some of us are brave

Maybe God Is A (Wonder) Woman?

I saw Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice. Bless its heart.

Cultural critique isn’t my wheelhouse but I am a fan of superhero movies. I don’t follow the comic books because I don’t like pictures. They get in the way of my imagination. Despite this, I am drawn to comics on the big screen where I am not bound by my form of reading. I also like Greek epic poetry and some soap operas. These things are probably related.

If you haven’t heard, the movie is bad. The experts have really good reasons why it is bad. I can only tell you that it is bad. I am usually pretty bright but I didn’t know what was happening in this movie over half the time. Why are we in Africa? Why is it just “Africa”? Why are we in the desert? How would Batman get a trench coat on over his Bat-suit? How is it night all the time? What year is that car? What year is this movie? Is it now or then or soon or all of the times at one time? WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING?

There is dialogue but there may as well not be. It’s like the adults in Charlie Brown; lots of sound and no meaning.

Also, Alfred shouldn’t be sexy. It just feels wrong.

Despite these issues, there are a few good moments. First, you should know that Clark Kent has his shirt off twice in the movie. That’s good.

And, of course, there is Wonder Woman.

I am a 70s kid. I was blessed by a heavenly deity to have the real Wonder Woman in my childhood. There are only 129 polaroids of ashy-kneed, wild-haired toddler me in Wonder Woman underoos. I was real.

Somehow in a movie where every single thing that’s not Clark Kent without a shirt on is bad, Wonder Woman is terrific. I mean, the movie breathes when she is on the screen. When she isn’t, the movie just sort of gasps like an asthmatic in hot yoga. I can say that because I breathe loudly in hot yoga.

How could director Zach Snyder get everything so wrong in this movie but get Wonder Woman so right? That’s what I keep thinking about. A lot of credit has to go to sexism. Snyder isn’t overly interested in Wonder Woman. As a result of leaving her alone, Wonder Woman is the best character in this movie.

Writer Jamelle Bouie is really invested in this franchise. It’s been following his commentary about it on Twitter. Today he shared a link to a story about how Zach Snyder hates Superman. It’s a good essay. The main argument:

But there’s another element of grace inherent in Superman, and that is the grace of god. That’s reflected in his Kryptonian name, Kal-El, which uses the Hebrew suffix ‘el’ – meaning ‘god’ – and which was not appended by accident. Kal-El’s name not only aligns him with Judaism (it is translated by some as “Voice of God,” and is a pretty good example of why Superman is not a Christ figure) but with God himself. It isn’t that Superman is god, or a god, but that he represents the grace of god, the beauty and mercy we find in the best divine moments. But that beauty is missing from Superman in the Snyderverse, where he is a cold and distant being who hovers ever so slightly out of reach of people trapped by flood waters, or who allows himself to be worshipped by a crowd of cartoonish Mexicans. This marble statue has no love within him. He offers no comfort.

After two films I do not believe this is an accident. I believe that Zack Snyder is systematically destroying Superman not because he doesn’t understand the character but because he profoundly dislikes the character. One of the larger themes of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is the idea that every act of heroism is a catalyst for something terrible in the world, a point of view that is not only a) insane but b) inherently anti-Superman.

I mean, that’s good stuff.

I am not immersed enough in the narrative history of Superman to argue with what reads like a really sound critique. I was never into Superman. He is too precious for my taste. But, God’s grace is present in this film. It’s just not present in Superman. God’s grace is  instead represented by Wonder Woman. What if, in Snyderverse, God is a Wonder Woman?

In one scene Wonder Woman reflects on walking away from mankind 100 years ago. Batman seems to think he is convincing her of mankind’s worth with some pithy speech that’s just bad like all the other pithy speeches in this movie, save one. Batman is talking about it but the entire film Wonder Woman been about it.

Wonder Woman is the only one who joins the fight against Luthor’s devil without any self-interested motivation. She is the only one at the battle royale without a mother’s life on the line or an ax to grind. She and she alone is selfless and devoted to saving man because she believes man to be worth saving.

Wonder Woman may be expressing disappointment in man as Batman drones on about fights and whatever else he drones on about. God also expressed disappointment in his creation. But Wonder Woman is THERE. Speechifying about man’s deservedness aside, Wonder Woman’s actions say she believes that we are redeemable.

