Lots of similarities between these two (down to the outfits), especially the (eventual) understanding that the world exists in gray but humans are still worth saving because you believe in their ability to choose good. One of the major differences is that She-ra has the power to heal, a traditionally feminine trait that sets her apart from her brother. Wonder Woman does not have this feminine power – she is all force and strength and, unlike She-ra, she will kill. But, like She-ra, she eventually chooses the feminine traits of compassion and empathy as two of her defining characteristics. While these are also traditionally feminine traits, here they are seen as a source of core strength from which all other power flows.
Both woman are both super beings and the question of who is more human is begged. She-ra can literally transform herself into a human, but still retains her qualities of leadership and virtue. She struggles with her double identity, trying to define how she values herself and how others value her in light of her roles as both Adora and She-ra. Wonder Woman, however, makes no real effort to hide her identity except at the request of Steve Trevor, but she still has to reconcile who she thinks she is (an Amazon warrior) with the super power that lives inside her and which emotions will ultimately drive her actions.
As feminist icons they’re both difficult to parse. Both are strong women in leadership roles dedicated to fighting for what is right and good. Both wear skimpy outfits that Gal Gadot pointed out are not un-feminist – feminists wear what they want to, even though it may not be practical to fight in high heels. These women are super so, their powers are not hampered by clothes. She-ra (and Adora) and Wonder Woman are allowed to shine through against the men who surround them both through their senses of compassion and empathy (traditionally female traits) and also their bravery and ability to, quite simply, kick ass (traditional male trait).
Wonder Woman self-consciously explores Diana’s feminine consciousness and refuses to lose her identity in the masculine world that she finds herself immersed in. Diana leads the action but also works as part of a team. She-ra is also part of a team. Both characters value their teammates, but are often thrust into leadership roles.
I would say Diana is both on equal footing and also of elevated status relative to her male companions, and this to me is empowering. The men she work with recognize her superior ability and they value it, seeing her as part of a team just as she sees them as part of a team. This seems pretty revolutionary to me. The male characters are not threatened by her and once they realize her strength and ability they encourage her to use it instead of trying to protect or marginalize her. In effect, this movie is just as much about how the male characters deal with an empowered, self-assured woman as it is about Diana learning to navigate the world of the 1910s. Similar things could be said about She-ra and the men in her life, though the team she fights with is dominated by women.
I don’t want to give too much away but this film was really great at exploring gender roles without feeling heavy handed. There were big revelations of character and there were also little personal moments between characters that explored gender. Clearly the movie has a feminist subtext, but I think it presents this ideology in such a way that is digestible and acceptable to an audience that may not have envisioned themselves as receptive to such a thing. It’s a great introduction into female empowerment and negotiating power relationships between the sexes.
It’s also a well-written movie with, for an action movie, with an interesting enough plot. Kind of simple good and bad, but part of the movie is about moving away from binary oppositions to a world where identity and human relationships are more gray. Who is worth saving? The action sequences were also pretty good. Usually action movies bore me, but the slow cuts were really great because they highlighted the beautiful fight choreography and really let Wonder Woman shine. But she is not a caricature of a hero, she is a person with incredible abilities. That’s feminist
Also, Chris Pine stole every scene he was in. He has great comedic timing. And his character treated Diana with respect, always viewing her as an equal to gradually recognizing her incredible emotional and physical strength and celebrating it instead of feeling threatened by it. He openly and eagerly connects with her emotionally, taking on the traditionally feminine role of emotional guide. That is feminism too.
While I doubt we’ll ever see a She-ra movie, Wonder Woman continues the thread of the cartoon made in the 1980s where women were powerful, well-respected, well-rounded characters who connected with those around them and always saved the day.