This month’s Empire magazine has a look inside Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and some new details about the film are starting to make the internet rounds. One new Wonder Woman fact is particularly odd: Apparently in the DC Cinematic Universe, Wonder Woman is 5,000 years old. This makes very little sense to me, since it doesn’t fit into any Wonder Woman origin we’ve ever seen before.
In Wonder Woman’s first origin, Diana was born after the Amazons left the world of men, which is quite a large window. The Amazons left after the betrayal of Hercules, and if we do the math on when Hercules would have been “alive”, it would have been around 1300 BC (I got this number by using the traditional dating for the Trojan War, ca. 1200 BC, and going back a bit because mythologically speaking, Hercules was active a couple of generations before the war). So if Diana was born soon after the Amazons left, at most she would be a little over 3,000 years old, but she could also have been born at any point in time within that 3,000 year span.
In the Silver Age, the origin changed and Diana was alive before the Amazons left BUT Hercules was still a part of it, and in his divine form so it would have been after his mortal life, thus the timing would have been about the same. There’d just be no window, because Diana was already alive; she’d be 3,000 years old.
The Perez relaunch in 1987 used a variation on the Golden Age, Hercules origin, so we’ve got the same window there. The New 52 relaunch has been vague about the Amazons’ origins for the most part, but Wonder Woman Annual #1 revealed that the Amazons left the world of men after an unpleasant meeting with King Kleomenes of Sparta, who reigned around 500 BC. Diana was born sometime after that, when Hippolyta hooked up with Zeus, so we’ve got a 2,500 year window there.
And usually, Diana is portrayed as young. When there’s a window, the timing is always vague but it often seems that she was born near the tail end of that window. So when she becomes Wonder Woman, she’s actually the young woman she resembles and not a perpetually youthful woman who’s centuries old.
So 5,000 years old is new. And REALLY old. Like, around the dawn of civilization old. The city states of Mesopotamia go back more than 5,000 years, but a unified Egyptian kingdom and the very beginnings of civilization in Greece date to around 3000 BC, when Diana would have been born. That’s an interesting connection, in that it lets Diana and the Amazons see the rise of human civilization from the beginning, become unimpressed with it, and separate themselves from the rest of the world; Empire quotes Gal Gadot saying, “Because she’s seen it all, she has seen what humans can do, so it was very hard for her to come back and fight.” So it sounds like we’ve got a Wonder Woman who was active in the early centuries of human civilization, left it, and is now coming back.
Between this and the World War I setting for Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman, I’m concerned that Wonder Woman isn’t going to feel modern or relevant for fans, especially young girls. The kids aren’t much into the suffrage movement these days, much less ancient history. I’ll admit I’m intrigued by the idea a 5,000 year old Wonder Woman who’s seen it all; that’s a comic I’d definitely read. But I’m not yet sold on this as THE cinematic Wonder Woman. I just don’t know if young fans will be into it.
However, Gal Gadot doesn’t look like she’s 5,000 years old, which brings us to the other interesting part of the Empire article. Executive producer Deborah Snyder said of Wonder Woman:
Her sexuality is part of her power, but she is also a feminist icon. Gender has been a hot topic, so it is very timely to bring her back. The way we have approached it, especially in the stand alone movie, that is definitely there. Looking back and doing an origin story – and it is a period piece – see the role of women through history. There is a great source of humour in that now. It is so unbelievable you can’t even fathom it. You are still making a statement, but having some fun with it.
First, let’s start with that sexuality bit. No one ever talks about Batman or Superman’s sexuality, yet here it is front and center with Wonder Woman. And yeah, if you go back to the Golden Age there’s definitely some sexual stuff with Marston and his complicated bondage fetishism/feminist metaphor scene. For about six years, sexuality played a key role for Wonder Woman. In the seventy years since then? Not so much. It’s just not part of who the character is anymore, nor has it been for decades. The only caveat there is when artists objectify her with hyper-sexualized art, and that’s hardly something worth imbuing the character with.
Also, opening with her sexuality before mentioning that she’s a feminist icon? Not so cool. It feels like Snyder is saying, “Don’t worry, she’s still sexy!” Furthermore, her discussion of feminism here is poor. I know it’s just one paragraph, but “gender has been a hot topic” is hardly insightful, and the idea that “there is a great source of humour” in the World War I era is troubling. Yes, today it seems ridiculous that women had to fight for the right to vote. But positioning Wonder Woman in that era to have her counter an antiquated, straw man form of patriarchy is hardly relevant or impactful. Why isn’t she in the present day, tackling the inequality that women still face today? If they have Wonder Woman being all “rah rah suffrage movement” in the 1910s and then saying little to nothing about the state of women’s rights in modern society, they’ll have missed the point of the character entirely.
So, not a lot of great takeaways from that article. We did get that cool picture of Wonder Woman at the top, so that’s something. Also, this may well just be a thousand word over reaction to internet reports about one article, so take all of this with a grain of salt. I just don’t want them to screw up Wonder Woman like they screwed up Superman in Man of Steel, so when people involved say dumb things I get concerned. We’ll find out more when Batman v Superman comes out in March, and then it’s the long wait for Wonder Woman in June 2017.