Monday, July 3, 2017

JLU Scene-by-Scene: Wonder Woman Scenes 5-6

This episode of the Justice League Universe podcast focuses on scene 5 (adolescent Diana training) and scene 6 (adult Diana training and the bracelet blast) of Wonder Woman, starring Gal Gadot and directed by Patty Jenkins.

  • Revisiting the gods on Mount Olympus
  • Legends of the Amazons
  • Diana at "age 12"
  • Diana not being allowed to speak
  • Hippolyta and Antiope's debate
  • Adult training - foreshadowing of future events
  • Things aren't fair
  • Gal Gadot's first appearance on Themyscira
  • Bracelet (aka gauntlet, aka vambrace) blast
  • How did our anticipations for the film hold up in hindsight?
CONTRIBUTORS: @ottensam @raveryn @derbykid @wondersyd

MoS as birth of Superman:

<Transcript below>
Welcome, fans of the Justice League Universe. My name is Sam. This podcast focuses on the Warner Brothers films that are part of the DCEU. We love the depth and heart of these movies and so we take the time to go through them scene by scene. This episode focuses on Scenes 5 and 6 of Wonder Woman, which both involve Diana’s training. Scene 5 is adolescent Diana training with Antiope, and then Scene 6 is adult Diana training with the other Amazon warriors and it leads to the bracelet blast. This analysis was written by myself, Alessandro Maniscalco, Rebecca Johnson, and Sydney. You can find us all on Twitter @ottensam, @raveryn, @derbykid, and @wondersyd.

Before we get into the training scenes, just a few comments about our previous Wonder Woman episode. We talked quite a bit about Mount Olympus and the Greek Gods depicted in the history lesson. But we forgot to mention specifically the primary gods who are standing behind Zeus at the top of Mount Olympus. There appear to be about 9 gods behind Zeus, and at least a couple of them are goddesses -- probably Hera and Athena. Ares and his helmet are also visible, second from the left, and later in the paintings he has stepped forward while all the others still remained in their positions. Most of the others are hard to recognize, but one might be Hades, and the one on the far right might be Hermes. The most recognizable god, though, because of his trident standing out against the cloud in the background, is Poseidon, God of the Sea. Poseidon was readily noticed in that scene by Aquaman fans, particularly because according to Plato’s ancient writing, Poseidon considered Atlantis his domain and had children with a mortal woman in Atlantis, and the demigod children becoming rulers of Atlantis. If this history lesson from Wonder Woman implies that Poseidon existed, then perhaps there will be a link in the Aquaman movie next year in terms of the origins of Atlantis and the Atlanteans superpowers.

Also, we want to give a quick clarification -- in that last episode when we referred to Artemis as one of the gods in the comic books who helped create the Amazons, we were talking about Artemis, goddess of the hunt and protector of women, not Artemis the Amazon portrayed by Ann Wolfe. It just happens to be a common Greek name, I guess.

The last thing we wanted to bring up with regard to that prior episode is that, although we talked about the history lesson from the movie and we talked a bit about the origin in the comic books, we did not mention the actual historical legend of the Amazons, used by Marston as part of his inspiration for the creation of Wonder Woman. The Amazons are part of Greek Mythology and the legend goes that they were a tribe of women warriors. According to some stories, they were descendents of Ares and a nymph named Harmonia. Hippolyta was one of the leaders of the Amazons, and she had a magic girdle that became famous because of its role in one of the labours of Hercules. In the Wonder Woman comic books, there is also often a contentious history between Hippolyta and Hercules.

Now, although the Amazons are part of Greek legend, the notion of a society of women warriors has also been allegedly tied to real civilizations. Some ancient historians from around 400 BCE, like Herodotus (he-ROE-deh-tus), for example, claimed that some groups with strong maternal customs were descended from the Amazons, and other historians claimed that the use of cavalry horseback fighting techniques were invented by the Amazons. But to our knowledge there is not definitive proof that they actually existed. There is probably some basis for all the legends, but we don’t know for sure that it was a full-fledged Amazonian culture as we think of it now. And some skeptics have suggested that ancient reports of armies of women may have simply been men who dressed in unexpected fashion, with long hair and long flowing gowns.

