Raking in the cash and inspiring kids and women alike, Wonder Woman is a smash hit. This success is due not only to its well-structured story and perfect cast, but also because of its fresh perspective. In particular, fans have found the optimism that’s borne through her fight with Ares to be a welcome light in the pervading grimness of the #DCEU. Yet moviegoers have also responded to how empowering the film is; the No Man’s Land assault is already becoming a pivotal moment in superhero movie history, but the film also contains another, less-discussed scene that’s just as key to understanding the ethos of Wonder Woman.
Warning! This Article Contains Spoilers For Wonder Woman!
"To The War!"
The scene in question is the beginning of Diana (#GalGadot) and Steve’s (#ChrisPine) long boat ride to London. Up until this point in the film, the peculiarity of Steve’s arrival, the brutal German attack and Diana’s theft of the God-Killer sword have meant that they haven’t had chance to get properly acquainted. Indeed, this longer conversation between the two characters on the boat is where Wonder Woman is allowed to breathe, and it’s a funnier & better film because of it.
When Diana relates her clay-based conception to him, it’s very entertaining to watch the cogs whirring in Steve's mind, along with his faltering attempts to explain the conventions that he’s used to. Moreover, Steve preparing separate berths for him and Diana to sleep prompts a conversation about the concepts of marriage and sexual decorum.
Impressively, these really entertaining moments are all improvised, but the humor of the scene actually belies a lot of economical character work that’s at play within the sequence, as well as throughout the course of Wonder Woman’s run-time.
From A Certain Point Of View
Diana and Steve’s conversation in the boat scene touches on some pretty fundamental aspects of our day to day lives — namely, sex and reproduction. It's hilarious that Diana is so blunt about these subjects whilst Steve awkwardly tiptoes around them, as he ultimately fails to provide satisfactory answers to her questions. We may laugh at their awkward conversation, but it does underscore some of our traditional sexual hang ups. Why can’t people lie next to each other merely just to sleep? And if marriage is so prized, why does it make so many people unhappy?
Wonder Woman has long been an icon of strong femininity in the male-dominated medium of comic books, and now the #superhero movie genre. Since she's from a different, all-female society where norms and divisions of this kind don't exist, its only fitting that Diana can challenge our accepted ideas, since she has a fresh, alternative perspective on gender politics. Diana makes us laugh in this scene, but she also makes us question our received ideas about romantic and sexual decorum.
Pleasure On Paradise Island
The biggest laugh of the boat scene definitely occurs when Steve discovers that Amazons don’t need — or even want — men to scratch their carnal itches. In fact, Diana's new friend is visibly stunned when she proceeds to name-drop the twelve volumes of Clio’s teachings on eroticism and pleasure. We might laugh at how Steve reacts to being broadsided by this information, but beneath the laughter, there’s an undercurrent of something more.
After all, the fact that specifically men are labelled as unnecessary is very telling; though Clio’s fictional teachings are at odds with scholars of the time period, it’s heavily implied that Diana is pretty self-sufficient where sexual pleasure is concerned. Heck, she is 800 years old after all, so she's had plenty of time for some recreational experimentation on Themyscira. Sexual self-sufficiency is pretty forward-thinking for a woman in the early 20th Century; and her modern ideas don't stop at just masturbation.
Wonder Woman and the Amazons have been depicted as queer in the comics for some time, which means that Diana’s line about pleasure without men can definitely be read as a hint towards the Amazons sexually gratifying each other. Admittedly though, aside from several fairly pointed hints like this, there’s no concrete evidence that cinematic Themyscira has any LGBT relationships, meaning that Wonder Woman is sadly another movie where LGBT characters are buried in ambiguous subtext.
Nevertheless, Diana is not the naive, disadvantaged damsel that Steve first thought. Indeed, some fans were concerned that, given her unfamiliarity with men, she would fall into the newly coined "Born Sexy Yesterday" trope. These types of female characters are intelligent, beautiful and can often kick plenty of ass, but they also tend to be critically naive and supposedly need a man to guide and, ahem, “instruct” them in the ways of love.
Yet as Wonder Woman shows, Diana is more mature and astute than your average cinematic heroine, and doesn't need that kind of help from anybody. In fact, Steve even acknowledges her superior knowledge on these matters by showing a desire to learn from Clio's work. It's touches like this that ensure that Diana is strong, well-rounded character that isn't defined by her sexual prowess or her combat skills; she has plenty of wit and heart as well.
The Roots Of A Respectful Relationship
The boat scene of Wonder Woman also establishes Diana's connection to Steve Trevor, who is far from being merely the butt of the films' jokes. True, Diana does firmly establish that she isn’t looking for anything she’s been "lacking," but the fact that he's superfluous to Diana’s sexual needs doesn’t mean he or their blossoming romance is worthless to her. In fact, they are far more valuable.
Male characters usually have some sort of prowess or advantage over their female counterparts, but in Wonder Woman, this is obviously not the case. The DCEU’s Diana remains a strong independent woman who only needs a man to help her negotiate the unfamiliar terrain of early 20th Century Europe so she can confront the God of War. She sticks with Steve because she values his input, relating to him as a person, and not just because he’s a beefcake of a man that she wants to "try out," as it were.
Certainly, there is quite a lot that Diana and Steve have in common; as the film progresses, we realize that both characters are outsiders in some shape or form. Diana and Steve are also skilled combatants, and the two of them share a passion for justice — even if their methods and outlook do vary somewhat. As such, their nighttime liaison in Veld isn’t painted as a hesitant encounter between two beings at cross-purposes or of unequal power; it’s a tender meeting between two characters who appreciate each other for the people they are, rather than the fact they are an attractive man and woman respectively. For this reason, it's probably one of the most significant cinematic romances in recent times.
All in all, the boat scene of Wonder Woman is an important one since its a microcosm of the film itself, telling us everything we need to know about its characters and what they stand for. Indeed, Diana’s forthright feminist outlook is heavily foregrounded but the conversation also captures the essence of the curious and compassionate comic book super heroine that we know and love, and gives meaning to a #movie romance that would otherwise have been rote.
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