“I Walked Away From Mankind” Explained


Diana is not saying, “I rejected humanity and condemn them for their division.”
She’s saying, “I spared them my divinity because it doesn’t work with their division.”

Defining The Controversy

I continue to see confusion about the sequence of events and statements, so to make it explicitly clear: Diana defeats Ares, then [by her own timeline] she walks away from mankind, she fights Doomsday, and she tells Bruce she walked away, Bruce sends her the original photo, and it is then that Wonder Woman says, “So I stay, I fight, and I give for the world I know can be.  This is my mission now.  Forever.”  Before leaping into the light in our time.

We have no explicit indication that she has been doing this between defeating Ares and defeating Doomsday other than her statement that she’s killed “things”- plural- from other “worlds”- again plural- before.  So Diana’s last lines in Wonder Woman come after Dawn of Justice and are not in contradiction with BvS.  Anything based on the last lines is a comprehension error and not a contradiction.

However, contradiction can still be alleged based on the explicit statement that Diana believes in love… and the general idea or attitude that she is an irrepressible activist.

Concisely, “If you love, you can’t walk away.” and/or “Heroes can’t walk away.”

Ill Defined Ideas

Diana’s statements are indefinite.  We don’t know what she means by her belief in love or what walking away means explicitly.

If you give the films the benefit of the doubt and do not leap immediately to an interpretation of contradiction, it ought to be obvious that her statements are more nuanced than a literal understanding.  Diana is literally standing next to a man… and unless her profession and possessions were acquired overnight… she’s been in and among mankind for some time now.

It is plausible, and even likely, that Diana is responding as her Wonder Woman persona because Bruce is asking her to fight.  Bruce isn’t asking a curator or antiquities dealer for help… he’s speaking to the warrior… the sword-wielding woman who stood with him on the battlefield.

So, it would be Wonder Woman, the last remnant of the Olympians, who replies to his request and says she walked away… and not the Diana Prince persona who is standing right beside him.

Now belief in love, taken literally doesn’t dictate behavior.  Simply acknowledging the existence of an idea or concept does not mean adoption or adherence.  Nonetheless, for the sake of argument, let’s just simply interpret this as “I love mankind.”  Even so, this is still quite vague.  You can have a conception of love that is simplistic or more nuanced.

These Ideas Aren’t Mutually Exclusive

The criticism raised is as follows: “If you love, you can’t walk away.” therefore “If Diana loves mankind, she couldn’t or wouldn’t walk away from mankind”, thus her saying that she did is a contradiction.  The underlying precept is a simplistic concept of love and easily discredited with just an iota of imagination, experience, or understanding.  The precept often isn’t true in life or even in these films.

We never know the pain, struggles, or battles others are going through, so isn’t fair to judge on such a simplistic standard.

Someone could love a work with all their heart; putting their passion, time, and energy into it.  However, with the loss of a loved one, come to have to walk away… for others, for themselves, and for the work.  It doesn’t mean that they don’t love the work, that they stopped loving the work, or never loved the work… it simply shows that love doesn’t dictate behavior in always obvious ways.

Again and again we see people walk away from loved ones for a greater good in these films.

The soldiers in World War I leaving their families to face the frontlines and the risk of not returning.  Jor-El and Lara letting go of little baby Kal, Clark leaving Martha to surrender, Superman leaving Lois to protect and reflect, Bruce leaving Alfred to go hunting, and so on and so forth.

The alleged contradiction flies in the face of Diana leaving Themyscira, the only home she’s ever known, Hippolyta, her beloved mother, and the Amazons, her sisters.  If love means you can’t leave… can’t walk away… how did Diana go to Man’s World?  How could Hippolyta say, “You’ve been my greatest love” and “I know I cannot stop you [from going]?”

It is absolutely possible to both love and leave without contradiction.

Supernatural Prime Directive

Of course, this implies that Wonder Woman leaving humanity to its own devices is loving.

This is the essence of the Prime Directive.

“The Prime Directive is not just a set of rules. It is a philosophy, and a very correct one. History has proved again and again that whenever mankind interferes with a less developed civilization, no matter how well intentioned that interference may be, the results are invariably disastrous.” — Jean-Luc Picard

Ares wanted Diana to be a god.  To violate the Prime Directive in the worst way.  To judge humanity in that capacity, as gods will do.  To deem mankind unworthy and deserving only destruction.

Diana refuses… and after defeating Ares, comes to the same conclusion that Jonathan Kent would arrive at seventy years later: that it isn’t her place to play god; to confront humanity with her supernatural powers, to upend their reality with her revelation, to force them to acknowledge and believe in her, or impose her divinity upon them.  At least not yet.  As heir to the Olympians that was her privilege to do so, but not a loving thing to do.  Instead, Diana denies her divinity out of love for mankind.

Love often doesn’t look like we expect, as in the story of the daughter who says her love is like salt.