So anyway, we just wanted to mention a bit of that background, because it was part of what inspired Marston in the first place when he created Wonder Woman and introduced a new interpretation of the Amazons -- an interpretation that, thanks to the comics and now the movies, may actually become more well known, generally speaking, than even the Greek legends.

Scene 5: Adolescent Diana

Alright, now let’s get into the new stuff with Scene 5. The music for the gods just finished and we get a little hint of the Wonder Woman rhythm in 7/8 time as we come into this scene with an Adolescent Diana training in secret with Antiope. The actress playing Diana here is Emily Carey, who is from London and prior to this had mainly been on stage. But now she actually does have a new role in an upcoming film production of Anastasia.

According to IMDB, Diana here is 12 years old. But this basically means that she is equivalent to a 12-year-old mortal, it does not necessarily mean it is exactly 4 years since the last scene with Young Diana. It could have been many more than 4 years, since Amazons age very very slowly and also because Diana herself is a demigod. Patty Jenkins said in a Collider article that, in her mind, Adult Diana is about 800 years old, although they didn’t set a specific number as the canonical age. Jenkins also indicated that Diana’s aging and developing process is stretched out over a long period of time. So this time-lapsed training that we see across Scenes 4, 5, and 6 might actually represent dozens of years of training, helping to explain why Wonder Woman ends up being the best fighter in the Justice League, as Geoff Johns has confirmed.

So we see Adolescent Diana and Antiope sparring in the trees, clearly off to the side and away from the main training area because this is still not sanctioned by Hippolyta. Diana is progressing but Antiope is pushing her pretty hard, eventually knocking her down. She critiques Diana, saying, “You keep doubting yourself.” Diana says, “No I don’t.” But Antiope presses her point, “Yes, you do.” And Diana again denies it, more forcefully this time, “No, I don’t.” Then they go back in for a few more strikes and blocks. Now, why did the filmmakers want to put in a repetition of these lines, rather than just having it said once -- you’re doubting yourself. No I’m not. We think the repetition is there for two primary reasons: it brings more emphasis to these subtles messages from Antiope, that she knows more than what Diana is aware of at this point. And also the repetition gives a bit of insight into Diana’s character. She has no trouble asserting herself and standing by her opinions, even in the face of her aunt the revered general. Diana does not back down, saying again, “No I don’t” doubt myself. And this personality trait will be one of her defining characteristics throughout the movie when she asserts herself by leaving the island, by standing up to the generals in London, by climbing up out of the trench into No Man’s Land, and by finally going after and killing Ludendorff. She has a lot of confidence and conviction in her instincts and her decisions, and even though she’s not always right, she usually is -- and her heart is always in the right place. And the few moments when she does hold back (for instance, before No Man’s Land, or at the Gala when Steve stops her), she actually regrets it. So in adulthood she has clearly taken Antiope’s lessons to heart.

Antiope’s next line builds on the idea that she is pushing Diana. She says, “You are stronger than you believe. You have greater powers than you know.” This clearly represents the idea that Antiope is the one pushing Diana forward, whereas Hippolyta is the one holding her back. That gives rise to the tension in this first part of the movie, and yet, as we’ll see, both women are trying to do what they think is best for Diana.

Antiope’s line also continues the thread that there is this secret around Diana. That will continue to be teased all the way up until she leaves the island, and then it will pay off later when Ares reveals the truth to Diana about her divine origin. But here, Antiope specifically refers to “greater powers” which we as the audience know refers to her eventual powers as Wonder Woman, but in the moment, Adolescent Diana probably just thinks it is a vague reference to the great potential that lies in everyone. What we will see, though, starting in the next scene and then carrying through all the way to the climax of the movie, is that Diana does gradually develop a variety of new powers, so Antiope is definitely right here. And of course she was right, because Antiope is fully aware of Diana’s true origin and she was there when the Gods were still around, so presumably she is familiar with the nature of their powers.

Let’s also not forget Antiope’s first sentence in this line -- she says, “You are stronger than you believe.” Believe is a key word because of how important it becomes later in the climax of the movie. Here, Antiope is suggesting that Diana’s limited beliefs are holding her back. By the end, when Diana knows her true self and also rallies around a belief in the power of love and compassion, then it actually does happen that she reaches a new level of strength.

