LESSONS FROM FICTION: WONDER WOMAN 1984

Sacrifice, dreams, wishes and why I am glad this wish is not granted.

JonChristopher Collins – JANUARY 25, 2021

Wonder Woman 1984 entered theaters as 2020 exited. This sequel to 2017’s Wonder Woman is more than a glitzy superhero flick; the Amazonian princess, armed with the Lasso of Truth, speaks to hearts.

As mentioned in the first article in this series, for some people superhero fiction, whether it be delivered and enjoyed via comic books, graphic novels or films, is simply entertainment. For others however, these works of fiction provide inspiration, administer strength, encourage and enable and call audiences to be content and face the truth. Amazonian warrior Princess Diana of Themyscira, Wonder Woman, also known as Diana Prince, leapt to life on comic book pages in October 1941. The character is known to possess a desire for diplomacy and peace as much as she is willing to fight. She exudes confidence as equally as she does grace. Throughout the character’s lifespan, fans have seen her portrayed as a sometimes naïve but planted idealist, a fierce, powerful but graceful warrior, as well as an elegant and classy presence when needed. Each incarnation of the beloved character from the comic books to films, from Lynda Carter to Gal Gadot, preserves the character’s core, staying true to her identity. Her humanity despite her divinity, her compassion and empathy despite her strength and unwavering ideals paired with her commitment to truth are not invisible. Wonder Woman 1984 shows viewers the character’s struggle to face the truth and be content as she grapples with her dreams, wishes as well as the reality of sacrifice in her life; dreams and wishes are fine, but when they are not granted the truth must be accepted so contentment can take hold.

Prior to examining the topics of dreams, wishes, truth, sacrifice and contentment as shown in the film and the lessons the movie holds, it is only fitting that I discuss my own experience with those topics. Wonder Woman 1984 is beyond a superhero/superheroine action film for me. The truth is that it is a mirror in front of me. I do not mean to imply that I possess Wonder Woman’s power; I actually once dealt with her struggle. Everyone does to some degree or another, but I only speak for myself in this regard. Diana’s realization of her need to acknowledge the truth and be content, sacrificing her dreams and wishes resonates deep within me. An explanation is in order.

From as earlier in my childhood as is humanly possible to recall, I knew I was different. While those around me walked, ran, jogged and jumped, I did not. While those around me climbed and hiked, I did not. While most of the children my age had no idea what a disability is, I did. While children who had never seen a walker or wheelchair stared in confusion as they saw individuals using one, I never did. I never did because I was born with a disability and used both walkers and wheelchairs early on. For a considerable period of time, I knew I was different, but it did not truly bother me.

I was and often still am called an old soul. Perhaps to the surprise of some, I knew what that meant. While my peers enjoyed the playground, I developed and honed what I now understand as a gifting to write and speak on what others have called an exceptional, uncanny level. While my friends slid down slides I enjoyed and partook in deep conversations, I wrote stories and connected deeply with others. I dreamed about the future and seriously thought about my career. I did all of this as early as elementary school. Others my age at that point in time may have found that boring; however, it was invigorating to me.

It was normal and I knew no different, and like I said, it did not truly bother me. That fizzled and vanished with the experience that accompanies age. It was not too long before the difference in me ate at me. Bullying became an all too well-known phenomenon by my middle school/junior high days. It would reappear in high school as well. Because of that, I had thick skin and although it was hurtful, I stood my ground with my wit and verbal ability. Although these individuals prized and relied on physical strength, I knew intelligence and wit could be equally powerful. That is not to say bullies are not intelligent; I simply mean they prize and abuse something they were given.

Friends would stick by me and up for me and I moved on. I was often too busy with career plans and moves to be concerned with the obvious and weak methods of the bullies to gain attention and mask their own insecurities. They were not aware, but they only fed my already strong sense of justice and desire to be a voice of truth and justice against the corrupt and powerful and any and all who abuse their power. Strength is power, but so is intelligence and communication skills. I learned from childhood on that those with strength may abuse it, but I intended to use what I had been gifted properly.

Overtime one grows tired of persevering in the face of adversity. Prejudice and the discrimination it can foment can become too heavy for even the most perseverant. My desire to be normal, to fit in, existed early in my life but grew over time. At a point, I no longer wanted to hear that I inspired others; it only seemed like an empty compliment. I grew tired of people saying they did not see my wheelchair but only me. Such comments might be said with good, intentions but it was disingenuous to me. In a few words, I grew tired of being able to connect with and empathize with others only for them to be either unwilling or unable to do so with me.

