Sometimes you leave a movie a bit less straight than you went in. Diana showed me what owning myself could look like.
I have a lot of feelings about Wonder Woman. She is my ultimate fictional love. But like many of you, I was only peripherally aware of her existence until the 2017 movie – this despite hanging out with comic book nerds for my whole university education and then marrying one. I mostly knew I was pleased to finally see a superhero blockbuster starring a lady and the trailers had made me want to joyously punch things.
Then I got hit with THAT scene, where Diana is climbing out of the trench in glorious battle dress, all power and strength and legs and soft hair and justice, and every bullet she deflected off her gauntlets was like a fragment of my heterosexuality pinging away into the mud. My friends afterwards were like “Wasn’t she amazing?” and I was like “She was fucking mesmerising”. And then I read a lot of comic books and asked some questions and examined some feelings and watched a lot of repeats of that SNL clip where Gal Gadot kisses Kate McKinnon and one year later I came out as bisexual.
Wonder Woman has never exactly been part of the straight and narrow. Her creator William Moulton Marston was a big fan of bondage and “submitting to loving authority” and regularly put her in interesting positions with her all-female buddies on Themyscira. The 2017 biopic Professor Marston and the Wonder Women imagined him in a triad with his wife and their friend Olive Byrne, for which the evidence is debatable, but it’s certainly the sort of embrace of female desire and pleasure that Marston would approve of. Adaptations since have shied away from portraying Diana at her full, gay potential. Perhaps her strength and power are acceptable only so long as she’s attracted to and desirable by men, and perhaps Warner Bros either does not consider its superhero audience ready for a bisexual heroine or does not consider themselves able to portray one.
That’s okay, though. Wonder Woman didn’t need to be kissing a woman onscreen to show me a glimpse of who I could be. Sure, I could stare at her all day, but I love her because she is so incontrovertibly herself. I’m used to living with doubt in every area of my life, but Diana knows exactly who she is and where she’s going and that was the most seductive thing of all. Figuring out that I was queer felt like tapping into that vein of total confidence. I love her because she mixes kindness with strength; because she loves a good fight and plays with little kids and has a gentle sense of humour (shout out to the author of my favourite comic book version of Diana, Gail Simone, who’s always said she likes the character with a dry wit); because she’s there to do the right thing and she always knows what that is, and who among us hasn’t longed for that kind of certainty?
I have mixed feelings about Wonder Woman 1984, the upcoming, much postponed sequel (at time of writing the release date is Christmas 2020).. For one thing, going to see it will expose me to a deadly virus. I could do without the return of Steve Trevor (no shade on Chris Pine) and the lack of superhero movies has been one of the few peaceful things about this summer. But it’s more than just that – it feels a bit like meeting up again several years later with the girl who was your lightbulb moment crush. We’ve all grown, the world’s changed – will the magic still be there?
It will probably require several thorough viewings to be completely sure, but I’m up for it.