Throughout Wonder Woman, director Patty Jenkins repeatedly puts up a stop sign right before things could take a sexual turn in the female-led superhero film. Doing so safeguards both star Gal Gadot and Wonder Woman's image as a respected, feminist icon and shields the princess of Themyscira from becoming yet another filmic sex object. For starters, Jenkins eliminated the stars around Wonder Woman's groin region. Jenkins also turns down the volume on the Wonder Woman outfit; by dulling and muting the loud hues from her comic book past, Jenkins allows the DC queen's personality to bring colour to the big screen.
Jenkins presents Wonder Woman tastefully in other ways. There's no denying that Gadot makes a drop-dead gorgeous Wonder Woman, but her beauty is continually bested by her bravery and smarts. Moments come and go in the film that could easily be sexually charged, but Jenkins defuses them before our very eyes. Below are four Wonder Woman scenes that might have been very different if they had been directed by a man — or to generalise less, a director who catered to the male gaze.
1. When Wonder Woman Eats an Ice Cream Cone For the First Time
Wonder Woman gleefully grabs a vanilla ice cream cone in the film. Her eyes light up as she licks the dessert with pleasure but only for a split second. The goddess appears like a child trying a lollipop for the first time instead of a woman putting her mouth on a phallic object. Had someone else shot this scene, the innocence could have been lifted with an extreme close-up and a lengthening of the shot. "You should be very proud!" the incognito warrior princess praises the ice cream man as she shakes the cone at him. It is an adorable, stainless scene but one that could have easily been turned into something far more provocative had the camera been in the hands of a male director.
2. When Wonder Woman Has Sex With Steve
In the film, it can be safely assumed that Diana and US Air Force Captain Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) make love as snow falls gently outside the place they're staying at for the night. Steve walks Diana to her room as she flashes him "come hither" eyes. The two kiss passionately, when suddenly, the camera transports audiences out of the bedroom and onto the cement pavement outside.
There, the audience watches snow fall softly, giving the impression that if lovemaking is going on behind the closed windows, it's happening just as delicately and affectionately as the snowfall making contact with the pavement. This cutaway scene is an example of how Jenkins respects Wonder Woman. She upholds her privacy and leaves what happens behind closed doors up to viewers' interpretations instead of seizing an opportunity to expose Gadot's body. Had someone else directed this scene, it might not have been so soft and gentle. In fact, it likely could have looked like a sex scene straight out of 300.
3. When Wonder Woman Tries On Multiple Outfits
To keep Wonder Woman hidden, Steve takes her to a clothing shop to fish out a new outfit. During the scene, the beautiful Gadot tries on a string of ensembles. What follows is slightly clumsy and fully comical. Firstly, Diana almost strips in front of everyone, unaware of the concept of a dressing room, but Jenkins quickly advances the scene before Diana can take anything off. If the male gaze was ruling the director's chair, it's probable that some skin would have been shown right then and there.
The princess even complains that her shirt is "choking her," a relatable, feminist touch that only Jenkins could bring to the film treatment. That small complaint is just one of the subtle details that add to the female mosaic that makes up the modern version of Wonder Woman. To add humour to the scene, Diana is then shown accidentally ripping a pencil skirt while kicking her leg out. She isn't trying to look sexy while shopping — she's trying to kick ass, literally. What made audiences hold their stomachs from laughter could have doubled as prime time to show off an objectified Gadot.
4. When Wonder Woman Reveals Her Iconic Armour
Diana introduces the world to Wonder Woman in the most powerful way possible. As she ascends from a ladder into No Man's Land, Diana carries herself like the volcanic force she knows she is. She climbs up the ladder in the film, mirroring the climb of women up the ladder of patriarchy today. The scene places emphasis on her hard-as-nails stare and bulletproof demeanour instead of her killer curves. As she walks toward the warring Germans, she deflects a bullet. Finally, her armour is revealed in full. Had it been meant to feed the male gaze, it might have been ushered in quite differently. Through calculated angling and lighting, Jenkins transforms Wonder Woman's short outfit into a source of power. It's plausible that the same outfit could have been portrayed as a gilded Victoria's Secret one-piece had certain male directors had their way. Yet, luckily for us, we had a female director who made the conscious decision to glorify Wonder Woman's strength over her sex appeal time and again.