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Wonder Woman Through The Eyes of a Deaf Woman

A mug with Wonder Woman and a hand in front holding a tea tag saying: You are unlimited.

I had no deaf role models when growing up, so Wonder Woman was among the few role models – real and fictional, living and dead – that I looked up to. There are other female super heroines like Super Girl, Catwoman, and others, but for some reasons Wonder Woman unconsciously has had such a powerful hold on me and has been my favorite female superhero.

(Spoiler alert: I discuss the new movie in the last few paragraphs.)

As a little girl, I enjoyed watching the old Wonder Woman TV series of 1970s with Lynda Carter as well as Super Friends animated series where Wonder Woman was featured regularly with other superheroes. As someone who has been deaf since the age of 2, I could not understand a word said on TV because it was not captioned. Even if it was captioned, I would not have understood anything either as Russian is my first language and back then I didn’t know a word in English. The show was also geared more to grown ups. Yet actions and facial expressions of Diana Prince in the series made me want to be like the character when I get older – a strong, smart, determined woman. I remember being fascinated with the cool costume and the famous spin by Diana that changed her into Wonder Woman costume and hoping I would get the same result after making the spin to get disappointed that it didn’t work.

After my college years I had a chance to watch the series again – that time with captions which allowed me to understand everything. By then I had also mastered English, so I had no problem following characters in the series. One thing surprised me, however, is the way characters were speaking (common of that era) that sometimes sounded somewhat unusual to me. But I still admired Lynda Carter as an actress and even more when I watched the series with captions because I could understand everything Lynda said. She did a great job playing Wonder Woman. While I loved the series, I wasn’t into comics, so I learned about Wonder Woman mostly from the series and the new movie as well as from reading articles about the female superhero.

For example, I was not aware that the lasso was used to make a person tell truth – until I watched the series with captions. I also didn’t know that Diana could read minds and speak many languages. The latter made me feel delighted because by the time I watched the series with captions, I had learned 5 languages. It may not be a lot compared to skills of Diana the omni-linguist, but I was so glad that my deafness didn’t prevent me from mastering other languages than Russian and also allowed me enjoy the series in English that took me some time to master.

As I got older, I started to realize that anyone can be Wonder Woman with their own unique powers. Being deaf, for example, may seem like having a weakness at first, but deafness also gives those like myself a lot of super powers. As deaf people, many of us can speak, lipread, use sign language, have great peripheral vision, feel vibrations, hear with hearing aids and cochlear implants, and so on. For so many centuries society at large has looked down on deaf people, considering them weak and stupid and not realizing their hidden powers and abilities to contribute to society. So deaf people have had to fight against those beliefs.

Since the 1970s Wonder Woman series, no films about Wonder Woman had been released – although there have been many other films with other super heroes. That’s why I was so looking forward to the new Wonder Woman movie that was released this year – especially after seeing her debut in the Batman vs. Superman movie last year. I normally don’t watch movies in theaters due to issues with captioning access – I prefer open captions on screens like many other deaf people, but I made the exception for that movie. Sadly, my first time watching with CaptiView, a closed captioned device, turned into a terrible experience, so I appreciated that I was given the opportunity to watch the movie again with open captions on the screen which was a much better experience for me.

When watching the new Wonder Woman movie, I noticed a lot of differences there from the 1970’s series. It is more solemn while having some great sense of humor and making me laugh sometimes. The characters while being fictional look more realistic. Wonder Woman’s new uniform looks more sophisticated and have more earth colors. Just like Lynda Carter, Gal Gadot did a great job at playing the leading character. Both actresses represent different generations of Wonder Woman with different acting styles which made both great for each of their own generations.

While I was looking up to Wonder Woman of the 1970s played by Lynda Carter as a little girl, I saw a lot of myself as a grown woman through the new Wonder Woman played by Gal Gadot – especially that the latter is closer to my age. The new movie made me reflect on my own life as a deaf woman and feel related to the leading character in many ways. In my eyes, many of dialogues in the movie about experiences of a woman in the men’s world often paralleled to experiences of a deaf person in the hearing world.

(Spoiler alert starts)

For example, Diana’s mother didn’t want to tell her daughter who the Godkiller was which made Diana think that it was a magic sword. Mostly it’s because the mother cared about her daughter and tried to protect her which is normal of many loving parents. By the end of the movie Diana realized that the Godkiller was herself after having the sword destroyed by Ares. It parallels to being a deaf person – no matter what type of technology or communication methods deaf people use, the real power is within themselves. Diana had to believe in herself to be able to beat Ares. Deaf people need to believe in themselves and their abilities to disprove many wrong misconceptions by the hearing world about them.

I loved the quote by Antiope, Diana’s aunt, who told her niece: “You are stronger than you believe. You have greater powers than you know.” This quote applied not only to Diana, but also to all of us. Many deaf people – especially recently deafened adults – and parents of newly diagnosed deaf kids feel that they cannot survive in the hearing world, but they are more capable than they realize.

When Steve told Diana that there was not much he and she could do about the big mess caused by the war and that they could get back to the men who could, Diana responded: “I’m THE man who can.” Diana doesn’t believe in prescribed roles for women and challenges old fashioned beliefs about women by barging into places where women are not allowed and by refusing to stay put. It parallels to my personal experience as a deaf person trying to dispel myths preconceived by hearing people about deaf people and proving that we can do anything we put our minds to. There are so many successful deaf people who are great professionals – including but not limited to: teachers, drivers, actors, carpenters, managers, doctors, lawyers and so on – who can do a job even better than some hearing people! I would say that deaf people are the hearing people who can!

The scene where Steve Trevor introduced Etta Candy to Diana who got puzzled by the word “secretary” and said that where she was from it was called slavery, Etta’s response about how she really liked her made me think about how deaf people are oppressed by many hearing people – sadly even by many women who often dismiss their deaf female peers. For so long, many hearing people have often had made wrong assumptions and decisions for deaf people.

I had that same feeling when seeing Diana being told by attendees of the male only meetings to leave and also when male attendees didn’t believe that a woman could speak many languages and Steve had to tell them to let Diana translate for them. Deaf people often are excluded from education, employment, entertainment and experience discrimination by educators, employers, event organizers, media producers. Many hearing people assume that deaf people cannot speak or even read and write in a local language – to say nothing about being fluent in other languages.

There are many more examples I could keep talking about, so I would like to end my article with a great quote by Diana: “It’s not about what you deserve. It’s about what you believe. And I believe in them (people).” in response to Ares’s statement that humans are unworthy and need to be eradicated. She found her strength in love and could defeat Ares in the end by realizing and rejecting his severe reasoning. When talking about deaf people, not only they need to believe in themselves, but also hearing people need to believe in deaf people and their hidden powers and to make their world inclusive and accessible to them.

I really enjoyed the new Wonder Woman movie. All those actions and dialogues were so inspiring and reminded me to keep believing in myself and my abilities. After all, as Michelle A. Homme said: “Wonder Woman is not a fictional character. Wonder Woman is a mindset.” Any woman can be Wonder Woman – deaf or hearing. Everyone has their own unique gifts and abilities to contribute to the world in their own ways.

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