Wonder Woman 2 Might Tackle AIDS Crisis

When I learned the return of Wonder Woman would be staged in 1984, I groaned. My hopes for Wonder Woman as a soon to be franchise are far too high to be given a sequel that panders to the 80’s nostalgia trend bombarding films and streaming services today. I thought certainly Diana’s superhuman compassion and warrior abilities could be employed to more worthy eras, perhaps continuing the first film’s fictionalized accounts of World War I then expanding on more Nazi injustices in the sequel. 1984… what’s so special about 1984?

WW84 Announcement
Heroic Hollywood

The 80’s the media remembers is a vivacious one, an era that– again– speaks to a nostalgic time saturated in the excitement of neon, MTV and DeLoreans. But the decade’s realization and expression of identity politics truly lends its reputation to something much larger than icons of the time. Any great era in history has greater stories untold from its people; voices too often lost in the buzz and popularity of time itself. Injustices come in many shapes and sizes, and in this case, Wonder Woman might come back to theaters to teach us about a tragedy most colorful.

Candid shots from WW84‘s sunny, outdoor film sets in Washington D.C. indeed reveal retro wardrobe and set dressing. It seems as though Gal Gadot’s pantsuit and cars of the era confirm the film’s vintage element. But tucked in plain sight of set photos lies also a major hint as to what (or who) Diana may be combatting this time around.

Displayed on a window in what looks to be an interaction sequence between Gal Gadot and Chris Pine’s characters is the iconic SILENCE = DEATH death poster, which famously represented LGBTQ+ resistance and solidarity during the AIDS crisis.

The placement and display of this poster seems deliberate, especially since its historical accuracy is a few years off. If the Wonder Woman filmmakers were so keen on including such a major symbol of the AIDS crisis, fans are guessing that Wonder Woman will be taking a stand against social injustice in her upcoming sequel.

This prediction immediately makes Wonder Woman 1984 a potential political power play.  The AIDS crisis in America, for those that are unaware, was a decade-long epidemic that claimed the lives of countless in the LGBTQ+ community. The climate of the 1980’s permitted mainstream culture to fear and ignore those affected by HIV. This piece of history ultimately belongs to the LGBTQ+ community as their unity has evolved largely from members’ experiences with the AIDS crisis.

I was unaware of how large a gay icon Wonder Woman is. In the comics world, both DC and Marvel amass a plethora of LGBTQ+ supporters and fans. For many, comics have been explorations of queer characters similar to the reader. Though Diana is romantically involved with Steve in the Warner Bros. film, her character has arched in LGBTQ+ directions in different comic manifestations. The Hollywood world was introduced to Wonder Woman as a superhero of grace and girl-power, but it is worth noting that Diana is also an ally.

A sequel that follows Wonder Woman (somehow) combatting the AIDS crisis would be seriously influential– for a few reasons. Having Diana act on her allyship would be confirmation for the LGBTQ+ readers who have relied on Wonder Woman in print for so long. Wonder Woman’s identity as a warrior for justice and compassion would then extend to the fight for equality, broadening the scope of Diana’s empathy and worldview.

Moreover, AIDS crisis discussion in WW84 would be a gesture of grand surrender on the studio’s part, endorsing the notion that mainstream culture, media and politics were on the wrong side of history during the epidemic. If the Wonder Woman sequel were to approach AIDS victims the same way it did those affected by World War I in the original film, it would be the first time a major superhero blockbuster framed the reality of the crisis: a tragedy in the LGBTQ+ community.

The inclusion of the SILENCE=DEATH symbolism to the set of WW84 bears great significance in the lore of Wonder Woman. The pink triangle posters were popularized by gay activists in later 1980’s to promote openness in the community and tenacity in fighting against oppressors of LGBTQ+ AIDS victims. The symbol itself traces back to the Nazi ideology of World War II, in which homosexual prisoners in concentration camps were forced to identify themselves with pink triangle patches (Act Up NY). For Wonder Woman to stand in front of this poster of resistance, she recognizes the past she fought against and how the same evil manifests into her present.

Because Diana went full demigod on Nazi ideology in the first film, it would be an LGBTQ+ victory for Wonder Woman to extend a hand to those who needed it most in 1984.