2017 Shero of the Year: Wonder Woman

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Dec 29, 2017, 1:00 PM EST

Development for Wonder Woman first started in 1996, and over the years directors from Ivan Reitman to Joss Whedon have been attached. Twenty-one years of development and the timing was never quite right, the story was never quite right, the men attempting to make the film were never quite right. Wonder Woman, essentially, was No Man's Land. No man could make it. And we all know what happened next.

Enter Patty Jenkins, and Gal Gadot, and the Amazons of Themiscyra, and Etta Candy, and Dr. Poison. Dynamic, powerful heroes and villains and real, true people with real, true motivations and goals. To view this film was to be part of a moment many of us never thought we'd see: a superhero movie about a woman, by a woman, and that didn't make us feel condescended to. Since its release, so many women have talked about crying when they watched it. The power of seeing this hero, at this time in history, it felt crucial. It felt critical. We needed her, we needed this her and we needed her now. Unobjectified, not created solely for the male gaze, not a pandering empty vessel of unearned "badass" bestowed by a male director fetishizing her.

And Gadot herself felt the same way watching the film. "It was the first time for me — as a woman, a girl, a female — that I saw an image of strong women that are beautiful and confident and can take care of themselves," she said. "I was shocked by it, and then I was more shocked by the fact that I never saw anything like that."

And that is what makes Wonder Woman our Shero of the Year.

This was the year women stood up, that women spoke out. Against misogyny, against sexual assault, against Hollywood for continuously feeding into the narratives that impact all of it. And there's still so far to go. For as much as this movie meant to us, it's still almost entirely white, with the character's canonical bisexuality hinted at best. Our hope, our need, is that the unparalleled success of this movie leads to more. To more women of color as superheroes, not lineless side characters. For LGBTQ characters to be the primary focus, not a tenuously implied possibility discussed in promotional junkets. People of different physical abilities, across the gender binary, of all skin tones, and to be combinations of these traits, not just a one-or-the-other act of tokenism. And for these women to be real and powerful. I got my Wonder Woman. I felt represented. Now it's everyone else's turn. - Courtney Enlow

It took 75 years for Wonder Woman to get her own movie, and yet I still wasn't prepared for the effect it had on me. I'd seen countless super-powered men clash, rally, and win the day. But to see Diana on the big screen, owning her own story, it blew me away.

She was cheerful. She was strong-willed. She was gorgeous, whether in her Amazon battle armor or the restrictive fashions of World War I London. She was a power fantasy of ferocity, femininity, and fashion. She was unapologetically woman, and when she strode into No Man's Land, fearless, rebuffing not just bullets but also men telling her what was possible, I shook and wept and realized just what this genre had been missing. How many women finally felt seen in that moment? How many more people could feel recognized if superhero movies took the cue from this film and opened up to more than stories of burly white men? How much richer and more powerful could this genre become? Defiant and elegant, Diana is leading the way. - Kristy Puchko

The experience of seeing Wonder Woman, a film about a powerful woman who makes no excuses or apologies for her strength, who fights with both passion and compassion, and who refuses to back down when others tell her that the world cannot be changed, was hard to describe. Wonder Woman the film was a rallying cry, a boon to women who have felt for far too long like they are not respected or even seen in a world of men. Wonder Woman the character, meanwhile, tells you that you too can be powerful, can be wonderful, can stand up when there is a wall of hate and a hail of bullets and lead an army. But perhaps what Wonder Woman gave us most was hope for the future. Before this year, the idea of a female-led superhero movie was a battle none of us thought we would win. The idea that it would be good, that it would potentially be one of the best movies of the year (certainly the best DC movie since Nolan put down the reins) was unthinkable. Now we can dream; dream of a world where we see Wonder Woman and we think "this was great, but we can do better." Where we not only demand greater representation across the board but perhaps even have a chance of getting it. Wonder Woman allowed some of us to be seen this year, but she is about so much more than just female representation. The success of this film proves that there is room in superhero films (and in genre entertainment in general) not just for women, but for stories from all other perspectives, be it people of color, LGBTQ stories, heroes who cross the lines of race, and class, and language and ability. Wonder Woman may have helped kick down a door, but now it's time to bring down the establishment. - Tricia Ennis

There are numerous moments in Wonder Woman that have stuck in my mind since first seeing it. Rather than the admittedly skillful bombast and those trademark epic hero moments, it's the little bits that remind me of the true power of what Patty Jenkins and her team have done: seeing Robin Wright ride into battle, poised and strong and with wrinkles on her face, a warrior whose age is a benefit and not something to hide; the gentle slapstick of Diana in 1910s garb trying to carry a sword through some revolving doors; her excitement at seeing a baby for the first time; the effervescent joy of Diana trying ice cream and telling the seller how proud he should be of his achievement; Charlie dealing with the ramifications of shell shock; those knowing smiles Steve Trevor gives when he thinks nobody is looking. Wonder Woman is a film designed to be iconic. It has to be, given the weight of history on its shoulders, and Jenkins creates scenes of instant fame and T-shirt-ready status. Yet she also knew that Wonder Woman isn't defined solely by her lasso or outfit or what she does in battle: She's a figure of empathy, kindness, humor, warmth, determination, and true humanity, even as an Amazon. It's the film we needed, the hero we wanted, and the story that will give generations of girls a way to move forward. - Kayleigh Donaldson

Let’s face it: we’ve all kind of got superhero fatigue right now, and can you blame us? From Spider-Man to Thor: Ragnarok to Guardians of the Galaxy 2, 2017 was chock-full of masked avengers and caped crusaders and not-so-ordinary people saving the world. In a year of grimdark comic book adaptations (looking at you, Logan) and male heroes basically posturing over whose Big Plan is the better one (you too, Justice League), one Amazon warrior stepped out into the sunlight and gave a new message to the masses. She fought from the heart instead of the fist, and her story was about rediscovering her faith in humanity after having it shattered by a powerful enemy. When Diana of Themyscira recommitted herself to her mission to protect Man’s World, she gave us hope in ourselves and the realization that maybe we weren’t beyond saving after all. As a character, Wonder Woman is all about love—and that’s something that makes her a bona fide Shero in our book. - Carly Lane

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