If you follow Catholic social media, you probably already saw the recent meme replacing Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman) with an image of the Blessed Virgin on the movie poster for Wonder Woman. A quick Google search will lead you to discover a few essays pertaining to the topic of Mary and Wonder Woman. The connection was not one I made personally, having been an outsider to Wonder Woman and all things DC Comics. A few months ago, I was asked to give a talk on Our Lady of Fatima by an outside group that already had titled my talk, “Celebrating Our Lady, A Wonder Woman for our Times.” I didn’t put two and two together until I was at the Post Office and saw a recent stamp release featuring Wonder Woman. It all began to make sense.
The Virgin Mary I have studied and come to know can truly be called a “Wonder Woman.” After all, there are few individuals who can say they were visited by an angel, conceived a child miraculously by the Holy Spirit, and gave birth to the son of God. The emergence of the superheroine Wonder Woman came at a time of feminist empowerment. In Catholicism, feminists renounced the example of Mary as an ideal for women. Paul VI hinted at such in his 1974 apostolic exhortation Marialis Cultus (paragraphs 34-39). In more recent years, John Paul II reflected On the Dignity of Women (Mulieris Dignitatem), specifically highlighting a recovery of Mary in the new feminine genius movement.
Inspired by what I had seen about Wonder Woman, I chose to go and see the film. In speaking to one of my friends before going, I asked, “Do you think I will be able to write a piece on Mary and Wonder Woman?” He told me, “Without a doubt.” From the opening to the film to its end, I found Marian imagery throughout. While the film at hand dealt with stories of Greek Mythology, when viewed through the lens of Catholicism, one could truly discover a Marian connection. If you read on, please be aware of potential spoilers.
Tota Pulchra Es
This Latin phrase, meaning “You Are All Beautiful,” captures the character of Wonder Woman. The beauty of the character herself was referenced by many characters in the movie, and at one point, one even stated she was the most beautiful woman. The Blessed Virgin Mary was the most beautiful of God’s creation, because she was born without original sin. Throughout her life, that beauty remained, as Christian writers have always spoken of Mary as being without spot, wrinkle, or blemish. Oftentimes we refer only to physical beauty, but there is also an inner beauty, and Wonder Woman surely possessed that quality. I do not know how anyone could not have been touched by the concern of Wonder Woman for those who were sick and wounded. In such scenes, her inner beauty exuded forth.
Queen of Peace
Diana, the alias of Wonder Woman, would more rightly be called a princess, nonetheless, in her character her desire for peace is paramount. After a chance encounter with Chris Pine, a pilot who crashes into the clandestine Amazon island, Wonder Woman is made aware of the lack of peace in the world. Determined to take on the god of war, Ares, Wonder Woman journeys with Chris into the world on a quest to slay evil and facilitate peace in the world. She strongly believed that peace could not happen without her cooperation.
The Virgin Mary has been hailed as Queen of Peace, a title inserted into the Litany of Loreto by Pope Benedict XV. Mary made her desire for peace known through various apparitions, most notably in Fatima, where she encouraged the three Fatima children to pray the rosary every day to obtain peace for the world. In another series of apparitions in Kibeho, Rwanda, the Virgin Mary forewarned about conflict and war if people did not convert. Just as Wonder Woman believed she could be an instrument of peace, Mary has revealed herself as a messenger of peace.
One of the earliest reflections on Mary by the early Church pertained to Marian typology, seeing Mary as the New Eve. Three early thinkers reflected on the topic: Justin Martyr, Tertullian, and Irenaeus of Lyons. If Jesus was the New Adam, it naturally followed that there must be a New Eve, who was determined to be Mary. It would be a stretch to associate Eve with Wonder Woman.
Wonder Woman’s mother recounted how Diana came to be: sculpted from clay. For me, this calls my attention to the creation story of Adam who was formed from the dust of the earth. The creation of Wonder Woman differs slightly from the biblical account since Eve was formed from Adam’s rib, nevertheless, it hearkens us back to the origins of mankind. At the end of the film, Wonder Woman’s temptation arises when Ares tries to persuade her to kill Dr. Maru. Unlike Eve, who fell prey to the tempter, Wonder Woman stands strong in her conviction.
The final minutes of the film, Chris Pine, shows himself to be like the New Adam in the film, becoming a Christ-like figure as he takes command of the plane containing the deadly gases and sacrifices his own life, so that others might live. Similar to the crucifixion, when Mary stands as witness to the sacrificial action of Christ, Wonder Woman witnesses Chris’s death and like Mary, is left in the world for many years thereafter.
A Battle Between Good and Evil
One of the major themes of Wonder Woman is the battle, which becomes a battle between Good and Evil, between peace and destruction. Wonder Woman believed that if she found Ares and slayed him, peace would be an immediate result. In the film’s penultimate battle between Ludendorff and Wonder Woman, we are led to believe he is Ares. As the battle neared its end, the Marian image evoked in my mind was Mary’s foot crushing the head of Satan. With that battle ended, Wonder Woman quickly realizes that Ares was still out there, but as Satan always does, Ares reared his ugly face, and the battle between the two ensued.
There is a battle going on right now in the world, a battle between the forces of good and evil. Satan wants to snatch us from God. But we have a powerful mother in Heaven who intercedes, and who also is participating in the battle for our soul. When temptation comes our way, call on Mary, and ask her to crush the head of evil one. The movie portrayed the forces of evil as liars. The same is true in our spiritual battle. The devil is the Father of Lies, and as soon as we know that, we will be better equipped for spiritual warfare. Wonder Woman was told that the battle was futile, that she could not win. That’s a lie the devil wants us to think. That he cannot be vanquished. Don’t lose hope. Keep fighting. And you will ultimately win the battle.
Love is my Mission Now
As a way of ending the film in the same way it started, we meet again Diana Prince holding the picture of her and Chris. In a sense, we could say the entire film was Diana, treasuring the past in her heart, re-living it, as we watched the story of her life unfold. In the final sentences of the film, Diana reflects that she has come to realize that only love can save the world and that is her mission now. And isn’t that the mission of the Blessed Virgin Mary? Isn’t that why she has appeared to so many people throughout the centuries? To remind us to that love of God and neighbor must be our mission? Mary’s mission of love continues from her throne in Heaven, as she intercedes and prays for us before the True God, her son, Jesus Christ.