On Wonder Woman and choosing to be chosen

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Jul 6, 2017, 1:00 PM EDT

There are a lot of opinions floating around the internet about Wonder Woman.

The movie has dominated the headlines since before its release. It has been discussed and dissected, lauded for its position as a superhero movie, as a war movie, as a feminist movie.

Wonder Woman is all of these things, but it also has a very interesting position within another long-standing movie trope: It is a Chosen One movie -- but one with a very interesting take on the story.

Diana chooses herself.

Chosen One narratives have been around probably since time began. If there's a prophecy to be fulfilled, there is a Chosen One to do it. If there's an adventure to be adventured, there's probably a super special character just waiting to take up the cause. King Arthur is a Chosen One. Hell, you could probably argue that Gilgamesh fits the bill as well. Chosen Ones are a longstanding tradition in fiction, but there has been a particular increase in the kind of storytelling in the last few decades, especially in young adult fiction. Think about Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Katniss Everdeen, Tris Prior, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Neo from The Matrix, Emmet from The LEGO Movie. All of these characters fall into one category of Chosen One or another.

And now we have Wonder Woman.

Most of these stories follow a few major plot points. A character is thrust into a new situation -- magical school, Hunger Games, pulled from the Matrix -- and is then told by others around them that they are somehow special, that they are the only ones who can defeat the Big Bad. In many of those stories with male chosen ones, there is a female character who is more qualified than the "chosen one" who has been waiting for that character to show up and save the day.

One of the most common elements of these stories, though, is the uncertainty and self-doubt that these characters feel. Neo doesn't accept that he is The One until the end of the movie. It takes Katniss nearly all three books (and four movies) to start to accept her position as the inspiration for a political movement. Harry Potter spends nearly all seven books complaining about his lot in life. Buffy just wants to be a normal teenage girl.

Then you introduce Diana and things get flipped on their head.


Diana is a Chosen One. She is a special member of a group of people who, for reasons that have nothing to do with her and everything to do with the circumstances surrounding her birth, is the only one who can defeat the ultimate evil, Ares. She is the Godkiller, the daughter of Zeus and Hippolyta, created with the express purpose of destroying the God of War once and for all.

The thing is, Diana doesn't know this. Her mother and fellow Amazons refuse to tell her of her true origins or her destiny for fear it will send her running into danger for which she is ill-prepared. Of course, this doesn't stop her from realizing her destiny on her own. Diana has grown up training with the Amazons, hearing their stories, living their beliefs about their sacred duty to protect the world from Ares and to intervene in times of war. Even though Diana is the only member of her people who doesn't seem to know her true destiny, she is also, somehow, the only one willing to take that destiny on. She chooses for herself, long before she ever knows that she never had a choice.

Diana is a new kind of Chosen One, one who takes on the burden of her destiny without being asked. Unlike her predecessors of this genre, that destiny, that sense of purpose, does not weigh heavily on her soul. Rather, it gives her the courage and conviction to stare down those who would tell her what she wants is impossible. It is the reason she is able to walk across No Man's Land and inspire an army to free an oppressed and broken people. It is what further inspires Steve to make his own sacrifice to save the day. And ultimately, it is her own belief that she can and will fulfill the sacred duty of her people that allows her to accept her secret fate as a demigod and to defeat, not only Ares the man, but the seeds of doubt he places within that conviction.

Unlike those who came before her, Diana chooses herself, first. Fate's only role is to confirm what she has known all along.

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