Antiope’s last sentence, “But if you don’t try harder…” is interrupted by Hippolyta riding up with her group of Amazons. Her first question is to Diana, “Are you hurt?” This fits with the notion that Hippolyta’s main motivation is to keep Diana safe. And Diana has probably thought all along that Hippolyta’s only worry is about physical harm from the training, but of course Hippolyta is actually trying to keep her safe from something much larger. But Diana says that she’s fine and she starts to explain that they’re just training, and Hippolyta cuts her off, asserting her power, which is both interpersonal and political. And then Hippolyta explicitly refers to her power, saying that she must not be the revered queen she thought she was, because here are her daughter and her general disobeying her orders by training Diana. She even uses the word betrayal to talk about Antiope, her “own sister.” Diana tries to take the blame onto herself, which is actually a pretty noble thing for her to do and again shows her true heart, but Hippolyta again cuts her off, ignoring what she was saying an ordering an Amazon to take Diana back to the palace.

As when she was little, Diana and Antiope share some unspoken glances, but the main thing here with Diana is that she is not being listened to and is not being allowed to speak. Antiope would not accept Diana’s response when she said she was not doubting herself, and Hippolyta won’t even let Diana finish a sentence. We can see that Diana is a strong young woman but she is still a child and is largely at the mercy of the women in charge. This will connect later to other people and situations that will try to silence Diana. Steve tries to tell her to stay back during the beach battle, Steve and others try to hold her back when she wants to go to the front or when she wants to help people, the society tries to hold her back in terms of telling her what she can wear or where she is allowed to go, and the English generals literally try to prevent her from speaking, but in those scenes, she is no longer a young woman -- she’s a fully grown, assertive woman who makes sure her voice is heard or she lets her actions do the speaking. Those moments mean even more because we saw moments like this when she was still young. And a lot of that drive forward that we see later can be traced back to Antiope’s inspiration, always pushing forward.

And that brings us back to the tension between Antiope and Hippolyta. This scene is where it is articulated the most clearly. Antiope says that she had no choice. It would be neglectful if Diana is not allowed to learn to fight. Hippolyta tries to counterargue by saying that the time for fighting may never come. Referring to Ares, she says, “He might never return. He could’ve died from his wounds.”

But there’s some great acting here from Connie Nielson where, even as she’s saying these lines, we can tell that she doesn’t really believe it. We can tell that Hippolyta is going to lose this argument because she knows Antiope is right and that Hippolyta has just been in denial up to this point. Antiope responds with much more convinction: “Ares is alive. You feel it as I do in your bones.” So Antiope knows that Hippolyta knows that she is right. And Antiope presses her case one step further: “It is only a matter of time before he returns.”

With regard to that issue of time, Hippolyta says that if Diana becomes more powerful, then Ares will find her even sooner. But Antiope then makes her final case, getting right down to the core of it -- Antiope says, “I love her as you do, but this is the only way to truly protect her.” Antiope wants Hippolyta to know that they’re both coming from a place of love, and this is now the final confrontation between the two forms of protection that they’ve been promoting. The remark about love is important, too, because the power of love is one of the themes of the film, and this is showing that love can take different forms and that in both instances it is a very powerful driving force. There was also the mention of the word “time” in reference to the time from now until Ares’s return. Hippolyta basically wants more time with her daughter before she has to fulfill her destiny as the godkiller, which is not a sure victory and so at that point Hippolyta may even lose her daughter. And even though Hippolyta wants more time, she eventually realizes that she can’t stop Diana and she sees her off at the docks. Later we see that Diana and Steve also want more time together, but they eventually realize what has to be done and Steve heads up in the airplane at the end of the movie.

But back here in Scene 5, one thing that I really appreciate in this scene is that the two revered women, the leaders of Themyscira, have a lot of respect for one another. Even though Antiope did disobey the queen, Hippolyta doesn’t just push her around with her authority, and Antiope doesn’t cower down as the subordinate -- they have a very frank conversation, sister to sister. Even though Hippolyta at first referred to this as a betrayal by Antiope, she wasn’t really personally offended as one would be if you were betrayed. Other stories about male leaders, such as Othello or Mufasa in The Lion King, involve man’s betrayal, and it almost always gets very ugly. But in this society of women, Hippolyta is very fair and recognizes that Antiope’s betrayal is motivated by love and the benefit of her sister and niece.

