Among the plethora of 2017’s superhero films, one scene stands head and shoulders above the others.
This week, Twitter user Rhett Bartlett asked the Twitterverse what their favourite film moment from 2017 was. The overwhelming majority had the same answer – Wonder Woman’s ‘No Man’s Land’ scene.
For you reference, this topic has gone off in the last 7 hours. The most common reply appears to be Wonder Woman's 'No Man's Land' scene. Lots of love too for A Ghost Story / pie scene.
— Rhett Bartlett (@dialmformovies) November 25, 2017
In a year that saw three MCU films, one X-Men film and two DCEU films grace our screens, what made this one scene so special? Let us take a look.
The Hero We Need
The world has been pleading for a female-led superhero film for years. We have had white male superheroes coming out of our ears but nary a woman in sight. Hollywood’s attempts with Catwoman and Elektra were failures but they too easily gave up and used those films as an excuse to avoid female heroes altogether – also, bullshit patriarchal standards were used to make those films, which partly made many people avoid them.
But, finally, in 2017, we got the hero we deserve – Wonder Woman.
After a brief but significant appearance in the lamentable wreck Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, fans were itching to see more of everyone’s favourite Amazon warrior. Fortunately, we did not have to wait too long before the release of Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman, a remarkable origin story, full of heart and action.
Much has been said of the film but leaving the cinema hall after watching Wonder Woman, we could all agree that we had never seen anything quite as powerful and exciting as the No Man’s Land scene.
The focus of the No Man’s Land Scene is entirely Wonder Woman. We have a hero, the first of her kind on the big screen, and the camera is on her, not to sexualise her, instead, to show us how powerful she is. On either side of Wonder Woman are terrified men – behind her are the Allied forces, too fatigued to leave their hideouts; before her are the German soldiers, hiding behind huge guns.
Dead centre on our screen is Wonder Woman, nonchalantly marching through a barren field littered with bodies, towards the gun fire that has so long held the Allied forces at bay. She is doing this not just because she is a badass who isn’t afraid of guns, but because she is tired of all the suffering she has witnessed outside her home of Themyscira, and she knows she has the power and force of will to do something about it.
Combined with slow-mo shots of Wonder Woman knocking away bullets and shielding herself against a barrage of gun fire, are shots of her running swiftly across the field, deflecting bullets. It’s a raw display of power rarely seen with a female character. We’ve seen it with Superman, as he takes flight for the first time in Man of Steel; with Captain America, as he knocks out massive tanks and goes through entire armies of soldiers. But, not with a woman superhero, and that’s why this scene is so significant to modern day audiences.
In addition, in the No Man’s Land scene, Wonder Woman isn’t just a one-man army. She is a soldier and a leader. She is paving the path for the rest of the troops to come through. This helps subvert the Chosen One trope so many female characters are often slotted into, often annoyingly to keep them out of the action. Yeah, it doesn’t make sense to me either.
What makes it all better? The men follow her when she tells them to; nobody tries to take the limelight away from Wonder Woman at that point and nobody tries to belittle her success.
In fact, the following fight scene only adds to the triumph of the No Man’s Land scene – Wonder Woman tells the others to wait as she goes on ahead to ensure the way is safe for them. How often have we seen the opposite? Women characters being told to wait while men clear a path/ fight all the bad guys? What a relief to see a woman do the same and for the men to stay back and wait for her all-clear!
Start of Something New?
Numerous women have tweeted about shedding tears of joy while watching this scene. I felt the same way. Every time I watch this scene, I can’t help but feel emotional. Films are meant to be escapist power fantasies; finally ladies in the audience see a version of theirs come true. We finally have a powerful woman leading the way, charging through the bad guys, showing others the way to go.
It was such an emotional moment! I can't imagine the impact it had on little girls across the world. So great!
— Just Sam (@Splend) November 25, 2017
Considering what a terrible year 2017 has been, and continues to be, for anyone who is not a straight white man, Wonder Woman has been a breath of fresh air. And the best part of all this is that Wonder Woman isn’t just a Strong Female Character or an Ex Machina, whipped out whenever there’s a need for a fight – the emotional resonance of the No Man’s Land scene comes from her conviction that humanity is good and worth saving.
There is a funny tweet going around about why men think they can do anything because they have so many male heroes who tell them just that and now, finally, we have a female hero encouraging us to join the fight. Much of this machismo is in part thanks to the power of the No Man’s Land scene, even more so than the film’s climactic battle, where Wonder Woman takes down an actual god.
NO WONDER WHITE MEN ARE SO OBSCENELY CONFIDENT ALL THE TIME I SAW ONE WOMAN HERO MOVIE AND I'M READY TO FIGHT A THOUSAND DUDES BAREHANDED
— nutmeg 🌰🌿 (@megsauce) June 4, 2017
Wonder Woman has had the biggest box-office success of all the superhero films in 2017, a massive achievement for a film with a female protagonist and directed by a woman. More significantly, it shows how a film that treats its female characters as people can make a difference in their portrayal.
The success of Wonder Woman and the wide-spread love for the No Man’s Land scene should herald a new era in Hollywood production. We won’t hold our breath but we can still hope quietly.
For more on the DCEU, read about the Male Gaze in Justice League on Digital Fox here.