‘Wonder Woman’ Refreshingly Rejects The Moral Ambiguity Of Other Superhero Flicks

‘Wonder Woman’ Refreshingly Rejects The Moral Ambiguity Of Other Superhero Flicks

Too often, Hollywood gives us attractive villains and bad-boy heroes. Our narratives are morally muddy. Thankfully, 'Wonder Woman' avoids this pitfall.
Holly Scheer
By

Getting lost down the feminist rabbit hole misses the best parts of the new “Wonder Woman.” Instead of kvetching about whether Wonder Woman should have been shown pregnant, or shouldn’t have fought at all, or why there aren’t any male Amazons, we should stop and appreciate just how well good and evil, and men and women, are portrayed.

So many Hollywood movies portray sympathetic bad guys, and ambiguously good heroes. Instead of getting moral clarity and role models, we’re left rooting for villains to escape justice and cheering for good guys when they break the rules. “Wonder Woman” reminds us that there’s a better way.

Instead of presenting tragic backstories for the film’s evil antagonists, we’re introduced to some nasty human beings: war criminals, a scientist racing to perfect a devastating chemical weapon to slaughter innocent people, and a malevolent god who overthrew the rest of the Greek gods—including his own family. They’re not likable, or people you want your kids to dress up as for Halloween. But that’s rather the point. These are monsters dressed up in human form, and they represent every bad part of humanity. We do ourselves, and our children, no favors when we pretend that sometimes bad is good.

We Have Too Many Likable Villains and Rebellious Heroes

There’s no shortage of TV shows and films that glorify wrongdoers. “Breaking Bad,” “Orange is the New Black,” “Game of Thrones,” and “House of Cards” are only a few of the recent shows in which bad guys are portrayed as lovable. We want them to succeed, even if it’s at the cost of others. And you don’t need to look any further than another recent release and blockbuster, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” to find a movie in which heroes can’t stop breaking rules, even while fighting the bad guys.

It’s confusing for kids when they see people praised for giving into their evil sides. I don’t want my kids to celebrate Kylo Ren, even though I’m completely capable of separating fact from fiction.

And I’m not the only one concerned about moral ambiguity and how it shapes our children. KidsHealth, a site for parents by doctors and specialists in childhood, says: “Many violent acts are caused by the “good guys,” whom kids are taught to admire … This can lead to confusion when kids try to understand the difference between right and wrong.” A society with a firm grasp on good versus evil is good for all of us.

Psychologists have been studying this for decades. The Milgram experiment on Obedience to Authority in 1963 tested how long normal people would inflict pain on others, and the Stanford Prison Experiment in 1971 couldn’t be completed because those involved took things too far. Dr. Philip Zimbardo, leader of the ‘71 experiment and an expert in the psychology of good vs. evil, described the problem thus: “Most ordinary, even good, people are vulnerable to subtle, pervasive situational forces when they are in new circumstances where usual, habitual ways of behaving are not relevant.”

‘Wonder Woman’ Offers Clear-Cut Good and Evil

Circle this back to “Wonder Woman,” and the differences become stark. The film’s evil is clear and identifiable, but so is the good. Diana Prince doesn’t let the promise of power sway her from protecting innocent people, and she doesn’t accept that some people need to be collateral damage. Wonder Woman fights to protect those who can’t protect themselves, and she does it without succumbing to vice.

It’s refreshing to see heroes who won’t disappoint us, and good that can be achieved without crossing important lines. It doesn’t take perfection to be admirable, and Wonder Woman doesn’t pretend to be perfect. Her personal values aren’t in line with a Judeo-Christian worldview, but again, that’s not the point here.

I’m the mother of two daughters, one a teen, and one a pre-teen. I took both with me to see “Wonder Woman,” and I don’t regret it a bit. Wonder Woman presented one of the most encouraging views of womanhood I’ve seen in recent media. This movie managed to avoid objectifying Diana, and her costume is less revealing than the one Linda Carter originally wore. When Wonder Woman chooses other outfits, it’s worth noting she stays both covered and classy.

Don’t miss out on “Wonder Woman.” It’s more than a campy remake of a classic comic book; it’s a thought-provoking look at morality, and an excellent reminder that we can have heroes worth cheering for.

Holly Scheer is a writer and editor. She’s fascinated by politics, culture and theology. Follow her on Twitter @HScheer1580.

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