Wonder Woman or Baywatch, that was the question many faced as India’s desi girl went against Gal Gadot superhero on June 2. But as I was planning my weekend to choose between two big releases, the controversy about the length of Priyanka Chopra’s dress as she met PM Narendra Modi grabbed my attention. Nevertheless, I opted to watch a DC comic adaptation as a form of escapism. The movie starring Gal Gadot in the central role was expected to be like any other popcorn entertainer. However, the treatment and the narrative of the film completely took me by surprise. I was totally awestruck by the screenplay and wasn’t able to take my eyes off Wonder Woman herself.
The thing that captured my mind was the story and screenplay that handles a man-woman relationship and gender issues in a completely subtle and progressive manner. The story writers Zack Snyder, Allan Heinberg and Jason Fuchs as well as the screenwriter, Heinberg himself have done a fine job with the film’s characterisation and plot as far as human relations and psyche are concerned.
In the movie, as a young Amazonian princess, Diana born and brought up in a women’s-only society meets a man for the first time but is not intimidated by his presence but feels inquisitive to know more about the human race. A few sequences in the film could have been dealt with adult humour or titillation, but director Patty Jenkins has dealt with it sensitively. When Diana played by Gadot pays a visit to her captive Captain Steve Trevor while he’s bathing and points out to his genitals asking, ‘What’s that?’, and while she questions him about why he is hesitant to sleep with her outside marriage reflects the taboos, myths, cynicism, dogmas and ethos that have crushed the very roots of society by orthodox values.
Diana often has a frank conversation with Captain Trevor, where she’s curious to know what happens after marriage and what do humans do apart from eating, drinking and sleeping. There is no sleazy humour but indirect references to gender inequality in our society.
The movie has driven attention to gender bias with subtlety and the very idea of questioning and challenging the status quo. We are self-conscious when it comes to speaking about opposite gender and this starts to inculcate a feudal stigma and regressive mindset, both among women and men.
The problem lies in the society’s reservations when it comes to discussing gender crimes or disparity. Especially, when it comes to portraying either in the visual medium. This restrictive attitude of limiting children while they are in the phase of adolescence has been one of the reasons for the regressive mindset among the male youth today. In a few brief interactions among the central characters of Wonder Woman, I was stunned to understand the plight women have to go through in a society that seeks pleasure in the objectification of gender.
Priyanka Chopra defines today’s ‘Wonder Woman’ by being unapologetically outspoken. She embraces her individuality irrespective of any fear of moral policing. Priyanka’s answer to the trolls with her tweet captioning “some more legs” and Wonder Woman’s liberated stand on male friendship, social order and dress code stresses on the need to convey the message of female empowerment through all forms of media. It’s high time we get out of the cocooned mentality when it comes to having a carefree opinion or commentary on sexuality and correlated gender issues.
The philosophy of liberation is not solely about women’s rights but developing a relationship with the opposite sex. This would, in turn, play the role of a change agent to mould the thought process of teenagers in an evolutionary period. Had the trolls been informed about gender issues and if the biology curriculum on ‘human reproductive system’ wasn’t skipped in many developing cities, the scope for misconception would have decreased. The reason men are easily provoked by female presence or exposure to glamour is the moral scrutiny they have to face from their family and relatives with respect to the opposite gender since their childhood.
In the movie, Princess Diana is at complete ease while communicating with male soldiers. So is Priyanka who has made it to the top in an industry that has been dominated by men for way too long. Films have been a medium of social change since the 1950s. So, it’s imperative that the discussion about equality should begin through the cinematic medium without shying away from pushing the envelope. Both Wonder Woman and Priyanka Chopra have paved the way. Now it is up to us to follow suit.