I expected to feel more uncomfortable viewing the Wonder Woman movie. You know, as a man in the audience, I thought I'd be made to squirm, or be reminded in strong terms of the issues women are still battling against.

There was the scene where stuffy old members of parliament were affronted by a woman questioning their decisions and authority. And Wonder Woman repeatedly goes against the wishes of her male love interest. He says, "I can't let you do this." She says, "What I do is not up to you."

Yet on the whole there wasn't too much in the way of gender politics that was radical or controversial. Though I'm sure many women, and the young women in particular that I saw at the movie, would have enjoyed identifying with a strong female character who kicks ass, both physically and verbally.

The strength of the movie for me, however, lay in the way it tried to transcend standard superhero fare and raise some philosophical questions.


As it normally plays out, Batman, Superman, Iron Man and the like, end up saving the world, but you never get the feeling they care deeply about the people in the world. Often they're more motivated by ego driven competition with the bad guy.

Through the eyes of Wonder Woman we are instead made to reflect on the horrors of war (be it a highly creative depiction of the World War I). She is emotionally moved and empathetic in a way that the usual male superhero is not.

Wonder Woman believes that war can be ended forever if she just kills Ares, the God of War. It's Ares that whispers in the ears of men and women (it's a female scientist who develops a deadly new gas), as he works to achieve the annihilation of humankind. It's Ares' conviction that humans should never have been created by the gods, they have only despoiled the earth. Better they were gone from the world.

At the conclusion of the movie Wonder Woman has to confront the fact that Ares is not the cause of war. This floats the question that all of us have asked: does war originate from somewhere deep within human nature? Is war something we'll never see the back of?

In response to this possibility Wonder Woman expresses a view common to religious teaching and moral philosophy, that we still have the choice to act either for good or evil. It's within each of us to decide.

While there's truth in this, I think it places too much emphasis on the individual. And so like all superhero movies, and the comics that preceded them, there's no thought to any collective politics that might change the world and ourselves in the process.

It's the global women's movement, for instance, that won so many gains last century, and continues to push back against discrimination and for equality today. Both women and men are changed by this.

Likewise, if we are to overcome the forces of economic competition that propels countries to war, then it's to a collective politics motivated by a different vision of the world that we must look.

This will be a critical struggle of the 21st century, to overcome our national and cultural differences, and unite to oppose the Trumps, Putins and other demagogues of conflict and hate.

The foundations for achieving a global commonwealth are in the hearts and minds of grassroots people around the world. Perhaps the superheroes we need are us.