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The Power Of A Woman

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When I watched Wonder Woman in theaters last year, I was completely awestruck. Generally, due to the fact that this was a female-oriented film that did a super amazing job at portraying one of the greatest and strongest female characters to ever exist in comics. The story line was well thought out and flowed perfectly. However, what left me truly astonished was the scene in which Diana (Wonder Woman) suits up and charges through “No Man’s Land. ” It is World War I and neither of the opposing sides have crossed the land in several years. Notably, there are only male soldiers lined up at either sides. Nevertheless, Diana breaks through the norm and decides to venture into the battle to capture the enemies trench. This scene challenged the concept of symbolic violence and power in gender relations, because Diana challenges the stereotypes in which a male is usually more dominant and willing to take charge in difficult situations. I particularly chose this material because I am an avid lover of comic book based films. Typically, everyone thinks of superheroes like Batman or Superman when they hear the words “DC”. Hence, I decided to shed light on Wonder Woman and why she is just as important as the male superheroes in the DC comic universe.

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Men are usually seen more powerful, muscular and brilliant. However, Wonder Woman is one of the few films that opposes this status quo. In terms of symbolic power/violence, she breaks through these societal/cultural norms and emerges as a war heroine. To gain a better understanding of this scene that has been rooted into cinematic history, I will explain the reason I chose this particular scene out of the entire film. The battlefield of “No Man’s Land” is the first place Diana is introduced to after being brought from her hidden Paradise Island. She was discovered by an American pilot, Steve Trevor, when his plane pierced the curtain of supernatural mist shielding the island. Diana gains knowledge of the opposing German side concocting a gas to annihilate the opposing side. As the soldiers continue to suffer, Diana decides to majestically climb up to the surface of the trench and battle her way through. Due to her actions of taking the first step, the soldiers join in while cheering her on as they defeat the Germans (for now). She manages to overcome all obstacles and defeat the opposing side for now. Diana is seen as a hero to the people of Paris, France and labeled as a symbol of power and hope that they can win the long cold war. The significance drawn to these scene is when Steve tells Diana, “This is no Man’s Land. That means no man cross it. We can’t save everyone in this war, it’s not what we came to do. ” Clearly, Diana being the superheroine Wonder Woman can not let this stand as she watches the chaos enfold around her. She reveals her armor under the cloak and gets ready to fight. Hence, she snaps back at Steve, “No, but it’s what I’m going to do. ” This moment of dialect challenges Bourdieu’s theory on symbolic violence. “Women generally agree with men when they accept the external signs of a dominated position”. However, Diana decides to disagree with Steve and show him what it truly means to be a heroic leader.

According to Bourdieu, “symbolic violence is an imposition of systems of symbolism and meaning upon groups or classes, accepted as legitimate. It is related to various modes of social and cultural domination”. In other words, symbolic violence can be also taken to mean, a show of force and demonstration of power representing who can get away with what against whom. In the time frame Diana has arrived in, it is 1917 where men are predominantly running the society. They are also the only gender that portray warriors and soldiers to fight the battles. This is a form of social/cultural domination as citizens tend to believe that men can get the heavy duty work done. While men go out and do work, women tend to stay behind and nurture children with whatever resources they have. This concept was significantly true in 1917. As Diana walks by, she can see many mothers feeding what little food that they have for their young kindred below the trenches. Furious that none of the soldiers are fighting as that is what they are “supposed to do”, Diana decides to take matters into her own hands and plunges forward as the dominator from her side. While her allies do jump in and fight later on, Diana is the one taking all the bullet hits and shots. This helps prove that she is capable of strong masculine qualities to win the battle and bring about change in a society where they believe a man represents their symbol of power. When the scene ends, Diana is shown standing amongst the rubble from up above. She watches all the citizens clap for her, as they are also astonished by the work displayed by a woman. In general, “women tend to accept that gender relations are inequitable but choose not to contest the ‘daily lifeworld’ because they feel powerless, or may not want to change the situation because of what they may stand to lose if they challenge the existing social order”.

With Diana, the people of Paris feel that change can happen without any consequences as she now gains symbolic capital from them. This helps her hold a sense of honor and prestige among the people where they can rely on her to fight their battles. The fact that she is a woman helps highlight change where many tend to view males as symbolic heroes. She challenges the stereotypes of gender and symbolic violence. Based on the theory of culture being portrayed, this scene oppresses the stereotypes that are associated with gender and symbolic violence. Steve tried to convince Diana that this is not something she should do, that is it not up to the both of them. However, he mainly calls out that it is not up to her as she is the woman. He tries to feed her the commonality that everyone has chosen to believe and accept. Diana does not feed into this predictable idea of what a woman should be. She proves him wrong symbolically with her actions and violence against the opposing soldiers who are just as shocked that a woman can hold such strength and skill to believe she can bring change to this long standing cliché. Generally, when one conjure up the image of a soldier, they tend to see heavy pants, armor, and a helmet. The soldier is also shown to hold a form of weapon, typically a gun.

Symbolically, Diana opposes this tradition, where she is seen in a cloak. Underneath her cloak is armor of red, blue, and gold. She not only has a weapon, but is shown to have a shield. This helps portray her as an intimidating, powerful, and legitimate fighter. Her image helps her look like someone who can dominate, instead of the one being dominated. With the use of her weaponry and skills, she succeeds in gaining symbolic domination among the men. While it is misleading that her clothes are very revealing, she is able to maneuver flexibly in them. Symbolically this represents freedom opposed to the soldiers who are all forced to wear the same type of clothing material. Also, the soldier’s outfits are black and white, dull in appearance. Diana’s outfit represents color which can translate into change for this monotonous society.

Wonder Woman helps contribute to Bourdieu’s theory of culture. It is helping oppress an existing proposition where men should be seen as the superior in a societal hierarchy. Power is usually given to a male because of his muscular strength and pride. Nevertheless, Diana is a vision of hope and change to this long standing concept of gender relations. Women are afraid of changing this idea of symbolic power and violence due to the stigma that they may feel to be accepted in their societies. Diana is not afraid of the stigmatization that anyone will bring upon her due to the ambition and passion she possesses. This scene challenges the theory of symbolic violence in regards to gender relations because Diana dominates the males. Wonder Woman is guiding audiences to bring about change in gender prejudice in terms of symbolic violence and power.

This research has helped me comprehend the theory of symbolic violence and power more efficiently. It is something that I believe many females should take into consideration when standing up to men in any given situation. Gender discrimination still exists today, but slowly with the help of media as a medium, many females will start to acknowledge their symbolic capital in society. Further research on this thesis paper could include analyzing more than one scene as it is quite limiting to stick to one scene. More scenes could provide rich evidence to support the claim about what culture is being portrayed. Also, comparison of two different scenes depicting female characters could show the difference between a dynamic character that challenges Bourdieu’s theory on symbolic violence/power. The other female could be used to represent how the theory is represented in a film where males have more lines and screen time.

15 July 2020

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