Note: This article contains heavy spoilers for Wonder Woman.
Ah, Themyscira; the beautiful island nation of the Amazons, a haven of peace where the immortal warrior women dwell. Cloaked from sight by the magic of Zeus, director Patty Jenkins imagined the island to be situated in the Mediterranean, influenced by all the surrounding cultures. That's why the design carries hints of everything from Moroccan architecture to Greek. Production designer Aline Bonetto explained the look and feel of Themyscira quite simply:
"The island was a gift from the gods. They don’t cut into the stone, they use an open cave. They decide to live with nature, using what nature gives to them."
But while the Amazons lived in peace, the world of man became consumed by war and violence. Should the Amazons really have set themselves apart from humanity? Or should they have stepped in, fighting to stem the tide of darkness? Given they chose the latter, are they, in some senses, culpable for the world's descent into war?
The Origin Of The Amazons
According to Wonder Woman, the Amazons were created by Zeus as an answer to humanity's evil. And yet, in a gorgeous animated sequence, we see that the Amazons were initially defeated and enslaved; Hippolyta became their queen when she led an uprising, freeing her people. Zeus gave the Amazons a gift, transporting them to the hidden island of Themyscira, secreting them away from Ares's attention.
As we learned in the film's third act, the history of the Amazons hides a fascinating secret. Zeus left Hippolyta with child — Diana, a goddess, a daughter of Zeus himself. He also left the Amazons with gifts for Diana, weapons and armor that she would claim when she came to adulthood. Zeus had originally created the Amazons as the hope for the world; now, his focus had clearly shifted to Diana. That much is clear when you consider that he only left one suit of armor.
Over the passing of centuries, the Amazons continued to train in the arts of war. Their focus was purely defensive, though; after the experience of slavery, Hippolyta had no desire to take her people back into the outside world. And here's the catch: she also had no desire to train Diana, either.
Diana Is Trained Against Hippolyta's Wishes
Hippolyta knew Zeus's goal, and she did everything she could to prevent it. As we saw in the first act, she even did her best to ensure Diana received no combat training. Her goal for her daughter was a simple one: that she be sheltered from the world, protected on the island of Themyscira, safe from harm.
In doing so, Hippolyta was essentially saying that the race of man was beyond saving. After all, Diana was Zeus's last gift to the world — the God-Slayer herself.
This one act changes the story of the Amazons completely. You could lay out a case that the Amazons had recognized that Ares was too powerful for them, and so had retreated in order to protect the last, best hope of the world. But the fact that Hippolyta tried to prevent Diana from being trained? That suggests they remained hidden for a very different reason. The Amazons had abandoned the world of men, given up on it, and Hippolyta's dearest secret hope was that her daughter would never head out to face Ares.
We all know the saying:
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
That is precisely what Hippolyta wanted to do: nothing. She had no desire to overthrow Ares; her only desire was to live in peace. It's likely that Hippolyta had some means of keeping an eye on events in the outside world — the dialogue includes some subtle hints to that. But even if that weren't the case, Hippolyta knew that the world of man was under the dominion of Ares, and she chose to accept that and leave humanity to our fate.
In so doing, Hippolyta ceased to be part of the solution. She became part of the problem. Even after Themyscira was invaded, she sought to order her daughter to remain on the island.
Of course, Hippolyta didn't get her way. In spite of her resistance, Antiope refused to do nothing; she trained Diana, just as Zeus would have hoped, and began to prepare her for the inevitable war. This was how Antiope stood against the forces of darkness. She could not defeat Ares — but Diana could, and so Antiope prepared her for the battle to come. With her last words, she pushed Diana to enter the world of men, to accomplish what the Amazons could not all those centuries ago.
Hippolyta's isolationist views make her complicit in the evil that has swept the world of man. She knew that she had the solution, the gods' last gift to the human race — and she wanted to hide it, to shelter it, to protect it. Thankfully, wiser heads prevailed, and Diana was trained for war in spite of her mother's wishes. Hippolyta may have been complicit, but Antiope was not.
Do you agree that Hippolyta was complicit in the war that ravaged the world?
(Poll Image Credit: Warner Bros.)