In Wonder Woman 1984, the title character is in a new era. After being a fish out of water in the first film, she is adjusted and living among people, most of which are unlike her. She is using her gifts, helping and inspiring others. However, no one can truly return the favor for her. Diana does not complain but perseveres. Her boyfriend Steve Trevor died in the first film during World War I; she still feels that pain but keeps moving, using her gifts to help others.

A flashback in the film’s beginning shows Diana as a child partaking in an Amazonian athletic competition while on Themyscira. Although she is young, Diana makes great progress, and it appears she will win. She becomes distracted and loses ground. The young protagonist takes a short cut, through which she makes up ground. When it looks as though Diana will win, she is stopped and given a lesson on cheating and the truth.

“You took the short path. You cheated, Diana. That is the truth. That is the only truth, and truth is all there is…You cannot be the winner, because you are not ready to win, and there is no shame in that. Only in knowing the truth in your heart and not accepting it. No true hero is born from lies,” Diana is told.

She is then told that their greatest warrior became what she is through patience, diligence, and the courage to face the truth. That lesson from this part of the movie echoes throughout its runtime. Almost immediately following that lesson, viewers get their first look at one of the movie’s villains, Maxwell Lord. “Life is good, but it can be better,” he said on his TV commercial. He appears as a charismatic businessman. Behind the mask he is insecure and hungry for success and power. His message is essentially this: Why be content with what you have when you can have everything you have always wished for?

The audience faces Diana’s loneliness with her as she gazes at an airplane traveling through the night sky. The plane of course reminds her of Steve. This sets the groundwork for what comes next. Viewers meet the Dreamstone, the ancient, mystical artifact at the Smithsonian Institution. When the stone is first used, it is passed off as coincidence after a wish for coffee is comically and instantaneously granted. Diana utters that she knows what she would wish for while talking to Dr. Barbara Minerva, a chain reaction follows.

It is later revealed that Diana’s wish was granted; Steve Trevor is alive but in someone else’s body. That is telling because viewers learn that a wish granted comes at a high price, the price being sacrifice. In this case, someone else died for Steve to live. That is not all, however.

Before going forward, I do not want to gloss over this question. The question posed to viewers is this. What would you wish for? It is a question for everyone. For me, at one point in my life it would have been to not have this disability. That point will be revisited later in this article.

So, Diana’s wish is granted. She has her guy back. Other characters make wishes as well, but I will be focusing in on her experience. This idea of if you can dream it you can have it shows its true colors. Diana might not feel isolated any longer, but she is losing her strength. Having Steve back cost Diana her strength.

It turns out that wishing does not just affect the individual but can affect the world. Maxwell Lord wished to become the Dreamstone itself. As a result, he granted wishes for others and took what he wanted.

One might wonder what this plot could teach anyone. That will be discussed shortly. At one point, Diana says that every magical weapon is powered by something. Her lasso is powered by truth and this stone is powered by lies. “There are universal elements in this world, and when they’re imbued into something, they can become very, very powerful. Like my Lasso of Truth. The truth is what powers it, not me. The truth is bigger than all of us,” she said.

Lord sharing his so-called secret of the wish brought chaos to and destabilized not just the Middle East but nearly the entire world. While in reality wishing upon a star will not do that, it is a thought-provoking idea. Imagine what would happen if everyone got all they ever wanted. Does everyone truly know what that means? Does everyone truly need all they want? One can think about this in terms of geopolitics but also on an individual level. Diana said if the God of Lies empowered the Dreamstone there must be a trick.

“Wishes with a trick. “The Monkey’s Paw.” Beware what you wish for. It grants your wish, but takes your most valued possession,” Diana said. Following the aforementioned quote, it is acknowledged that Diana’s powers are draining because of her wish. The key to regaining what has been lost is to renounce the wish. The following is an excerpt from dialogue between Diana and Steve; it is raw and human.

“I give everything I have, every day. And I’m happy to. But this one thing…You’re all that I’ve wanted for so long. You’re the only joy I’ve had or even asked for,” Diana said. She goes on to say that she has a choice and will not give him up.

This entire movie and specifically the quote above resonates with me like I did not expect. There was a time when I felt that way about my situation. I wanted it to change somehow. Years ago, I learned contentment and recently that contentment and courage to face the truth was emboldened. I have not looked back in a long time. It is said in the film that nothing good is born from lies. That is oh so true. Everything evil, corrupt, unethical, immoral and hurtful is born of a lie either believed or perpetuated. In my specific circumstance, I believed I needed my circumstance changed to reach true contentment. What I believed was a lie.

