First things first, I’ve been excited about the Wonder Woman movie ever since Diana Prince showed up in Batman vs. Superman.
Was it perfect? Of course not.
Did I expect it to be perfect? Also no.
While there were some clumsy moments–mostly the way the whole origin story was framed–I loved the movie. My biggest problem was actually with the mythology.
You see, I love Greek/Roman Mythology. I have ever since I got my first mythology book as a kid:
That was my first, although I had several different versions of them. I even loved adaptations:
Admittedly, reading The Odyssey in high school was weirder when I pictured Wishbone as Odysseus.
Hell, I was even in an adaptation. The last play I was in during high school was Medea….
Even as a science major in college, I managed to pursue my love of mythology. (And not just because the college cheer is an ode to Athena.) I took two classics courses.
Sadly, ‘Interpreting Mythology’ had more to do with reading scholarly interpretations of the stories than discussing the stories themselves. Hey, at least we got to read this:
In one weekend.
(Never take a class without checking if it’s cross-listed with the graduate school.)
Anyway, you get the picture. I love mythology. So, how does Wonder Woman measure up?
Hint: There will be spoilers. You’ve been warned.
Creation of Man
Movie: Hippolyta tells Diana that Zeus made mankind to be good and true.
Myths: Zeus is king of the Greek pantheon, but he’s not really ‘the creator’ like the Christian/Jewish/ Muslim god.
Prometheus (a titan) made humans out of mud.
Not a glamorous beginning, I’ll admit.
(Okay, it’s put prettily in Ovid’s Metamorphoses: “The new-made earth, so lately parted from the heavens, kept still some essence of the kindred sky–Earth that Prometheus molded , mixed with water, in likeness of the gods that govern the world–“)
Those first humans were the golden age of man. They were good and just and true.
Fall of Man
Movie: Ares corrupts man.
Myths: We kinda do it to ourselves. Each successive generation after the golden age was worse than the last. Finally, Zeus and the other gods decide to do a hard reset of the human race.
With a huge flood. It’s the godly thing to do.
Two decent people survive, Deucalion and Pyrrha. They visit a shrine& receive some wise words from an oracle. They then throw rocks (the bones of their mother) behind them and, with the grace of the gods, mankind springs up once again, this time from rocks.
Which is…better than dirt?
Movie: Protectors of mankind, these warrior women live on an enchanted island without any men.
Myths: The Amazons are a race of fierce warrior women. Their husbands are the ones who tend to the children, cook, and do everything else. (A nightmare scenario for men, but a ‘turnabout is fair play’ story for women.) The Amazons show up most notably in the labors of Hercules.
Hercules is charged with getting Hippolyta’s girdle. (Which of the twelve labors this is depends on the source.) She’s taken with him and offers it up gladly. Hera stirs up trouble and gets the Amazons to believe Hercules is going to kidnap their queen. In the battle that follows, Hippolyta is killed.
Hercules: great in the kids’ movie, a murderous jerk in the myths.
Woman out of clay
Movie: Diana’s mother tells her that she was made out of clay and brought to life by Zeus.
Comics: In the the early origin story in the comics, Hippolyta sculpts Diana out of clay and Aphrodite (goddess of love) brings her to life.
Myths: While Wonder Woman isn’t a figure in Greek mythology herself, this origin story is almost exactly the same as a much creepier tale.
In Ovid’s “Pygmalion,” a misogynistic sculptor creates a woman out of ivory. In an ironic twist, he falls in love with her. After treating his statue like a stone sex doll (only creepier) for a while, he finally begs Aphrodite to send him a maiden just like his creation. Aphrodite does what he actually wants and brings the statue to life. He names the woman Galatea.
That myth is also the inspiration behind My Fair Lady.
It’s getting late and this is getting long.
I’ll write Part 2 tomorrow; it’s going to focus on Diana’s alternate origin story as well as the gods and how they were portrayed in Wonder Woman.
For now, I’ll leave you with these lines from Ovid:
“Man was made to hold his head erect in majesty and see the sky, and raise his eyes to the bright stars above”
Like Diana discovering snow and ice cream, remember to see the world with this: