Of all the words I could use to describe Wonder Woman, and there are many (powerful, compassionate, brave, diplomatic, heroic, to name a few), it's her sincerity that I find most indelible to her character. It's also her most precious quality, especially now. We have a tendency to cynically reject sincerity, to the point where the very idea feels radical in 2017.
"I'm tired of sincerity being something we have to be afraid of doing," Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins told the New York Times. "It's been like that for 20 years, that the entertainment and art world has shied away from sincerity, real sincerity, because they feel they have to wink at the audience because that's what the kids like. We have to do the real stories now. The world is in crisis."
Jenkins is right. The world can be a terribly bleak place, and that cynicism is often reflected in our media. We watch as Batman and Superman throw punches without ever really knowing what it is they're fighting for, only who they're fighting against. It's not just a DC problem, either. In Captain America: Civil War, Iron Man and Captain America are so driven by their self-inflated egos they refuse to find middle ground for the good of the people they're supposed to be protecting.
But not Wonder Woman. With her Lasso of Truth and her bullet-stopping bracelets, she has a purpose — to save mankind from themselves — and most importantly, she has a belief. "I believe in love," she says in Jenkins's Wonder Woman, out now. "Only love can save the world."
That's been the character's mission statement since her creation in 1941. Wonder Woman, hailing from a literal paradise island, comes to the fundamentally flawed world of man to impart her message of love and respect. "I believe that love is not limited, but limitless," she says in writer Greg Rucka's Rebirth-era Wonder Woman #9.
Wonder Woman's earnest optimism isn't written off as naïveté, either. (Though the character is certainly naive to the brutality of man.) It's ingrained into her soul. It's no secret that Jenkins drew inspiration from 1978's Superman, a superhero flick that embraced Superman's whimsy without losing his integrity. Like Christopher Reeve's Superman, Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman doesn't view saving lives as a burden — it's part of her very nature. She believes in people and their inherent goodness.
"I wanted to tell a story about a hero who believes in love, who is filled with love, who believes in change and the betterment of mankind," Jenkins said. "I believe in it. It's terrible when it makes so many artists afraid to be sincere and truthful and emotional, and relegates them to the too-cool-for-school department. Art is supposed to bring beauty to the world."
And there is something beautiful about being a hero who fights for love and for those who cannot fight for themselves. We need those kinds of heroes now more than ever. Here's hoping we see more of them on our screens, too.