close menu
How WONDER WOMAN’s No Man’s Land Tells a Radical Story about Trust

How WONDER WOMAN’s No Man’s Land Tells a Radical Story about Trust

Editor’s Note: this post contains major spoilers for Wonder Woman. You’ve been warned!

It was, arguably, a love of war that created No Man’s Land. The advent of automatic weaponry created a space across warzone fronts since World War I that was decimated by artillery, bombs, and scattered with corpses from either side. It was un-winnable space, an area from which there was no escape, and no advancement either way.

Thankfully, Diana of Themyscira is no man. And in one of the most iconic and emotional scenes in the film—one, of course, the studio didn’t believe in but director Patty Jenkins, thankfully, fought for—Diana learns what it is to be Wonder Woman. Try as one might (and trust, I have) it is hard to explain the depths and layers of importance of that moment without speaking to it on a personal level. I’ve gone on a journey with the Wonder Woman film, and I’m not too proud to admit it. Diana’s journey was a layered one, an origin story filled with lessons she needed to learn.

And, as it turned out, there were a few lessons I needed to learn, too.

gal-gadot-wonder-woman-walking-up

I cried the first time I watched Diana cross No Man’s Land. It was February 2017 and I was in Warner Bros.’ edit bay in London. The world was in flux, I was in flux, and the instability left me blinded. I had to get away, and this trip felt like the perfect salve. Until I cried. I can count the times I’ve cried at movies on one hand (seriously), and never once has it ever been during a superhero film. And it has never happened in front of the director who created it. (I was very embarrassed.) I couldn’t truly wrap my head around what I was seeing, but I knew that it moved me beyond words to see a woman so confident in her gifts and skills, in her mission and her purpose and her moral code. To watch her stand up against an oft-heard sentiment from men—you can’t do that, no man can—and respond in kind that she was no man, and that gave her strength that the army, and Steve Trevor, and all of mankind, did not have. I felt like young Diana: naïve, but thrilled and joyful, overwhelmed at the possibility of what this film could become.

Like Diana at the front, I was shielding myself, even if I felt strong and confident.

When I saw it the second time, I was ready. I not only knew what was coming for me, but I was prepared to be less emotional about it. I was reviewing the film, after all, and needed to be unbiased. In the time that had transpired between seeing that scene in February and watching the whole film in May, much had happened in my personal life and the world. We all had to grow up and shed our naïveté about what was happening around us. We had to stand up and accept the responsibility to change the world was on us. I saw that Diana saw this, and felt empowered by her confidence to know that, in spite of what the men around her said, she was strong enough to do what they could not. Her power—something she apologized for when it knocked Antiope down—was no longer a burden. She lived in the truth of herself and accepted it, stepping up to the plate.

gal-gadot-wonder-woman-fighting-2

This is how I saw myself now: stepping up to the plate. But it turned out that was an error: In a way, reviewing this film was my way of accepting my role as a voice and a critic—as a member of this community with something to say in a way that only I could wield. Only, I didn’t realize writing the review was, in a way, a form of shielding myself, too. I didn’t want to sit on my initial reaction and think about it (like I so often need to): I was afraid my opinions would soften, that I would be accused of being a fawning woman. To love it too much and be seen as weak or biased. To be accused of “not getting it” or not having a real level of taste. Like Diana at the front, I was shielding myself, even if I felt strong and confident.

If you know the rule of three and are following Diana’s journey thus far, you would assume watching it for the third time was my “Ares showdown” moment. My third act, the Final Battle. That I, like Diana, would see the reality of the situation for what it was and confront the one thing that could undo all we’d accomplished. It wasn’t. In fact, as I watched No Man’s Land unfold for a third and final time, I felt very little beyond the shadow of emotions lurking in the background, vaguely going on. In fact I barely noticed the scene at all, too busy reconsidering the issues I had in my first full viewing of the film and trying to pay attention to tinier details I may have missed the first two times. I left the theater feeling different about the film, but unable to express or pinpoint exactly how.

