Patty Jenkins Rejected Traumatic Amazon Origin Story: “We Don’t Want to Start Out Seeing Them as Victims”
There has been a lot of conversation about many things surrounding the Snyder Cut of Justice League vs Joss Whedon’s Cut, and one topic of special interest has been the depictions of The Amazons and Diana Prince/Wonder Woman. During a conversation with Collider, Connie Nielsen, who plays Queen Hippolyta and Diana’s mother, revealed just how hard Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins fought for the “feminist themes” in the film.
Nielsen explained that there was an initial plan in Wonder Woman to have the origin of the Amazons that involved sexual assault, but Jenkins wasn’t having it (TW: Rape):
She was very clear about what the Amazons were supposed to be. And I think that there had originally been some idea that the Amazons had been deeply traumatized by some kind of horrible event that involved mass rape. And Patty just said, “Hm, no. No, no, we’re not gonna put that on those Amazons. We don’t want to start out seeing them as victims, and why would we? Let’s just get rid of that part and make sure that these are heroes in their own terms. They’ve not been part of the victims of history. They are these unbelievably courageous women and we’re not gonna saddle them with a trauma from the outset. We’re going to have them be received by people on the basis of who they are. What is their culture? Why are they so fierce? What does it mean to live on an island where there are no guys?” It made so much sense, you know? You needed them to have a very uncomplicated background in order to be able to just accept them as the heroes that they are.
Now, I think there is a lot of stuff that is important to unpack here, and I want to add some grace that Patty Jenkins may not have been able to do all she wanted because of Warner Bros. If there is any lesson to take from Zack Snyder’s situation with Warner Bros., it is that the studio did not always have faith in their directors.
Let’s start with the Amazons. The origin story of the Amazons in comics has changed around over time and depending on the run. For me, who is really into the George Pérez run, the backstory is that the Amazons are a mixture of many things. The five Olympian goddess, Artemis, Athena, Demeter, Hestia, and Aphrodite, created the Amazons from the reincarnated souls of women slain throughout pre-history by men. They are granted immortality, strength, wisdom, etc. However, they are sadly supposed to teach men love and virtue and equality.
Really setting them up for failure, if you ask me.
Ares, being the patron god of toxic masculinity in the series, tricks Heracles into thinking that the Amazons are talking smack about him. You see, while initially the poets and others talked about how Themyscira was beautiful and awesome, kings got jealous and became haters. They spread rumors about the Amazons being inhuman and turned them into the other. Heracles then betrayed them, assaulted Hippolyta, and eventually, the Amazons were enslaved. With Hippolyta and Antiope leading the charge, they freed themselves from their chains. Eventually, Hippolyta felt the desire to have a child, molded a child out of clay, and that baby was brought to life by the goddess and feminist ally Hermes. In honor of Artemis, the girl was named Diana.
While I agree that a mass rape would have been hard to deal with, I also think that Patty Jenkins has yet to live up to the feminist image of the Amazons—from removing the goddesses from their origins to pretty much speeding through the Amazons’ history as warriors who fought for their own freedom, and especially choosing to make Diana a Demi-goddess related to the rapist-in-chief Zeus himself, without any acknowledge of him being trash.
I also think that the Amazons facing trauma is part of their origin as women. Being enslaved is trauma. Plus, being assaulted doesn’t just make you a “victim.” It makes you a survivor.
Because of the overuse of rape as a backstory, I’m glad it wasn’t included, but I also think it is not helpful to think of sexual assault as something that stops you from becoming a hero. For many adult survivors, maybe it would have meant something to see the brave, beautiful, kind, and maternal Queen Hippolyta be a survivor, if it were done well.
All I know is that after seeing the Amazons in the Wonder Woman films and Justice League, I am ready for a version of them that sees the fullness of their warrior selves and isn’t just using them as beautiful shorthand for empowerment.
(via Collider, image: Gregg DeGuire/Getty Images)
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