The success of Wonder Woman proves liberals are OK with imperialism as long as its led by a (white) woman
June 6, 2017
*This post contains spoilers*
I should have known. I think too much to enjoy most Hollywood-approved movies––superhero movies especially. But I’d just wiped my memory clean of that god-awful Batman vs. Superman and Jesse Eisenburg’s horrendous portrayal of Lex Luther (yes, it took a whole year to free myself of those nightmares), and so my repressed mind thought, why not? Wonder Woman was a great comic, female superheroes have long deserved their time to shine, as have female directors of major blockbusters, and so I took my partner to see DC’s latest on its opening weekend.
Of course, this meant I had to have already ignored the many critical protestations of Palestinian activists, who pointed to the zionist record of Gal Gadot, the star of the film, in an effort to deter others from seeing Wonder Woman. As Lara Witt noted for Wear Your Voice, in 2014, Gadot posted this photo on Facebook of herself and her daughter praying along with the caption: “I am sending my love and prayers to my fellow Israeli citizens, especially to all the boys and girls who are risking their lives protecting my country against the horrific acts conducted by Hamas, who are hiding like cowards behind women and children…We shall overcome!!! #weareright”
By Hari Ziyad*, AFROPUNK Writer
As Witt explains, the Israeli assault Gadot was referring to “was widely condemned and took place between July 8 through Aug. 27. More than 2,100 Palestinians were killed along the Gaza strip along with 66 Israeli soldiers, and seven civilians in Israel. The majority of the Palestinian deaths were civilians including 495 children and 253 women.” Ironically, the most moving scene in the whole film is one in which the hero rushes to save the lives of innocent civilians, but it is a scene that is no less hypocritical for the zionist star than it is for the character she plays.
Even ignoring Gadot’s support of the brutal occupation of Palestine, Wonder Woman is liberal white supremacist propaganda. From the jump, we are shown that the pre-release pushes for diversity in the film were met with tokenism instead. As Robert Jones Jr. of Son of Baldwin explains in this great conversation with Valerie Complex about the movie, “when white people say ‘diversity,’ they mean ‘tokenism,'” and the first (and only) women of color we see in Themyscira are a mammy figure, a silent brute (who is shown taking a powerful blow to the back and responding with only a grunt), and other silent or mostly silent, unnamed characters (read the aforementioned conversation for more on this point).
Even more insidious is whose deaths are shown to matter in the film. Set in World War I, Wonder Woman/Diana Prince joins the Allied Powers under the impression that Ares, the antagonist of the film, is leading the Central Powers in a thirst for war. When he finally reveals himself the end of the film, Ares explains that he has not been leading anyone, only giving (white) people the knowledge to create their own weapons, and sitting back as they used them on each other. Because of their willingness to do just that, Ares argues, they were inherently evil creatures and not worth saving. He gives Diana the opportunity to kill the woman behind the most terrible weapons used in the war, but instead Diana kills him, claiming “it’s not what you deserve, it’s what you believe (that determines whether or not you should die).”
But just minutes prior, Diana had killed about a dozen men in a well-choreographed scene (all of the choreo was great, admittedly) in response to her love interest dying.
To recap, white people were hellbent on killing each other. Ares, like the world, only provided them the tools they sought. Diana killed many of these very people when she was angry, but when Ares pointed out the consequences of their deeds she would not kill the ones responsible for the carnage out of a newfound respect for their humanity. She would, however, kill Ares, because to white liberal imperialists what Aries believed––that people hellbent on killing others don’t deserve to live––is worse than being hellbent on killing others.
I say Ares’ commentary is about white people specifically for many reasons. For one, outside of Themyscira, white people were pretty much the only ones represented (and as mentioned, in Themyscira Black people were no more than racist tropes). If Ares was truly arguing that all humans were evil, the film would have had to explain how Indigenous and formerly enslaved peoples were not behind any of the bloodthirsty wars that he held up as proof.
More to the point, in one scene Diana and crew elicit the help of a Native American smuggler. During a conversation, she asks him “what happened to your people?” and the smuggler replies, “his people,” nodding to her love interest––referring to white people slaughtering them. Diana responds by saying nothing––literally shrugging off Indigenous genocide––and the film continues with her killing even more for her love interest’s people and cause with no reflection on that damning conversation.
Just to make sure we’re clear, Diana later spares the white woman responsible for the most terrible deaths in the war because (some) people deserve a second chance, but not Ares. If her respect for life isn’t consistent, it’s because she only cares for life that she, representing white liberalism, deems important. Certainly not the lives of radicalized factions with justifiable concerns if not means (Ares), nor the life of Indigenous people. This is the type of care that allows genocidal tendencies to be reduced to mere flaws, and forces anyone seriously challenging those tendencies to become the real problem needing to be eradicated.
The movie, which ends with Diana saying something along the lines of “love conquers all”––I’m not making this up––went on to break box-office records, garnering rave reviews from liberal media critics along the way. This is an old story. Liberalism is okay with reducing murderously oppressive structures into mistakes and shrugging off the oppression of Indigenous people, as long as it has a progressive face. This is the same reason why the #ImWithHer crowd refused any critiques of Hillary Clinton’s history around Honduras, mass incarceration, and as a War Hawk.
For liberalism, “it’s not what you deserve, it’s what you believe,” because liberals believe in “love” but have no intention of providing any deserved fixes to the ravages of white supremacy. Liberalism is okay with the same type of white supremacist logic that Diana espoused, which is why the liberals behind the film cast a supremacist in the leading role. And it is my liberal tendencies which allowed me to go see the film in the first place, instead of taking time to listen to my Palestinian siblings who were organizing protests. But liberalism will not save us.
Banner photo: Clay Enos/Warner Bros/AP
*Hari Ziyad is a New York based storyteller and writer for AFROPUNK. They are also the editor-in-chief of RaceBaitR, deputy editor of Black Youth Project, and assistant editor of Vinyl Poetry & Prose. You can follow them on Twitter @hariziyad.