Wonder-Woman-gif-2-05302017

When I’m aware of something I need to accomplish or overcome, it’s difficult for me to sit idly by and wait for that to just happen. Like Diana, I wish to charge The Front, purposeful and secure in the knowledge of my desire to do good. But the hard truth of the matter is that you cannot force a lesson that requires a journey to learn. A journey similar to one hinged on the belief that killing the God of War would reset the hearts of mankind and end all hate and suffering, for example. And like Diana, what I thought was one thing has clearly always been about another.

The hard truth of the matter is that you cannot force a lesson that takes a journey to learn.

My Ares moment is coming; I can feel it creeping behind me, keeping close. And it is the same final lesson that Diana needed to fully understand: how to trust. In your gifts, in your power, and the inner power of others. And like Diana, my realization came unwittingly from a man—and that wasn’t something I exactly delighted in, all things considered, to say the least. As we exited the theater, he told me he loved it, and asked if I still felt the way about the end as I did in my review. I said I did, sorta, and tried—but failed—to adequately explain my point (and seem less brusque). But the truth is, I didn’t really have a point that made sense anymore. Something had changed, but I was resistant to see it. Especially when the message was being delivered by a man I, admittedly, vacillate wildly about trusting at all. It’s a hell of a lesson that takes a story to unfold.

“It wasn’t about that though,” he said. “She had to learn to trust.”

I was defensive. “No I KNOW,” I barked a bit too loudly as we left.

Trusting Steve and mankind’s intentions was bringing Diana back full circle to what makes her so unique and uniquely feminine: unconditional love is the only thing that can save the world. And you have to trust in that—not just in yourself, but in humanity’s ability to love and care above all else—even if the things you must trust aren’t perfect.

Wonder-Woman-Steve-Trevor-03032017

It’s hard for all women to trust in man’s world, particularly while it consistently abrades who we are as women of all kinds: gay, straight, black, trans …the list goes on and on. Women are constantly subjected to men telling us we should trust them, they know better…only to have them chip away at our humanity when we do. I don’t trust anyone. I love heavily but I trust as well as a windmill holds water. This is especially true, for myriad reasons, of men. All of this makes believing in the intentions of others as pure and genuine nearly impossible. It’s hard to see opportunity to trust when you’re surrounded by bodies and the collateral damage of war.

Wonder-Woman-Picture-03032017

How do you trust yourself over those who “know better;” trust yourself in spite of the constructs of the world of man; trust yourself over your family? That has always been hard for me and it was certainly hard for Diana, too. (It’s never smooth sailing when one must disobey their mother and murder their half-brother.) How do you trust your inherent power, and the goodness of others without relying on your gifts alone—god-given if they may be—and humble yourself to the risk of trusting others? That is an incredible power, because it involves knowing yourself. Diana had to learn it, and I am still learning it.

This is not a story about finding love. Diana always had it, it brimmed from her, her passion for the mission: to save mankind. No, Diana’s story is about trust: trust in love, trust in herself, and trust in the goodness of man. And sometimes it’s hard to see the strength in things when they’re a blindspot of our own. So that’s why here I am, doing a thing they say to never do on the internet: being vulnerable and trusting that, despite all the weapons people can use against you, everything will be okay. But I also know, even if my feelings are weaponized against me, I have the gifts and the power inside to fight it. We all have our No Man’s Land.

wonder-woman-gal-gadot-sparks

How has Wonder Woman affected you? Let us know in the comments below.

Images: Warner Bros./DC Comics

Alicia Lutes is the managing editor of Nerdist and creator/host of Fangirling! Find her on Twitter if you’re into that sorta thing.

David Tennant and Michael Sheen Star in GOOD OMENS as Angel and Demon Duo

David Tennant and Michael Sheen Star in GOOD OMENS as Angel and Demon Duo

article
GAME OF THRONES' Rhaegar Revelation Might be Its Most Important Yet

GAME OF THRONES' Rhaegar Revelation Might be Its Most Important Yet

article
GAME OF THRONES Recap: Eastwatch By the Bastards

GAME OF THRONES Recap: Eastwatch By the Bastards

article