And because of their respectful interaction, they ultimately arrive at the right decision. Antiope has made a strong case that they can’t hide Diana forever and that Diana will be safer if she is able to fight and protect herself. Hippolyta takes moment to let it all sink in, and then we can see it on her face right when she makes the decision that she can’t hide from this any longer. She looks at Antiope, the music rises, and says, “You will train her harder than any Amazon before her. Five times harder, ten times harder. Until she is better than even you. But she must never know the truth about what she is or how she came to be.” So this is Hippolyta conceding the argument to Antiope, but Hippolyta still reasserts her authority by making demands about the training. If they’re going to do it, they’re going to do it all the way. She wants Diana to be strong and ready to fight. And Hippolyta is worried about two ways in which Ares might be tipped off to Diana -- her power and her knowledge. So Hippolyta is basically giving in on the power aspect, allowing her to be trained, but Hippolyta still wants to maintain the cloak of secrecy in terms of Diana’s knowledge about her divine origins. And this might also make sure that Diana doesn’t seek out her destiny prematurely. And finally, as the audience, at this point in the movie we still don’t know what the secret is, so this continues it forward as a question we’re wondering about and eager to learn about later in the movie.

Scene 6: Adult Diana intro (0:12:45)

Okay, so let’s transition into Scene 6, which is the training sequence with an Adult Diana. The transition is smooth because just as Hippolyta is telling Antiope to train her harder, we start to see the first sequence of training, and I think it begins with the bow and arrow. As savvy movie audiences, we know that whenever there’s a training sequence, we should expect to see things that will come up again later in the plot of the movie. Like in Harry Potter movies, when we see them in class learning a new spell or a new potion, then that spell or potion is going to be exactly what’s needed at some key point later in the movie. Or with James Bond, if we get a gadget introduced in Act 1, then it’s going to pay off in Act 2 or Act 3. So the elements that are introduced here are Diana’s skill with the bow and arrow, her use of the lasso to grab and trip someone, her skill with a sword, her leg-sweeping spin kick, and also the importance of her maintaining her focus and not getting distracted.

The lasso and the sword will of course get used many times. And when I first saw this scene, I immediately recognized the sweeping spin kick because she uses in the Justice League trailer, so it’s one of her common moves. But in my first viewing of the movie, I wasn’t sure that the bow and arrow and the lesson about not letting your guard down really paid off later. After seeing it again, I realized that the bow and arrow does come back around, but it’s not in Act 2 or Act 3, it happens right after this in the battle on the beach. Diana does shoot arrows a few times on the beach. So that just leaves the lesson about not getting distracted and not making the mistake of assuming the battle will be fair. How does this payoff later in the movie? Well, one subtle way that it might pay off is that it explains why Diana takes full measures later in terms of killing some of the Germans. For example, the sniper was not really an honorable fighter and Diana didn’t want to assume that they could just take him in peacefully, so presumably she took him out completely. And with Ludendorff, rather than just being a straight-up human for their final showdown, he tried to give himself an unfair advantage by taking the gas that gives him extra strength. Of course Diana was ready for this because she thought he was Ares anyway. And at the end of that fight, Diana killed him too rather than letting her guard down after she had him subdued. The most important time where it seems like the lesson of never letting your guard down should have come into play is at the very end with Ares. It’s not super clear, but maybe the point where she makes sure to not let her guard down is when Ares is showing her the dreamlike vision -- he’s not fighting fair here, and she keeps her guard up and rejects his offers and is eventually able to defeat him. And overall, Ares is very deceitful, so in a sense, Antiope was trying to prepare Diana for things that aren’t fair such as a villain who will lie and pose as someone else.

There are also the future battles that are not physical. For example, when she goes to Man’s World and runs into all the prejudices and the marginalization of women, those are also situations that are not fair, just like Antiope warned. And you could say that Antiope’s training was preparing Diana for more than just physical conflicts -- it was preparation for becoming a strong woman who rejects any efforts to hold her back from reaching her potential. When Antiope says, “the battle will never be fair,” it is probably this societal level that resonates more with the audience of this movie, particularly the female audience members. After all, the pay gap between men and women who do the same work has been well documented for decades now, and although the gap has begun to shrink, it would still be naive for young women to assume that everything will be perfectly fair and they’ll get all the same opportunities as men, all else being equal. My field happens to be mathematics education, and we also have research that shows things are not fair in classrooms either. For example, some studies have found that boys tend to be called on more often than girls for high-level questions, whereas girls are called on more often than boys for low-level questions like recalling certain facts or definitions. Boys and girls are also praised differently. For instance, speaking in generalities, boys are often praised for their critical thinking or their problem solving, while girls are often praised for their neatness or their studiousness. And then there’s also just the broad cultural stereotypes that math is more of a male subject, and even though this is false, as an idea it is a real part of our society and so young women are at a systematic disadvantage -- they should not expect the situation to be fair, and so they basically have to work even harder to reach the same levels of success.

