okay, so. the thing that kills me about Wonder Woman is that it’s so, so absurdist, and in the best way. all of the characters except diana go into the entire thing knowing that the war might never end, that the people in charge of their armies don’t give a flying fuck about what happens to the people on the ground, that everything they do might not even matter in the long run. steve even says when he’s on themyscira that it seems like the world’s going to end.
one of the most famous lines by camus (who was an absurdist) is “in the middle of winter i at last discovered that there was in me an invincible summer.” the entire point of absurdism is staring into the void and saying, “no, i refuse.” the world is empty and bleak and meaningless, and you could choose to be nihilist about that, or you could pick yourself up and create the meaning you want to see. and that’s what all of the characters in wonder woman do.
when he gets in that plane steve knows, he knows, that they still might not win the war. he knows diana might not be able to kill ares. he knows dr. poison might still escape. he knows that people are still going to die. and you know what? he gets in the plane anyway. he stares into the face of a war that might never end and says, well, i can save today. and that is what matters.
sam and chief and charlie watch their friend run toward a plane and know he’s on a suicide mission (that might not even save the war!) and they yell to stop him at first and then they cover him like he asked them to because even when they hate it, they respect his ability to make his own decisions and they hold up their end of the deal. they risk their lives helping him risk his because it’s what they signed up to. it’s what they should do.
when diana leaves themyscira, she knows she might not live to come back. sure, her character is driven by a kind of relentless optimism, but it’s a chosen optimism, not a naive one. she might die, but she’ll be damned if she dies doing anything other than what is just, what is her duty as an amazon. her mother says, “what if you never come back?” and diana’s reply is, “who will i be if i stay?”
when steve’s on the plane and it looks like they’re all about to die, all sam and chief and charlie do is they lean in to each other. yeah, the world’s ending, so what are we gonna do? we’re gonna spend those last moments with each other. we’re gonna close our eyes and know that we did all that we could and even if it ends up doing nothing to affect the war as a whole, well, at least we did something.
there’s a story from the holocaust about a group of jews reciting prayers when one stops and says “why are we doing this? we’re about to die. only a madman would say these prayers now.” and the rabbi looks at him and quietly says, “our enemies have taken everything from us, but they cannot take our freedom to say these prayers. we must live as free men temporarily in captivity. that, if necessary, is how we will die.”
the characters in wonder woman push on even when they think it might be pointless, because that is the point. absurdism is about accepting that maybe you’ll never be able to make everything right, you might not even be able to make everything okay, but you can always do something. you can walk into the unending darkness, hold up a lighter, flick it on and say, “i win.” and in doing so, you will have won.