“Wonder Woman” and World War I: Scoping Out Super Heroines in Past, Present, and Future Wars

Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman as war hero.

While we’ve already seen collective cheers for this summer’s “Wonder Woman” finally paving a path for compelling female superheroes, the film’s new time setting might seem a little awkward. Those old enough to remember the original comic book (or TV series) know WWII was mostly the original setting, other than a few variations. Even if the new WWI-based Wonder Woman seems a ruse for leading into WWII for the sequel, the intention might have an unexpected impact.

The idea of a woman superhero fighting in a major world war is already coloring outside the lines for a film. In the few lead female superhero films we’ve seen over the last several decades, almost all were set in modernly contrived situations with little purpose.

All of this was wrapped in the notion that the female superhero still had to fit into an appealing guise for a male audience.

Yes, comic book movies have decidedly made the assumption most of the genre’s fans are male. The intention behind this summer’s “Wonder Woman” seems to make an effort to draw men and women into those seats.

In other words: “Comic book men, meet women.”

At the forefront is the concept of war and the perceptions that’s it’s perpetually a movie genre attracting males. “Wonder Woman” seem to also reference the real world where the prospect of another world war is once again top of mind.

One thing we definitely haven’t seen in any film is a story of women fighting in war. We’ve seen countless movies about war with women in them, usually working as nurses or WACS, WAVES, WASPS, and SPARS. What’s been overlooked is that women fought on the front lines in all wars, notably in World War I.

Most people wouldn’t know this without a Google Doodle scoping out these war veterans. “Wonder Woman” has a setup to give a tangential nod to women fighting in our first world war, at least through a fantasy lens.

What Role Did Women Play in World War I?

 It turns out women played a larger role in WWI warfare than much of modern society knows. Most of this occurred in the Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard. In the latter case, it was the “Coast Guard Yeomanettes“, something worthy of a movie on its own.

What’s most important about this is it was the first time any women became admitted to a military rank during war.

Now you see a new twist to the new “Wonder Woman” considering we see this Diana Prince trying to prevent WWI from happening. You have to assume the writers and producers of the film realized military women in this world war received short shrift. Not that the real heroes of the war will likely receive any mention.

Nevertheless, it opens the door to everyone wondering about it, including individual stories about women fighting in WWI and beyond. Tales like twin sisters Genevieve and Lucille Baker, who served in the U.S. Coast Guard during WWI, are good examples of how much women became written out of war annals.

At the same time, the new Wonder Woman makes us give a serious think about whether women can prevent or end wars.

With a more alpha male sensibility reigniting itself in our current government, the concept of a war might sound like it’s reverting back to machismo management. In the real world, we’re already seeing it being done while reaping repercussions in the process.

What will the new “Wonder Woman” do to inspire a new idea about a woman managing a real world war down the road?

Bringing Out Our Real Wonder Women Leaders

As our world becomes increasingly volatile, we may eventually find ourselves discovering what a real Wonder Woman could do to stop a world conflict. As noted by Harvard Magazine several years ago, women are proven to have a stronger disposition to negotiating peace and stopping wars. The magazine based this on the way women in international conflict zones work under the radar because of their second-class citizenry in these regions.

What we don’t know is whether we’re experiencing a growing resentment to women becoming major leaders to solve world conflict. If the 2016 Presidential election spread the false notion that a Hillary Clinton would cause WWIII, we might see the inverse faster than we’ve ever seen in history.

The intention of “Wonder Woman” is to merely bring a strong female superhero to the big screen. Its other intentions are perhaps much broader, especially with a woman director at the helm (Patty Jenkins) who knows the opportunities to go beyond.

Let’s assume this “Wonder Woman” can set a precedent for more female superhero movies. Employing enlightening elements about a super woman trying to stop a war might bring a more concerted group effort for women to seek leadership roles. You can assume this was one of the benefits of having an all-woman screening of the film in Austin, Texas before its official debut.

The film isn’t afraid of tackling history and gives us an added reminder of past women being at the forefront of conflict. It’s not something we’ll likely cover up again as we did in times past when it didn’t make sense to the order of things.

By the time we face another world war possibility, we may finally have a real Wonder Woman at the helm stopping it from progressing. Once this occurs, we’re sure to see a “Wonder Woman” sequel giving guidance on dealing with another world war from her original comic book setting.