Is Wonder Woman Jewish?

Image: Directors Patty Jenkins and actors Gal Gadot, Chris Pine and Connie Neilsen talk about Wonder Woman at San Diego Comic Con, 2016 (Photo by Gage Skidmore.)

I’ve waited for this movie for 50 years.

When Linda and I sat down yesterday in the theater, I was wary. I’ve had my heart broken in movie theaters before. The first time I was nine, when Walt Disney tarted up Mary Poppins (1964) beyond all recognition, drenched her in sugar, and perverted P.L. Travers’ books. I felt I’d been robbed, and I left the theater sobbing.

I feel strongly about certain characters in literature.

So when there has been talk about a Wonder Woman film, I’ve perked up my ears, but I’ve not let myself hope too much. Hollywood has a way of messing up good stories, especially good stories with female protagonists. I was encouraged to hear that Patty Jenkins was directing; her writing and direction of Monster (2004) were miraculous.

I was even more encouraged when I heard that Gal Gadot had been cast as the lead. She is beautiful, she is strong, she can be very funny, and I liked the idea of the world hearing an Israeli accent in that role. A Jewish woman as a super hero? Oh, yeah!

I saw the poster and dared to hope. WonderWoman

As sexualized as the comic book figure was, as campy as the TV show, the image in the poster is that of a warrior. She is kneeling on a beach, at the edge of her world.  The sun behind her is either rising or setting, with no clues as to which it is. Is she at the beginning of a journey, or recovering from battle? Is her grave expression sadness or something else?

I won’t spoil the film for you. I spent quite a bit of it in tears, watching a brave woman do terrifying things in defense of innocents. Some of those tears were that I was finally seeing the movie I’d wanted to see ever since I first found a Wonder Woman comic book discarded on a sidewalk in Nashville 50 years ago and recognized her as mine. Some of those tears were the tears of a graying feminist who finally got to see a great movie about a wonderful woman, directed by a woman. Some of them were because the movie is genuinely moving, and occasionally pretty scary (take that PG-13 rating seriously, please.)

Does the film have Jewish content? You bet. It stars a Israeli woman. Wonder Woman may have a Greek name but she learns a very Jewish lesson: humanity was born good, with a terrible capacity for evil. The fight is to free that which is good while curbing that which is evil. It is not a simple task.

Go. See the movie. Let me know what you think in the comments.

 

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rabbiadar

Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi based in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, mom, poodle groomer, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at https://coffeeshoprabbi.com/ as the Coffee Shop Rabbi.

12 thoughts on “Is Wonder Woman Jewish?”

    1. Hi Susan. I think I know the moment of which you speak, when she had arms stretched and was surrounded by blinding light? I didn’t see that as crucifixion. I saw it as the moment that she broke free of the “chains” that confined her (hence the stretched arms) and that she fully accessed her divinity (hence the bright Light). For me, it was a moment of power, not a moment of surrender. But I’d like to hear more about your perspective, if you’re willing to share!
      shavua tov, jen

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    2. Wow, I’m glad that Jen answered you, because I’d have had no idea what you were talking about! After Jen’s description, I recognize it, and I have to say, “crucifixion” never crossed my mind; rather it was a moment in which she seized the freedom to act.

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  1. Saw it today and I loved it. Going again next weekend. I kept noticing how appropriate it was to cast an Israeli woman in the role.

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  2. There were so many moments that, to my Jewish eyes and ears, were poignant in their Jewishness because Gal is Israeli. It was moving and it was very inspiring. This version of Wonder Woman reflects the best of what every Jew should aspire to be — fearless, compassionate, willing to see and understand “the other,” and yet a warrior who demands justice for those who cannot help themselves.

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