Like the old testament judeo-christian God, Wonder Woman is fierce. Maybe that’s why it’s hard to read her as God’s grace. As a black feminist I always understand God’s love as fierce. Love is fierce and turbulent as often as it is still and peaceful. You have to have both. I believe that’s the love described in the Pentateuch.

Now, I’m no biblical scholar. I have a few vacation bible studies under my belt and two classes at Christian school where I took summer school. I think the Christ is supposed to have transformed the warrior characteristics of God’s grace. That seems to be what Superman is the allegory for here. Maybe in refusing Superman the Christ moment of humanity’s redemption somehow Snyder makes God’s grace a woman. It’s a wonder.



8 comments on “Maybe God Is A (Wonder) Woman?

  1. dswidow
    March 30, 2016

    Please write more movie reviews!

  2. Pets to Go
    March 30, 2016

    Ok, I’m an old-fashioned feminist, but in the dear dead days of the 2nd wave using the generic “man” to represent humankind was regarded as blatently sexist. Tressiemc, you use this construction several times. Did I not get the memo?
    Otherwise–great essay.

    • tressiemc22
      March 31, 2016

      Yes, the memo went out three decades ago. Check inbox.

      • Pets to Go
        March 31, 2016

        Ah. That would explain it. I had a newborn at the time . . .

  3. katherinejlegry
    March 30, 2016

    pictures get in the way of your imagination? But the comic book movies are all story boards… put into motion.

    You aren’t into a picture worth a thousand words? Symbolism in pictures that create larger narratives if you know the “language” and so can understand the culture at the time has no value? It zaps imagination?

    The simplified view of Grace is always made the responsibility of the women (regardless of some men have it). Fierceness or wildness is usually the thing the christian wants to tame about a woman.

    I didn’t see the movie but I heard Wonder Woman is largely on the sidelines as unimportant and spends most of her time preening. So it’s interesting you had such a powerful reaction to her. Evidently the film is really just a vehicle to create sequels. The market isn’t looking for plots. Just video-games that make it interactive…

    okay, anyhow… to each is own. too bad you don’t like pictures.

    • tressiemc22
      March 30, 2016

      uh yeah. they do. how is that a problem and why would i need to justify it? i don’t like pictures when i read. i think that’s okay.

      • katherinejlegry
        March 30, 2016

        I didn’t say you needed to “justify it”

        I took us U.S. intellectual and cultural history in college where it went from the “intellectual” writers and thinkers and politicians etc. of the day and their essays as well as “high” literature and popular novels… paintings were brought in as well in order to show a whole spectrum and so as to give a broader range of history (view points) and not a narrow white privileged one. The comic books are part of the popular culture in an enormous way taking over long reads and they originally got popular among 18 year old boys being sent to war and so the stories were written to appeal to them. Wonder woman was originally written by a man with a famous feminist mother… and he was surrounded by those voices and it later got tweaked by editors and partly redrawn by a woman made to tone it down a bit on the feminism… Now that the generations that grew up on comic books and science fiction have become adults they (we) generally speaking, want to see all of those gadgets become real and robots and whatever…

        I’m not saying you should like pictures when you read. I’m just surprised you don’t find them of value in your teaching. Not a criticism.

        I’m a visual artist and I never got into mainstream comics. They never appealed to me as the characters and stories lines are so binary-thinking and status quo even where super heroes are concerned. They didn’t represent me… and the marvel and dc comics weren’t that well drawn actually. Now they all look the same…

        I started doing my own stories and they aren’t “linear” and I am epic and I go over greek characters/myth including the bible and all manner of archetypes.

        I’m not into the comic book movies so much as they aren’t into plot.

        I think you writing about this is pretty fun. Who cares if I disagree with you about the importance of visual art? I’m relating to you via many different subjects. That you have no need to relate back is okie dokie. I am not offended or fishing. By all means read what you do and share that! I like that you expose me to what I don’t know or what I would not normally read. That’s exciting.

  4. writerspilecki
    March 30, 2016

    God is fierce, the spirit is fierce, so God’s hero for us needs to be fierce too!

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