Just to give one more quick example, I also happen to work in academia and there have been studies that show women professors get treated differently than male professors. For example, at department or college events, women professors are more likely than men to be asked about their personal life or their children, whereas men are more likely to be asked about their research activities. This positions the men as the preeminent scholars whereas the women almost do the research as a side job, even though the men may also be very dedicated to their families and the women may in fact be very prominent researchers. Also, in meetings, women professors are more likely than men to be asked to take notes or supply drinks and snacks, even though these responsibilities should be equally shared. It’s like a carryover from the past subjugation where women were secretaries and only men would be on the faculty. And all of this research I’ve mentioned tends to fall victim to a binary notion of gender -- the study designs assumed two groups, male and female, and although they drew some meaningful conclusions, they could have looked even deeper at issues of inequity in schools or in the workplace if they would’ve allowed for a spectrum of gender identities.

But anyway, in this quick moment where Antiope is pushing Diana and trying to prepare her for what’s out there, it really taps into a broader notion of unfairness with respect to the genders. And having moments like these, together with several prominent female characters and a female director and many female crewmembers, is certainly part of the reason that Wonder Woman was able to be the first modern superhero film, and maybe the first superhero film ever, whose audience opening weekend was majority women and girls. It came it at 53% female, even though superhero movies are typically 55% or higher toward the male side.

In addition to planting some seeds that will bear fruit later, another thing that Scene 6 obviously does is it simply features Diana’s amazing skills and her elegant yet powerful fighting style. Moreover, because we saw the training sequence earlier in Scene 2, we can infer that she went through a lot of the same drills and developed the same skills that those Amazons were working on. And this is fulfilling for Diana, who is now able to fully participate, after being a young girl secretly looking on back in Scene 2. With Diana, we get some graceful moves, and the jump and twist is especially memorable and was filmed in a very clear style. And it leads right to a good reveal for our first close-up of Gal Gadot in Themyscira. She’s looking right past the camera and she has sort of a half smile and we can tell she enjoys the combat, just like she does in Batman v Superman. Fans of BvS will notice, though, that here Diana has her hair up. It’s in a long braid straight down the back of her head. This is pretty consistent in the movie and in many of the comics, where her hair being up is associated with the character of Diana, and her hair being down means it is Wonder Woman. Now, in this movie, she never gets called Wonder Woman, but she puts her hair down for the No Man’s Land scene, and director Patty Jenkins has called this the moment where she becomes Wonder Woman.

But overall, this is a very effective introduction of Gadot in the role. And speaking of Gadot, we wanted to give a bit of background about how she got the role and share some things that Patty Jenkins has said about her. We know from BvS that Zack Snyder was actually instrumental in casting her, and Gal herself said that Snyder saved her acting career. She was thinking about leaving, but Zack Snyder and Deborah Snyder really liked her for the part. They were the ones who had decided to look specifically for a foreign actress to incorporate a bit of an accent and an other-worldliness that is fitting for an Amazon. They had a shortlist of contenders for the role, but Gal Gadot came in to do some scenes with Ben Affleck, I believe, and Deborah Snyder said that throughout the process the whole crew just began to really root for Gal to get the part because she was so kind and genuine. And the Snyders recognized that she just embodied the positive characteristics of Diana. And then of course she also had the height and the striking features and they knew she could pull off the role. With respect to that role overall, and not just Gadot, Zack Snyder, in the art and making of the film book, described Wonder Woman as follows: (quote) “She offers a unique opportunity to speak to what it is to be a strong, powerful, independent woman. … I love that there’s a purity to Wonder Woman. She doesn’t have the broken past, she’s not seeking revenge on people that wronged her. She can just be a hero.” (endquote)

