emotion. In this movie, the heroine experiences the range of emotions. She reacts to the massacre of a village with frightening rage, even turning on her love interest.

In a somewhat awkward way, the movie touches on that Amazons view sexuality in more fluid terms on Themyscira than we do. More on that topic here.

Thanks to my religious upbringing, Wonder Woman, to me, told a 2,000-year-old story in a new way. A divine being rebels against the father god and falls from the home of the gods. He seeks to corrupt mankind, made in the father god’s image. To save his creation, the father god causes an “immaculate” conception of a savior. Destined with a higher purpose, the child of god leaves paradise to save man’s world. Any of this sound familiar?

To me, the most daring decision taken with this movie was making a Christ-like figure a woman.

I believe the writers and the director deliberately made this call, but even if the comparison was accidental, the similarity between stories would still speak to the human psyche.

Carl Jung spoke of the “collective unconscious,” this concept that all humans, regardless of time or culture, have universal and primal drives, desires, and anxieties. Jung pointed to the common symbolism across mythology, fairy tales, and dreams as evidence of the collective unconscious.

Jung would refer to the Christ-like protagonist as an “archetype,” or common symbolic icon that arises, perhaps even without intention, in stories and dreams. We have stories of a pure savior, whether Jesus or Superman or Wonder Woman, struggling with the world’s evils, because we need that savior, that icon of goodness. We need to express our own struggle with evil.

When we watch Diana realize that Ares is not all the blame for the world’s evils, when she realizes that mankind is not completely good as she once believed, we see her struggle the same way we struggle when we watch planes fly into two towers or learn of a man shooting a prayer group after they welcomed him. We want a simple explanation for these atrocities and despair when there is none.

But then Diana still chooses not to give up. Yes, there is no simple solution to fixing the world. Yes, mankind does evil and maybe does not deserve saving. But Diana chooses to not let the darkness blind her of the light. Jung would argue, Diana makes this choice, because we need her to; because if she can, then we can. Then by choosing truth and love, there is hope.

"It's not about deserve, it's about what you believe. And I believe in love."
Created By
Heather Ness
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