Wonder Woman movie: Questions about the real (mythological) Amazons

Four friends and I went to see Wonder Woman the other night. Like any real American, most of my education comes from watching TV and the rest from Wikipedia. Now these two sources are in conflict.

Wikipedia: “Amazons were the daughters of Ares and Harmonia (a nymph of the Akmonian Wood). They were brutal and aggressive, and their main concern in life was war.”

movie: the Amazons are opponents of Ares and their main concern in life is peace.

If memory serves, the Amazons would have sex once/year and then, 9 or 10 months later, kill any male babies. Thus did they have a society of mortal females that could continue indefinitely. (Historians don’t say what happened in the case of transgender Amazons who identified as male starting at a later age.)

In the movie, by contrast, the Amazons seem to be immortal (they’ve been alive for thousands of years anyway) and they don’t have any children, except for one. (On the third hand, they can be killed by bullets so maybe they aren’t immortal?)

The interesting question for me is why the filmmakers decided for commercial reasons that it was better to have the Amazons be fighting against Ares and war rather than children of Ares and pro-war. Why did all of the Amazons have to be peace-loving? If the goal was to feature a peace-loving star, why couldn’t the star be a rebel who disagreed with the war-loving Amazon majority?

Obviously it is just a movie so they don’t need to stick to the Greek sources, but it is more trouble to make up new stuff. Why did the screenwriters go to the trouble? And if they had the energy to make up this alternative history of the Amazons, why were they too lazy to explain why an Amazon who leaves the community to fight with men can never return. Is it Cooties or what?

Verdict on the movie overall? One friend expressed boredom and complained that Ares was cut and pasted from the emperor in Star Wars. Personally I enjoyed seeing the imagined world of the Amazons the most and also liked the part where the Amazon discovers and tries to blend into the ugly urban world of mortal humans.

[Separately, the guy who took our tickets had a serious disability that had stunted his growth and left him confined to wheelchair. Plainly he could have qualified for SSDI and enough taxpayer-funded OxyContin to brighten his days. Yet he was working as cheerfully as anyone else. A good reminder for those times when we feel that walking into work is oppressive!]

6 Comments

  1. George A.

    June 9, 2017 @ 3:10 pm

    1

    I don’t have an answer to your questions, but did you know about the movie “The Sum of All Fears”? In the movie, they changed the villains from Arabs to Nazis:

    “In the novel, they were Arab nationalists, but in the film, they were changed to neo-fascists.”

    [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sum_of_All_Fears_(film)

  2. Fennec B.

    June 9, 2017 @ 4:13 pm

    2

    I think the question you’re is asking is misdirected at the screenwriters. I’m pretty sure it was William Moulton Marston who invented this version of the Amazons. The screenwriters were adapting his (and generations of successive DC comics writers) source material.

    According to Marston the entire universe of Wonder Woman was intended to serve as psychological propaganda and “sex love training” to promote his systematic philosophy based on free love and erotic BDSM. Marston viewed the notion of freedom as being masculine and anarchic, promoting as an alternative what he viewed as the opposing feminine notion of “Love Allure”, one that would lead to an ideal state of submission to loving authority.

    Marston is a pretty fascinating character, very influenced by the themes of erotic bondage/dominance prevalent and philosophically/aesthetically important to 30s feminism.

  3. superMike

    June 9, 2017 @ 6:46 pm

    3

    I found the movie entertaining (Gal Gadot is gorgeous, as were the rest of the visuals), but it didn’t really sit well with me that they presented the “real” motive force behind WWI as driven by shadowy, non-German forces. That kind of thinking had some, ahem, rather unpleasant outcomes historically…

  4. SK

    June 11, 2017 @ 2:53 am

    4

    Not sure about Greek mythology, but one thing I know for sure: no German officer could have shown up to the gala unshaven and with two top buttons undone.

  5. Demetri

    June 11, 2017 @ 8:49 pm

    5

    From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scythians:

    Some Scythian-Sarmatian cultures may have given rise to Greek stories of Amazons. Graves of armed females have been found in southern Ukraine and Russia. David Anthony notes, “About 20% of Scythian-Sarmatian “warrior graves” on the lower Don and lower Volga contained females dressed for battle as if they were men, a style that may have inspired the Greek tales about the Amazons.”

  6. Demetri

    June 11, 2017 @ 8:55 pm

    6

    As to the question of why flip the warlike-peace seeking motivations of the Amazons vs the original sources, I don’t think it’s palatable in Hollywood’s current political climate to have our heroines be war mongers like the right of the political spectrum is perceived to be.

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