Wonder Woman’s most important love story


Photo Clay Enos/ TM & © DC Comics/ Acquired WB Media

Wonder Woman is grounded in its love stories. So what makes the relationship between Diana and her mother Queen Hippolyta so important?

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Wonder Woman gave us so many wonderful things and in honor of the movie’s DVD/Bluray release we’re taking a deep dive into some of the more nuanced aspects of the film. The story centers around a lot of different love and relies heavily on the audience’s personal feelings of love and respect for the superhero genre as well.

Luckily, discussing the theme of love and its importance in the greater landscape of these often dark and gritty superhero films will never get old. Wonder Woman’s belief in love (both the larger theme and Diana’s personal belief) is exceedingly fundamental to the narrative. Being a warrior for peace is a difficult line to toe because it toys with the limits of a hero like Wonder Woman whose powers are literally divine. It also doesn’t confine her to the same limitations as other characters. Diana (Gal Gadot) cares about the innocent – this was her whole reason for joining the fight – but she was also not above killing German soldiers whom she so adamantly believed were not acting of their own accord.

It’s a difficult balance showing a compassionate superhero who does not wrestle with the same moral dilemmas because she knows humanity does not really deserve her help but she believes in it anyway. We have seen male superheroes often burden themselves with the deaths they are responsible for for the greater good. That particular narrative is often used in the hopes of showing restraint with these characters and creating future conflict but it doesn’t always work. And in lesser hands than Patty Jenkins, Wonder Woman’s integrity would not have been as emotionally resonate.


Patty’s role is significant for the all reasons that critics and fans have been espousing since the movie was released in theaters. There were clear and concise choices made in the filmmaking process especially when it came to building the different relationships within the film. There are a plethora of think pieces on the Diana and Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) romance, even I have written quite a bit about the role Steve plays in Diana’s story. And I’m certain that it’s an aspect of Wonder Woman I will never run out of analysis for.

Part of the reason there is so much to unpack is because this love story was framed differently than other superhero love stories. Steve was a bit of a damsel in distress (but was fully autonomous in his death as opposed to others in his position) and Chris Pine was even given one job: to just flirt and breath heavy, yet the romance still subverted the expectations of both Steve and Diana in a relationship. Steve wasn’t a typical superhero girlfriend and Diana wasn’t held back by the love story.

The implied sex scene is a great example because it tackled a moment that is so often actually about power and objectification in other movies with a grace and respect for what the scene meant (though the use of the “rule of thirds” in that scene in particular is fascinating and fantastically employed). Especially because in the scene after no one makes a big deal that they had sex. Steve doesn’t start bragging. And the scene doesn’t try and make it seem like Diana is different somehow. It was a significant moment between just the two of them but not one that is central to the rest of the story, outside of the context of the what people do when there is no war.


It’s these kind of scenes in Wonder Woman that make it clear that not only did Patty have a particular vision for Diana in her mind but they’re the kind of scenes that have benefitted from the direct influence of a female director. And if Diana and Steve were the only love story in the movie my point would have been made but Wonder Woman gave us so much more than a romantic relationship. Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) and her dynamic bond with her daughter Diana benefits even more from Patty’s influence.

The mother/daughter dynamic is a rare one in the superhero genre – and really most films in general. Partly because most of those relationships are actually mother/son but even then it is the father/son relationship (or lack thereof) that takes precedence. Mothers in superhero movies are often tools or plot devices depending on the tone and emotional tether the movie is attempting to create with the parent/child bond – a way to humanize these heroes. Frigga (Rene Russo) in the Thor movies in particular comes to mind because she was beloved by both Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth), as well as arguably smarter and stronger than Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and yet she sacrificed herself, which serviced Loki’s manpain as well as bonded the brothers against common enemy. Mothers also play an important part in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice but overall these relationships are under-developed and under-valued.


