When watching the film Wonder Woman, I was struck at the time that although Wonder Woman is indeed a superhero in the modern sense, the movie actually sets her up as a mythological hero, the kind you see a lot of if you have an interest in Greek mythology. Warning: spoilers abound in the following paragraphs, so please don’t read if you haven’t seen it yet!
What did the Greeks consider a hero? Generally, someone who had some sort of divine parentage, is known for their courageous deeds, has a great deal of strength, and has a god or gods watching over them. Wonder Woman definitely fits all of these criteria as her life is presented in the film, and as I watched, I realized that her story in the film also follow the steps of the classical hero’s journey, as popularized by Joseph Campbell in The Hero With a Thousand Faces –
The Ordinary World – Diana is secure, growing up on an island hidden away from the rest of the world. She seems to long for adventure, which she channels into combat training.
The Call to Adventure – An attack on their island and the death of someone dear to her calls her to respond to the war going on far beyond the island’s borders.
Refusal of the Call – Diana is reminded by her mother that she may not leave the island, and she reluctantly puts the idea away.
Meeting with the Mentor – She is able to meet and speak with Steve, the man she rescued from a plane wreck, just before the attack, and he tells her of the war going on in the world beyond, sparking her desire to go to help humanity.
Crossing the Threshold – After figuring out how to arm and provision her expedition, Diana and Steve leave the island for the war in the world beyond.
Tests, Enemies, and Allies – She accompanies Steve into the world beyond her island and meets with enemies to be defeated and allies to go with them to help her complete her quest, to kill the God of War.
Approach – She and Steve figure out a way to finance and supply their expedition and prepare to go into the heart of the fighting.
The Ordeal – After Steve prevents her from killing the man she thinks is the God of War, Diana becomes angry and accuses him of not believing in her mission and leaves, determined to finish it anyway, but begins to despair that maybe people are not capable of living peacefully together.
The Reward/The Road Back – After killing her target, Diana finds out that she killed the wrong man, and that someone they had thought was an ally was really the God of War in hiding all the time. She is stripped of the weapons she thought would defeat him, but ends up realizing that the power to defeat him was contained within her all the time. She manages to kill him, but ends up losing her closes ally, Steve. Through the experience, she regains her faith in the goodness in people, however.
The Resurrection/Return With the Elixir – At the end of her adventure, Diana ends up with a more realistic view of people and their capabilities, but a hopeful view of them nonetheless. As she’d been told since she was a little girl that the Amazon’s sacred duty was to fight for and protect people, Diana takes this as her mission going forward and vows to fight to protect the people, determining that she will live among them to do this and not return to the island she came from.
I remember watching the movie and thinking that the flow of the story seemed familiar to me, but now that I’ve sat and compared it to the framework, I can see that the writers for the movie may well have used this as a reference. At any rate, I loved the film and thought that they really gave Wonder Woman her due in it, and probably one of the reasons is that I can see by the story structure that they decided to take her seriously as a hero. I’d recommend the film to just about anyone, especially those that love hero stories, because it’s definitely one.