I realized the truth and went through a time of being open to whatever happens. I was open to either continuing to use a wheelchair or walker or be freed from them forever. Now, I never thought I would ever be able to say this. I went through something that changed my outlook on this forever. Now I would never give my present situation up as long as I have it. I would not want my life any other way.

Interesting questions are asked throughout the movie, but I want to zero in on the ending. After Diana heartbreakingly but bravely says goodbye to Steve, she renounces her wish and leaps into action. Maxwell Lord says the answer is always more. In the movie’s ending, he encourages the entire world to make a wish as he broadcasts. The result is chaos, destruction and selfish gain. People lose themselves and the world reaches the brink of what looks like cataclysmic war.

In what one might consider the final battle, Diana enters the scene finding Maxwell on a power drunk euphoria. After asking him if he has enough, Maxwell’s response is predictable given his character. “Why not more? Why not wish for more?”

Before concluding this editorial, I present the speech Diana Prince/Wonder Woman gave in the end.

I’ve never wanted anything more. But he’s gone… and that’s the truth. And everything has a price. One I’m not willing to pay. Not anymore. This world was a beautiful place just as it was… and you cannot have it all. You can only have the truth. And the truth is enough. The truth is beautiful. So look at this world… and look at what your wish is costing it. You must be the hero. Only you can save the day. Renounce your wish if you want to save this world. Because you’re not the only one who has suffered. Who wants more. Who wants them back. Who doesn’t want to be afraid anymore. Or alone. Or frightened. Or powerless. Cause you’re not the only one who imagined a world where everything was different. Better. Finally. A world where they were loved and seen, and appreciated. Finally. But what is it costing you? Do you see the truth?

To conclude this editorial and wrap it up with a bow, I cannot leave this unsaid. I understand film to be story driven first and message second. I also understand that all involved in bringing this film to life may not have intended for this movie to speak the way that it did to me. I believe the message it spoke to me is a message for everyone in some sense. This movie did not teach me a lesson that I had not learned prior to seeing it but merely confirmed it. I have a disability and that is the truth. It is also true that for everything it has taken from me, I have strengths, skills and abilities that make up for it 100 percent.

I very well may have not had any of those or had them to the extent that I have them now without this disability. Although the feeling of differentness and isolation has played a role in my life, that experience has ultimately been a positive for me. Adversity via this disability has gifted me the opportunity to build grit and a powerful capacity for communicating truth. My disability does not stop me. It does not own me, I own it.

I once saw this as a weakness and now I see it as a strength. In this weakness, I have been given great abilities, great skills, great talents and a great voice. I do not say this to boast. I am thankful for my disability! Many years ago, that would have been scary to say, unthinkable even. My disability will not stop me. It may slow me down walking, but it will not slow down the words that I write and the words that I say. I am a journalist. I may not be an acrobat, but I am a verbal acrobat.

I am not an athlete, but I am athletic with words. I am not saying that my disability makes me all that I am. I am so much more than my disability, but it is a part of me. I am grateful for this opportunity. I have to ask myself what I would be giving up if I did not have this or somehow had it taken away. I have to ask what it would cost me. Again, it is not to say that I would be completely different, but I would definitely not be all that I am now without this experience.

I have gone from wanting nothing more than to be freed from my situation, to being content with whatever happens, to now being content to the point of not wanting to imagine or wanting my life any other way in terms of having a disability. I would not have the experience, persistence and strength I have without it. I have gone from seeing it as a curse to a blessing. I have gone from seeing it as a limitation on my walking ability to seeing it as something that has freed my mind of limitations.

I see what I would be giving up, and I see the cost despite the many attractive aspects of not having this disability. However, I renounce my wish. Having this disability is one of the many gifts I have been gifted. Do not be deceived. I am not saying living with a disability is always easy, but the truth is I have one. I choose to face the truth. I am a voice for truth, facts, evidence, proof and justice; this disability will not stop me from being all I am meant to be.

In conclusion, the lesson from this fiction is quite simple but quite profound. In Wonder Woman 1984, sacrifice, dreams, wishes, contentment and truth are present in both dialogue and action. My personal experience is one I thought would aid in pulling these lessons out of the film. Wishes are fine but they ought not to cloud the truth. The film shows the dangers of wishes; they have a cost. They come with a price tag; some prices are not worth paying. The truth is always worth it. Only in knowing and facing the truth can one have contentment.

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