Wonder Woman could be a game-changer in a lot of ways. Obviously, it’s the biggest superhero movie yet to feature a female protagonist, but it also introduces a new wrinkle: the love interest is a dude. This isn’t something that was spun out of the studio’s desire to make the character more mainstream. Steve Trevor has been a part of Wonder Woman’s origin story since the beginning, and he’s as important to her history as Lois Lane is to Superman.
However, this presents a challenge: How do you bring along a male character without lessening the heroine’s importance or agency? The answer may seem obvious, but bad comics writers constantly tried to make Trevor more important than Wonder Woman, and presented him as a force to drive her towards domesticity. In the worst Wonder Woman comics, Trevor wasn’t the one who needed saving; he was the one who “saved” Wonder Woman by luring her towards a life of marriage where she wouldn’t have to worry her pretty little head about things like saving the world.
While we likely didn’t have to worry about anything like that cropping up in the movie, Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman could have presented a more insidious form of sexism. The plot of the film has Wonder Woman leaving her home of Themyscira to join Trevor in his mission to stop World War I. Because Wonder Woman has never left Themyscira before, she’s constantly learning about the modern world, or at least the world as it was in 1918. This could have placed Trevor into mansplaining territory where he constantly educates the ignorant Wonder Woman on how the world works.
Last week, I went to London to visit the edit bay for Wonder Woman, and I got to see some scenes that put my fears to rest. What Jenkins and the screenwriters have cleverly done is make sure that Wonder Woman’s naiveté always comes off as satirical. She comes from a place where woman are strong and powerful, and she’s baffled as to why they’re not treated this way in our world. Trevor’s not there to point out the shortcomings in Wonder Woman’s knowledge; she’s there to point out the shortcomings in Trevor’s society.
We saw three scenes strung together (it’s worth noting that these scenes were largely finished, but still had temp tracks and the VFX were being polished). The first has Wonder Woman and Trevor sailing away from Themyscira and then having an awkward conversation about men and women sleeping together. It’s not that their conversation immediately leads to sex, but rather Trevor respectfully giving space to Wonder Woman and her not understanding why he doesn’t sleep next to her. She’s not hitting on him and she doesn’t want to have sex with him. She simply doesn’t understand the social mores, and so his attempt to give her space backfires. They then have a funny conversation where they talk about human sexuality and Wonder Woman informs Trevor that she’s read all 12 volumes on it, but notes that Trevor probably wouldn’t like the author’s conclusion that men are necessary for reproduction and little else.
I can’t emphasize enough how pitch perfect this scene is and how well it sets the tone for their relationship. It’s constantly playful and funny, but it’s not about establishing a power dynamic. No one is trying to “take charge”, and instead it’s played as awkward and cute because these people from two entirely different cultures are struggling to communicate. Wonder Woman gets to be self-assured and thoughtful and Steve struggles to explain social mores, but there’s also a mutual level of respect. They’re trying to communicate, but it leads to Wonder Woman being perplexed and Trevor being flustered. It lays the foundation for their inevitable romance but removed from the hero-damsel dynamic.
We then go to a scene where General Erich Ludendorff (Danny Huston) goes to a laboratory to check up on the progress being made by Dr. Maru (Elena Anaya). She informs him that she needs her notebook to finish her work on a deadly gas, but Ludendorff tries to encourage her by saying that her mind should be more than enough to finish her work. Flattered, she gives Ludendorff a dose of a new gas she’s working on that gives him super-strength. Invigorated, he crushes his pistol with his bare hand and then Maru comes across a scrap of paper that seems to make her realize what she needs to complete her formula.
We then cut back to Wonder Woman and Trevor, who have arrived in London. It’s a moment where the color timing is really going to work in the film’s favor as we move from the bright, idyllic, and peaceful Themyscira to the gray, ugly London of 1918. “It’s hideous,” Wonder Woman dryly remarks, and she’s not wrong. There’s no romanticizing mass industrialization, and it’s nice that Wonder Woman isn’t bowled over by massive manmade structures. In fact, what catches her interest is seeing a baby for the first time (obviously, on an island with no men, there are no babies on Themyscira), and in that moment we get to see Wonder Woman’s joy and compassion. She’s not a stone-cold warrior; she has love in her heart, and it’s a breath of fresh air to see a DCEU superhero express joy at anything.
The scene has Wonder Woman and Trevor making their way to the war council where their awkward interactions continue. Wonder Woman notices that a man and woman on the street are holding hands, and she asks why. Trevor says it’s because they’re together, so Wonder Woman tries to hold his hand, and he pulls back having to explain what “together” means in a romantic context. He also realizes that although she’s covered in a black fur coat, she can’t go around 1918 London in Amazonian battle garb, so they make their way to get her a new outfit. End scene.
Watching the dynamic between Wonder Woman and Trevor makes you realize how foreign this kind of sweetness has been to DCEU movies. Man of Steel and Batman v Superman are largely humorless, and the jokes in Suicide Squad fall flat. To see a DCEU movie display warmth and charm, especially in a tricky relationship like the one between Wonder Woman and Trevor, is immensely reassuring.
Click on the respective links for more of our Wonder Woman set visit coverage:
- ‘Wonder Woman': Over 50 Things to Know about the Iconic Superhero’s New Movie
- ‘Wonder Woman': Gal Gadot on Creating a Superhero That Young Girls Can Admire
- ‘Wonder Woman’ Director Patty Jenkins on Being Inspired by Richard Donner’s ‘Superman’
- The ‘Wonder Woman’ Action Scene That Beings Heroism to DC Movies
Wonder Woman opens June 2nd.