If you’ve seen Wonder Woman and loved it, ask yourself, “Why?” True, it has witty dialogue, like-able characters, and impressive action sequences, but most importantly, its message speaks to our hearts. The film retells key themes from the Greatest Story Ever Told, the Good News of Jesus. Don’t believe me? I’ll let the movie speak for itself, providing Wonder Woman quotes with minimal commentary.
In the Beginning
Like most of the stories we love (and the story the God tells us in the scripture), Wonder Woman’s tale starts with perfection. Spoken by Hippolyta,
Long ago, when time was new and all of history was still a dream, the Gods ruled the earth, Zeus king among them. Zeus created beings over which the Gods would rule. Beings born in his image, fair and good, strong and passionate. He called his creation “man.” And mankind was good. But Zeus’s son grew envious of mankind and sought to corrupt his father’s creation. This was Ares, the God of War. Ares poisoned men’s hearts with jealousy and suspicion. He turned them against one another and war ravaged the earth.
I’m continually amazed how Hollywood depicts polytheism. More often than not, it does not resemble the historic mythologies of multiple competing, selfish, and dangerous deities, but it instead portrays an all-powerful and loving god, a good divine child, and a usurper. In other words, Hollywood inserts Christianity into polytheism1, and I don’t blame them. It’s a better story, revealing that God made us for a world better than we experience, and it gives hope that all will be made well again.
Wonder Woman, like the scriptures, begin with utopia for men and women. Despite this, a tempter rises up and leads people astray, and we find ourselves in the mess we call life.
Wonder Woman’s bliss comes to an abrupt end when Steve Trevor crashes off the coast of her hidden island. Followed by German soldiers, she and her people experience loss and learn World War I rages on.
“We are all to blame”
Wonder Woman, known as Diana Prince, believes people are inherently good, but deceived by Ares. Since warfare is not really their fault, they deserve to be set free from his control. Consequently, she leaves with Steve to find and defeat Ares, which she expects will immediately stop World War I. But, her worldview shatters after she kills General Ludendorff, whom she believed to be Ares.
Diana: Ares is dead. They can stop fighting now. Why are they still fighting?
Steve Trevor: Because, maybe it’s them! Maybe… Maybe people aren’t always good. Ares or no Ares, maybe it’s, it’s who they are…
Diana: They were killing each other. Killing people they cannot see. Children… Children! … My mother was right. She said, “The world of men do not deserve you.” They don’t deserve our help, Steve.
Steve: It’s not about deserve!
Diana: They don’t deserve our help.
Steve: Maybe we don’t! But it’s not about that. It’s about what you believe. You don’t think I get it after what I’ve seen out there? You don’t think I wish I could tell you that it was one bad guy to blame? It’s not! We’re all to blame.
Diana: I am not.
Steve: But maybe I am!
A Common Objection
Many make a mistake similar to Diana. They argue that most people (including themselves) are good, but an elite few have corrupted society. While some might attribute all human failing to Satan (which is horrible theology), more people place all blame on politicians, Wall Street executives, religion, or the 1%.
When Ares appears, revealing that Diana killed the wrong person, he explains his actual role, which represents the actions of Satan or the powerful:
[People] have always been, and always will be weak, cruel, selfish, and capable of the greatest horrors… All these years I have struggled alone, whispering into their ears. Ideas, inspiration for formulas [for poison gas], weapons, but I don’t make them use them. They start these wars on their own.
Certainly, the rich and powerful have the ability and motive to cause significant harm, and they can influence others to do the same. But as the film points out, this does not mean everyone else is innocent. Many participate in systemic injustices and others remain complacent towards them. Apart from societal evils, people’s selfishness and pride frequently hurt others in their personal lives.
Steve Trevor as Christ Figure
A great story is not complete without the sacrificial death. While Ares confronts Diana, a plane filled with poisonous gas takes off for London, and Steve Trevor catches up to and commandeers it. Unable to stop the countdown to its explosion, he chooses to fly it far away and detonate the gas, destroying the plane and sacrificing his life.
Diana’s worldview changes. More than his words, Steve’s actions taught her to love those who did not deserve it, demonstrating to her and us that true love is unconditional and sacrificial.
It’s About Love
In the film’s climax, Ares expresses hope that Diana would come to his conclusion that humans do not deserve to be saved and that she would join him their destruction, returning the world to paradise. He even gives her the opportunity to kill “Dr. Poison”, the creator of the chemical weapon intended for civilian populations. Though tempted, she reflects on Steve’s sacrifice and summarizes the message of the movie:
Ares: Look at her and tell me I’m wrong. She is the perfect example of these humans and unworthy of your sympathy in every way. Destroy her, Diana. You know that she deserves it. They all do.
Diana: You’re wrong about them. They’re everything you say, but so much more.
Ares: Lies! They do not deserve your protection!
Diana: It’s not about deserve. It’s about what you believe. And I believe in love.
Finally, let’s compare these lines with a few more quotes:
“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8
“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us2 and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:9,10
Part of the Problem, Part of the Solution
What does this mean for us?
Perhaps you’ve heard a dry presentation of the Gospel and rejected such depressing notions that you are sinful. To be honest, people usually don’t like to hear “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
But if your heart resonated with the message in Wonder Woman that “we are all to blame”, then maybe your concern had been the presentation and not the content. After all, Jesus does not seek to condemn. Like Steve Trevor, He understands our faults and loves us anyway. He even died for us.
Unlike Trevor, Jesus rose from the dead and calls us to participate with Him in being part of the solution. So, let’s do that. Can you think of a person in your life who doesn’t “deserve” your forgiveness or help? “It’s not about deserve.” Forgive. Help.
Let us learn to love like Steve Trevor and Wonder Woman, sacrificially seeking to come alongside others, not fighting against them but against the selfishness and sin inside them (and inside ourselves). Diana puts it best:
I used to want to save the world. To end war and bring peace to mankind. But then I glimpsed the darkness that lives within their light and learned that inside every one of them, there will always be both. A choice each must make for themselves. Something no hero will ever defeat. And now I know that only love can truly save the world. So I stay. I fight, and I give for the world I know can be. This is my mission now. Forever.
- The above quote echoes Genesis 1 in obviously intentional ways. It notes that man was created in the image of God and repeats the refrain that His creation was good. ↩
- While this post focus on why we love the film Wonder Woman, we can also note the reason why we love the character Wonder Woman. We love her because she loves us. ↩