Now, with BvS still in production in 2015, Patty Jenkins was hired to helm Wonder Woman and so she inherited the casting of Gadot. Patty Jenkins has said that she is thrilled to have Gal in the part. Jenkins, in the art and making of the film book, said, (quote) “Gal embodies everything about Wonder Woman. … Gal is genuinely such as beautiful, kind, lovely, thoughtful [person] and has an openness that is not based on naivete. She’s just such a youthful spirit, but she’s so wise and it’s coming from a choice. She’s making a choice to stay open and loving to the world, despite understanding so much about it. So she is what Wonder Woman stands for. … She’s an incredible fit.” (endquote) And in basically all of the interviews that Jenkins gave to promote Wonder Woman, you can hear her say great things about Gadot, and vice versa. They seem to have a great partnership together.

Here in Scene 6, we are watching Diana display a range of skills and she is going through progressively harder challenges, leading up to a battle with the previously-established champion Artemis and then ultimately Antiope herself. Hippolyta is above the training field, looking down at the progress her daughter is making, looking to see if Diana actually is becoming better than Antiope, like the queen had requested. She has approved of this training, but of course Hippolyta is still worried for her daughter and where all of this might lead.

This situation, with Diana successfully moving through harder and harder challenges and Hippolyta looking on from above, is the closest that the film gets to the competition that is usually a part of Wonder Woman’s origin in the comics. In the comics, most origin stories have some version of a contest to determine the most skilled Amazon who will be the one to accompany Steve Trevor back to Man’s World. In the movie, we haven’t met Steve Trevor yet, but this scene informally shows that Diana has surpassed the others in her training.

After Diana bests Artemis, the Wonder Woman rhythm comes in and it sounds great. Then Antiope steps forward. The fight choreography here is really good as you can feel the intensity with which they’re competing. Antiope initially has the upper hand and she tells Diana, “Harder. You’re stronger than this.” So this continues the idea that Antiope is always pushing her forward, making her dig deeper. In the next bout, Diana’s intensity goes up even higher, and she does another leg sweep kick but it’s filmed from a different angle this time, so I don’t mind the repetition, especially because it actually is realistic for a fighter to use the same moves more than once. And eventually Diana emerges victorious, but she looks up at her mother for approval, and ironically, just when Diana was thinking that this would prove to her mother that it was the right decision to let her train, it ends up being the moment when Diana loses. Antiope shoves her down and then starts swinging down at her, telling her to not get distracted and to never expect the battle to be fair. So this is the dialogue from Antiope that we already talked about, and it actually ends up being her last lesson for Diana, other than her dying words when she tells Diana to go, which is more of a command than a lesson.

But here, as Antiope is wailing on Diana and the tension is building, Diana throws her arms up in a defensive posture and the gauntlets slam together. The slow-motion and the special effects were really effective here, as the moment really stands out and you can feel the shockwave spread out through the entire training area and beyond. It might even be that this superpowered burst played a role in weakening the protective barrier around the island -- that’s a possibility, anyway. It’s also important to notice that Antiope was striking Diana several times before the blast occurred. So this is an initial hint that part of this power is taking your enemy’s attacks and reflecting that force back at them. This same idea comes up later, most importantly in the final death blow to Ares. And it’s actually a pretty cool idea for a feminist superpower. Historically, women have endured oppression and ridicule but have been able to overcome that with great effort in order to change laws and attain equal status. They’ve endured injustice after injustice and emerged all the stronger for it, and throughout history when they’ve been less powerful as a social group they’ve had to find ways to harness and redirect the forces that are trying to keep them down. This symbolism could actually apply to any marginalised group, which makes Diana a great champion and inspiration for women and the oppressed. Since this power originated in BvS -- we’re thinking of Wonder Woman’s arrival when she absorbs Doomsday’s heat vision blast and then uses her gauntlets to slam it back at him in a purer form of energy -- we are curious about who might have come up with this idea. We would not be surprised if it was Zack or Deborah Snyder who had the idea because they were the ones who wanted Wonder Woman in BvS and they also had the idea in their movie Sucker Punch of drawing strength in order to endure oppression.