However, in Wonder Woman Diana’s relationship with Hippolyta is fundamental to the origin story. Even on repeat viewings the scene where Diana leaves Themyscira, the conversation is important for Diana as she goes on this journey to become Wonder Woman (a point we’ll get to shortly) feels real. And while I’m sure that is entirely due to Connie Nielsen and Gal Gadot’s acting skills (and Patty’s direction), the emotion in that moment is one I imagine many mothers and daughters can relate to. There is just something so poignant about the goodbye Hippolyta and Diana share. When I saw the movie with my mom I pointed out how accurately their relationship is depicted. Specifically the “You have been my greatest love. Today, you are my greatest sorrow” line is so authentic, and I’ve heard my own mother say a version of that to me. The bittersweet dichotomy of disappointment and joy of children growing up and striking out on their own is palpable

Considering we leave Themyscira (with the potential to never see Hippolyta and the Amazons again) the movie is completely grounded in the scenes there. Obviously the island is used to establish Diana’s identity. We know she wants to learn to fight like the Amazons but her mother won’t let her. From Hippolyta’s perspective this is done in the hopes of protecting Diana, the same way the true story of her birth (as the natural born child of the Queen of the Amazons and Zeus) is turned into a myth about being molded from clay. Taking that a step further Diana is never made to feel different, despite being the only child to grow up on the Island or when she uses some of her powers for the first time in the fight against Antiope (Robin Wright). Her mother does hint that she’s different when she tells Diana that she is not an Amazon but Diana never questions remarks like that in the same way she did not understand her mother’s hesitation when a young Diana (Lilly Aspell) asked about the “God Killer”.

It’s worth noting that Antiope and Diana also share a significant bond, secretly going behind Hippolyta’s back to train, which again plays right into the scene where Hippolyta accepts that Diana must leave. She knows this is her daughter’s destiny and so she gives her Antiope’s tiara. It’s interesting because we saw both women fight on the beach. We know that Hippolyta even lead the the rebellion against Ares in the story she told. Diana’s relationship with Hipployta is so intrinsic to the plot that I even wondered if the scene in the trenches when Diana takes down her hair – right before Diana enters No Man’s Land – was a homage to her mother who wears her down when she fights (I actually had an opportunity to ask Patty this question at last month’s Apple Store SoHo event and the simple answer is that Diana taking her hair down is a homage to a lot of things (i:e Lynda Carter’s spin into the Wonder Woman costume).

The other fascinating aspect of this relationship is the way Diana seeks her mother’s approval. When she is training against the other Amazons she notices her mother (anxiously) watching her. I also find the subtlety of the moment when Steve asks Diana if they’re going to let him ago and she says that she asked to go with him to the war but her “mother won’t let her” serious but also low-key funny considering that Diana is most definitely an adult at this point in the story and yet she’s completely beholden to what her mother will and won’t allow (which plays into her choice to stand up to her too). This makes sense though given Patty’s own interpretation of the relationship in Sharon Gosling’s book Wonder Woman: The Art and Making of the Film:

"“For Patty Jenkins, one of the most important relationships in the film is that between Queen Hippolyta and her daughter, Diana. “She’s someone who has taken this very same journey, in her way,” the director points out.“ She was created to walk among mankind and teach them love and restore peace to the world. And mankind turned against them and ended up proving themselves untrustworthy. But Diana is like many of us when we are younger, you really think that you believe in something purer and more incredible than your parents have ever discovered and it’s shocking that it never occurred to you that of course they already know that, and then some,” Jenkins laughs. “That’s the classic story being told here. Hippolyta knows everything and is shielding her daughter from so much information. But her daughter believes – ‘if we can save the world, if we can save mankind, of course we have to do that.’ So Diana has to go on this journey to become equal to Hippolyta, but she’s also whom Diana must grow beyond and surpass in the end, because Hippolyta did not choose to go back and save mankind. She allowed herself to retreat. Diana has to make a choice, which makes her the person that goes on to become Wonder Woman and save the world by making a different choice than any of the Amazons have made before her. So it’s a very important relationship in this story, in our whole myth of what the parental character is in these movies.”"

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The effort and care that went into the Diana and Hippolyta relationship is not appreciated nearly enough and I wanted to give it the due-diligence it deserves. Speaking of deserve, the romantic plot in Wonder Woman was so important because so often in order to be depicted as strong women are not given a love interest because of some ridiculous mythos that love holds these strong women back. But the mother/daughter relationship is just as important. While it is Steve who makes Diana realize it is about what we believe, it is Hippoyta that empowers Diana with the belief in herself.

Wonder Woman is currently available for digital download and on DVD/Bluray! And look out for Hippolyta and the Amazons in Justice League November 17th, 2017!