How 'Wonder Woman' Can Teach the Entire Superhero Genre a Lesson and Put DC Comics Back on Top

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While it is Diana Prince’s sacred duty to defend the world, it has now become Wonder Woman’s duty to protect the future of DC Comics and the superhero genre in general. That’s thanks to the film’s solid 93 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, positive reviews and $100.5 million in opening weekend ticket sales. It should come as no surprise that a sequel is already being discussed.

Today’s Wonder Woman is more than a simple sex symbol, thrown into other superheroes’ movies to run down the beach Baywatch-style, provide an impressive spin and plucky attitude and rock a flashy cape and boots. Thanks to this new installment, she now represents something else entirely.

MORE: 'Wonder Woman' Is the Best Movie to Come Out of the DC Extended Universe Thus Far

The Wonder Woman of 2017 (Gal Gadot) is not only a feminist icon in the making, but a touchstone of true progress for DC Comics and more importantly for the superhero genre as a whole. Sure, she has a pretty face, but so does Chris Hemsworth, and Wonder Woman packs more of a punch than Thor any day -- sorry, son of Odin, this Amazon-raised warrior’s got you beat.

Here are four lessons Wonder Woman can teach future generations of superhero films: 

1. Adapt to the Current Climate
Warner Bros.

One word that has frequently come up in this film’s mostly glowing reviews (including ET’s) is “earnest.” While the movie provides plenty of jokes -- often courtesy of Chris Pine’s Captain Steve Trevor -- its leading lady doesn’t tend to deliver many zingers. Perhaps this is because of the serious environment in which she was raised, but it is also due to the fact that she’s surrounded by war, death and horrific bloodshed in the human world for most of the film.  

While the jokes of hit superheroes like Iron Man and Spider-Man (who are both preparing to star in the sixth Spider-Man-centric flick in 15 years) are always appreciated, Wonder Woman is a true leader in uncertain times -- the likes of which our nonfiction world faces today, from the terrorist bombings in Manchester to this weekend's horrific attack on London to the current state of political unrest in America. Ever the warrior, Diana is on the front lines with a constant sense of urgency, and she’s not looking for a laugh. She doesn’t stand by while enemies attack innocents, and she doesn’t tolerate injustice. It should come as no surprise that this symbol of strength -- no jokes attached -- inspires audiences in 2017.

2. You Have to Be More Than Just the “Girl Superhero Movie”

As Hollywood continues to make strides (however great or small) in diverse casting, Wonder Woman represents not just the first blockbuster helmed by a female superhero, but also the first one to feature women in a host of key roles. From the villainous and extremely intelligent Doctor Poison (Elena Anaya) to the secretary-turned-Suffragette Etta (Lucy Davis), not to mention the insanely powerful tribe of Amazons, women were everywhere in this film. Gone are the days of Avengers movies, where Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) has to fight be heard over the roars of the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), the hammer of Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the righteous indignation of Captain America (Chris Evans) and the ever-objectifying jokes of Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.). Hell, Wonder Woman was even led by the most elusive Hollywood phenomenon: a female director (Patty Jenkins). And yes, Diana will be placed amongst the men of the Justice League later this year, but she will be much more likely to take charge after sealing herself as a true symbol of female empowerment and leadership.

3. Promote Women Who Lead Not Deceive
Warner Bros. Pictures

Speaking of which, it’s important to note that Wonder Woman certainly isn’t the first female with special powers in the Marvel/DC worlds, she’s just the first to wield them entirely for good. Often times these blockbuster ladies slip into something a little less comfortable -- say, a catsuit -- to show off just how cunning they can be. Black Widow, Catwoman (most recently portrayed by Anne Hathaway in The Dark Knight Rises) and Gamora all fight alongside the good guys (or at least the antiheroes), but they always have a dark past and they’re all former criminals. While all of these women are certifiable badasses, they aren’t necessarily role models or iconic figures that society would look up to. With stand-up good guys like Captain America, Thor, Superman and (mostly) Batman, Wonder Woman represents the first female to stand alongside these heroes as an equal, not a hardened sidekick with mysterious and sinister origins.

4. Coming in First Matters
Warner Bros. Pictures

While Marvel has blocked out its next three years with a series of seemingly progressive superheroes and antiheroes, Wonder Woman will always be able to say she came first. And it matters that the first real victory DC Comics has seen since the Dark Knight installments has such a progressive message. The company can use this success as a jumping-off point to usher superhero fans into the next generation of the genre. Instead of Superman saving Lois Lane, as he’s attempted to do without truly pleasing audiences for years, Wonder Woman will be pushing past hesitant soldiers to take on the enemy fire and save innocent lives. She may have an all-male band of followers, but they are her followers, not the other way around. Their mouths aren’t just hanging open because of her outfit, they’re gazing in -- pardon me -- wonder at her fierce bravery and fearlessness.

Though it’s sad that it has taken this long for women to get a superhero all their own, she is a true trailblazer for the millions of female viewers who populate theaters. According to Box Office Mojo, 44 percent of theatergoers for Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 were women. The comic book adaptation game is no longer dominated by a male viewership. Marvel clearly recognizes this (albeit much too late) and has plans for Brie Larson to star as Captain Marvel in 2019. But by then Wonder Woman could possibly have time to fit in a sequel or at the very least have made a lasting impression in November's Justice League. Not only that, but with the addition of Cyborg (Ray Fisher) to the Justice League’s roster, DC will also get the first black superhero three months before Marvel’s Black Panther hits theaters in 2018. 

MORE: Everything You Need to Know About 'Wonder Woman' and the DC Extended Universe 

And though Marvel has largely been the more popular comic company when it comes to film adaptations over the past decade, DC Comics can use its missteps to its advantage. With fewer superhero distractions, Wonder Woman is left to take charge of the DC Comics world and its inhabitants. As the first true fan favorite (sorry, Ben Affleck) to come out of this new generation of DC heroes, she’s the obvious choice to lead the company into its next decade. She can help label DC has the more progressive of the two competitors, tapping into the passions surrounding recent social movements and causes. Instead of giving us the millionth Superman reboot, try a handful of Wonder Woman sequels or introduce new and diverse leads that better reflect the world we live in today, which -- surprise, surprise -- isn’t just made up of buff white dudes.

So will Wonder Woman’s success and attempts to blaze the trail be enough to bring DC Comics glory and to change the way filmmakers and writers approach future superhero adaptations? Only time will tell. But it’s certainly one big boot print in the right direction.