I never expected, however, to be glued to my seat for over two hours, seeing one biblical truth after another being portrayed flawlessly on screen.
Here are three biblical truths about womanhood that show up prominently in Director Patty Jenkins’s rendition of Wonder Woman.
1. God views us women as strong warriors, not sidekicks or afterthoughts.
The creator of the Wonder Woman comic, William Marston once wrote:
“Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength, and power. […] The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman.”
Wonder Woman, a.k.a. Diana Prince is not your typical one-dimensional femme fatale.
Yes, she spins mid-air, dives off cliffs and slashes enemies as efficiently as any other superhero.
No, she isn’t thoughtlessly murdering people in her leather lingerie and stilettos (I’m looking at you, Atomic Blonde).
Wonder Woman is the first superhero to be fully equipped in combat skill, yet purely motivated by love and not vengeance (or some other version of a complicated, bitter backstory).
I will never forget a talk by my Cru colleague, Suzy Silk, founder of the Hope Gathering, who has completed her MA in “Bible and Ancient Semitic Languages” from Jewish Theological Seminary. In her short, ten-minute speech during a conference, she highlighted how military language was consistently used for key biblical passages describing the identity of women: first, in Genesis 2, and then later in Proverbs 31.
In Genesis 2:18, God said “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (emphasis mine). The Hebrew words used for “helper suitable” are “ezer kenegdo.” The word “ezer” is a military term used 21 times in the Old Testament, twice to describe Eve, and three times to describe Israel in her alliances with other nations. The remaining sixteen times that the word appears in the Old Testament, God uses the word “ezer” to describe himself. (For all my fellow bible nerds, here are all the verse references where you can find the word “ezer.”
God describes himself as “ezer” during the times in war when Israel is about to lose. The Psalmist refers to God as “ezer” when he says, “I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 120:1-2, emphasis mine).
Did you catch that? God names Eve “Ezer” and then He consistently applies the same name to Himself. God is the aid, the strong help in desperate situations, and we women were created to follow suit.
The same theme is picked up in Proverbs 31, which describes a “noble woman”. This passage is the only time in the Old Testament in which the Hebrew word “chayil” is translated “noble” because it refers to a woman. Every other time that the word appears, it has to do with soldiers, and is closer to the word “valiant.” David’s mighty men? They were “men of valor.”
As Suzy points out, military language permeates Proverbs 31: ”The word for the ‘buying’ means ‘she hunts out prey and she brings it back’. It’s a hunting term. And when it says that ‘she puts on clothes’, it’s actually ‘she girds her loins with strength’. There’s so much military language in that passage.” Say it with me everyone, #MINDBLOWN.
I shocked myself when I started to bawl like a baby during a key battle scene in Wonder Woman, which was tragically almost cut from the movie (WARNING: The click-through will have spoilers). After years of studying the word “ezer”, I couldn’t help but get emotional at the sight of a woman actually embodying it on screen. Note that it wasn’t that Wonder Woman had some heartfelt speech before the battle; it was literally the act of her fighting that turned on the waterworks.
2. Our emotional vulnerability as women is our strength, not our weakness.
In a featurette for the film, Director Patty Jenkins says that “The greatest thing about Wonder Woman is how good and kind and loving she is, yet none of that negates any of her power.”
As a woman in general, and an artist in particular, I am very much in touch with my emotions. It helps in terms of putting myself in others’ shoes and being sensitive to those around me. But there are times when I can get carried away by my emotions, and feel hurt or disappointment more deeply, than, say, my husband Moses would (FYI, he is a “J” for all you fellow Myers-Briggs fans). And it is not uncommon that I will start to resent my emotions altogether.
There are several moments in the film in which Diana is hopeful and emotional to the point of being naive. But Wonder Woman’s compassion is arguably her greatest superpower. She genuinely loves people and enjoys life (ice cream, anyone?). She is an optimist, and her supreme values are hope and love, despite the evil she witnesses. This tenderness is definitely a quality lacking in most of her other Marvel and DC Comics counterparts (except maybe Captain America).