This gauntlet blast or bracelet blast is also an important personal moment for Diana. And by the way, we will sometimes call them bracelets because that’s what they traditionally are in the comics and we’ll also sometimes call them gauntlets because they do have more of an armored design in the movie universe. But technically they are probably vambraces, which are the forearm guards that are part of medieval armor, and gauntlets usually involve the forearm and the hand, not just the forearm by itself. But vambrace is not as well known of a word, so we’ll tend to go with gauntlet or bracelet. Anyway, for Diana, this is the first moment where she is introduced to a supernatural power that is beyond other Amazons. She is maybe wondering if it’s the bracelets rather than herself, but soon enough she’ll learn that she has other powers too that are definitely from herself, not just her weaponry. If we think about this moment on a personal symbolic level, then we have thus far seen young Diana grow older and stronger, and she has done so in this protective environment of the island. Symbolically, the island is like a womb, which is a very maternal metaphor that is fitting for a female-led movie, and so the island is a place where she is free from danger and is protected by her mother, but eventually the character will have to be born, which happens when she sails across to Man’s World. And then we see her development progress as she gets dressed, tries food, and eventually emerges fully developed when she steps out onto No Man’s Land. Ultimately, she reaches full power at the very end when she defeats Ares. These are just some initial thoughts on potential symbolism, and we wonder if Reel Analysis on YouTube would agree with this interpretation. He’s the one who did a video about Man of Steel as the birth of Superman from father Krypton and Mother Earth.

So anyway, we see the bracelet blast, which is a foreshadowing of the climax of the movie, and we get Antiope stunned on the ground. She is bleeding but it’s not too serious because she’ll be ready to go at full strength in a few minutes on the beach. As Antiope is recovering, Menalippe, played by Lisa Loven Kongsli, runs up to her. She is very caring and protective of Antiope, and she’s the same one who runs up to Antiope when she dies. Now, many people, myself included, have interpreted her to be Antiope’s partner. She is called her sister in the book about the art and making of the film, but this might just be in the sense that all Amazons are sisters. They don’t actually have mothers and fathers in the traditional sense, so I think this siblinghood is probably just from being created in the same way by the gods. And Menalippe is never called Antiope’s sister in the movie explicitly, so I think it’s still fair to view her as a partner -- there’s nothing preventing that interpretation, anyway, and I think it makes a lot of sense. And we’ll see Menalippe along with Antiope and Hippolyta in Justice League this fall, so maybe that will shed more light.

After the blast, Diana is genuinely shocked and concerned for Antiope. She doesn’t know what just happened, and the Amazons are looking at her in confusion and dismay, which cannot be a good feeling. Hippolyta looks down and laments, “What have I done?” Diana is not quite sure what it all means, but Hippolyta is upset because she knows that this is Diana’s true divinity coming forth, which means Ares will be able to find her more easily and it means they’re one step closer to a battle in which Hippolyta might lose her beloved daughter. Antiope, however, seems to have pride in her niece and her training of her. Diana is apologetic, but she has to be wondering where that power came from. More than anything, it’s probably the way the other Amazons looked at her that made her feel as if she did something wrong. These are not the welcoming, cheerful looks she received as a child running through the city. This is not only a growth in power but it also marks the start of her losing her innocence.

End of Episode

That is our analysis of Scenes 5 and 6. And to close out the episode, we just wanted to take a quick look back at some of the things we anticipated before Wonder Woman was released in theaters, and some of the themes that we thought might show up in the film.

One topic that is often addressed in Wonder Woman stories, and that we thought might come into play is sisterhood. But it was not actually as big as we expected -- this absence was due to two main factors: the Themyscira portion of the movie was not as long as we expected, and Etta Candy was not as central of character as she might have been. So with regard to the Themyscira scenes, there was a lot of great stuff packed in there, but it was pretty short in the grand scheme of things and some of that time was actually just between Diana and Steve, not full Amazonian scenes. And the Themyscira relationships were not focused on sisterhood but were more about family, mentorship, and leadership rather than Diana and her sisters or best friends. A good thing about this absence of close sisters is that it makes it easier for the audience to get behind the idea of Diana leaving the island, because she’s not leaving behind a bunch of close relationships that we’ve seen -- she basically just needs to say goodbye to her mother. Downplaying the sisterhood means we can connect primarily to her and her friendship with the Oddfellows. It also means fewer loose ends to tie up later because Antiope has already done her business as the mentor and inspiration, so she is remembered through Diana’s actions and her loop doesn’t need to be closed with additional scenes at the end. And Hippolyta has done her business as the loving mother who had to let go, with warnings about the world of Men. Yes, there could’ve been a scene at the end to represent Diana acknowledging that she learned her mother’s lessons and gained the knowledge and worldly experience that Hippolyta already had, and it wouldn’t have required Diana to physically go back to Themyscira -- it could’ve just been separate quiet moments of Diana and Hippolyta on their own, cut together so that we feel the unspoken connection between the two. And we already know from Scene 5 that Hippolyta is able to feel godly happenings, so it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility for Hippolyta to feel that Ares was defeated and that her daughter was safe and had learned valuable lessons. But even that closure at the end with Hippolyta would’ve been about a mother and daughter, not about sisterhood. So we were just off the mark there -- sisterhood was not a priority for this film. But it could be important for a Wonder Woman sequel. Maybe she does find a way to return to Themyscira and we develop some of the relationships she has with other Amazons, or maybe some Amazons leave Themyscira and join Diana in Man’s World, or maybe Diana becomes good friends with mortal women in the next movie, and she compares that friendship to the bonds she had with people on Themyscira. Something along those lines would be great to see in a Wonder Woman sequel, because really, with this movie, it was more about the brotherhood of war, with Diana added in, and there are already lots of movies about those kinds of brotherhoods. But I should say, to be fair to our predictions -- we actually predicted that brotherhood and sisterhood would be featured. We thought it might be compared and contrasted, so we were kind of half right.

With regard to Etta Candy, she served a clear purpose in the movie but it was just much smaller than we anticipated. We’ll talk more about her when we get to her scenes. And speaking of sequels, she would still be available even though Steve Trevor is dead -- but Etta and Diana would have this bond of both having been close to Steve, and then there’d be the contrast of Etta aging while Diana basically stays the same age into the future.

We predicted that equality would be emphasized, even amidst diversity and differences in people’s backgrounds and characteristics. That one was pretty much on the money. The best illustration of it was the Oddfellows themselves and how they came to accept and respect Diana, and also how Diana came to realize that they all had their struggles but they also had something to offer and love to give.

We were also right that feminist messages would be included, and they were subtle and of the equality-form of feminism, rather than the anti-men caricature of feminism. And yes, some people have tried to claim that Wonder Woman as a film is simply anti-men, but that’s not how we see it at all. We think there’s strong evidence that the film is about equality between all genders, and that some parts that may seem anti-men are actually just critiques of a particular place and time when men were dominant and women were marginalized. But the movie is not saying that men are bad in their core -- just that society can be unfair and men, just like women, all face choices and they have the opportunity to let love and compassion win out.

We predicted beauty and ugliness as a motif and we were definitely right about that one in spades. They took it not only at the surface level of Themyscira and Man’s World but they also probed deep into our souls in terms of the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly that lies within each of us and the struggle that we have in siding with the good. And Diana rises up by the end of the movie as a great inspiration for choosing to believe in love and beauty.

We were right about war and technology being important topics, and then with regard to Diana, we had some ideas that were on the right track in terms of her dealing with a sense of belonging. As Scene 6 just showed, Diana is obviously different from the rest of the Amazons. She was different when she was the only child, and now she is different as she reveals these new powers. And then, when she goes into Man’s World, she is now different from everyone else in a new way. So we’re seeing this story of a strong woman who is kind of out of place in one way or another, but she eventually takes up her full mantle and knows exactly who she needs to be and what she needs to do. And especially in the final bookend of the film when she jumps out over Paris, she definitely seems to be securely in her place, and that will be fun to see carried forward into Justice League.

Alright, we’ll call that good. Thanks for listening. And if you’re looking for more DCEU podcast content, check out the Suicide Squadcast and the Man of Steel Answers podcast. Also, this is a great week to check out the DC Cinematic Minute podcast because Rebecca is their special guest and they are going minute-by-minute through the Battle of Metropolis in Man of Steel. So check that out at DC Cinematic Minute, and if you want to branch out beyond DC, you can also check out Fans Without Borders which covers DC, Marvel, Fox, and more. As for us, you can follow the show on Twitter @JLUPodcast.

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