Playing God Hurts Humanity

It’s a little hard to show how inaction or omission is love, but it’s easier to illustrate with its opposite.  What happens to those who violate the Supernatural Prime Directive and play god with in this world?


Jor-El said, “He will be a god to them.”  If raised that way, Superman would have the god-complex we see in the Knightmare scene.  Instead, Jor-El wary of his own cultural impulses, limits his impact on Kal-El’s upbringing.  Nonetheless, Jor-El still sent his son smashing into Earth in a way which could have completely upended the planet had Kal not been recovered by the humble and thoughtful Kents.

While Jor-El resisted the view they’d be gods over men, he still contained the impulse, and Zod completely embraced it with bloodlines of Krypton and his entitlement to take the Earth from mankind.  So where are they now?  Krypton had its chance.

American Gods

Enchantress and Incubus clearly do not care if humanity is confronted with an existential crisis.

They ravage Midway City without regard for what the impact is.  After all, they come from a time when the implicit assumption was that the gods were real, cruel, and capricious.  Free to do with mankind as they like.  They have no time for the psychological angst of non-believers.

Note that it’s the U.S. Government that tries to hide the nature of the event by calling it terrorism.  The Government sooner spread a story of terror than confront its citizens with the supernatural.  Think about that.  Are their concerns misplaced?  Consider the havoc caused by Lex Luthor because of his existential crisis.  That is the existential threat of the gods.

Enchantress and Incubus didn’t care… and where are they now?


Ares has been hiding among men for thousands of years.  He knows they’re disbelieving, he knows their doubts, just as he knows Diana’s.  So he knows what a confrontation with the supernatural would mean.  It’s precisely for this reason he confronts Diana, to stoke the flames of her belief in divinity, rather than let her fester in disillusionment and doubt.  He wants her to believe.  He doesn’t care if the humans do, as he doesn’t hide his nature on the airfield at all.  He doesn’t care if the revelation of real Olympians creates a crisis among humans.  Ares isn’t chasing down witnesses who could testify to his coming or reality.  Ares didn’t care… and where is he now?  Mount Olympus had its chance.


Before Diana comes to understand the truth about herself and humanity, she also has no time for any kind of Prime Directive.  While Diana acted as an Amazon (or unbeknownst to herself, an heir to the Olympians)… once again, like all these other expired and extinct peoples, she didn’t care about what her confrontation with mankind would cause.

She didn’t hide her abilities, her history, or her assertions of the supernatural.  Crusades and holy wars have been fought over less evidence.  She could have upended the world if Steve hadn’t helped her be more discrete.  The Amazons didn’t care about this effect on mankind… and where are they now?  Exiled and sequestered from the rest of the world.

Ignoring one’s larger impact upon the world is an old way of thinking that went the way of its adherents.

After Ares is defeated, Diana could have continued forth as a god.  She could have shown the world what she could do, made sure they knew the supernatural was real, insisted upon her divinity, and could have fought out in the light.


The Greater Good Requires Some Suffering

Whether couched in love or general heroism or Diana’s explicit statement that she cannot stand by while innocent lives are lost… the alleged contradiction raised is that restricting, concealing, or confining Wonder Woman from acting isn’t loving, heroic, or in Diana’s character.

Let’s tackle that last one first.  First, the statement about innocents was made on the island, long before Diana learned the truth, so having a change in views isn’t a contradiction.  Second, despite her statement, it absolutely is in her character to stand by or allow suffering.  She already knew that mankind was suffering and dying while she was on the island.  There is no indication she made any effort to go into world to bring peace or hunt down Ares until Steve showed up on their shores.  She had already “stood by as innocent lives were lost” her whole life.

As far as suffering is concerned, she was willing to fight the Germans to put an end to Ares, even believing them to be innocents within his thrall.  That means that not only could she tolerate the suffering of innocents, but she would inflict suffering upon the innocent so long as it was in the name of “the greater good.”  The very nature of the term and bargain is that there is a lesser evil accepted for the greater good.

So if Diana comes to see and value the Prime Directive, it is entirely possible inaction becomes the ethical choice in her view.

After all, what is the alternative?  Even with the best of intentions, she didn’t see that Ares was hidden among the allies… or that Ludendorff was innocent of her accusations.  If she decides to play god, because man does not stand together, her actions are inevitably tribal and not a bridge to a better understanding between all mankind… but instead pitting one against the other.  Say she defeats the Germans in World War II, does she then champion Chief’s people against Steve’s?

Now also note that while some suffering is certain… it doesn’t mean that all suffering has to be tolerated.  Diana can still pick up her sword and shield in situations where she isn’t creating an expectation of divinity.

100 Years of Horror

What does Diana’s 100 year life look like?  Essentially, more or less like a mere mortal’s might.  Diana is able to stay, fight, and give in her personal capacity as Diana Prince and, on occasions without the risk of exposure or worship, she can even act in costume.  In fact, while Diana denies her divinity- a plan only Ares had for her- she does not surrender her identity as God Killer, literally a divine right, purpose, and mandate given to her.

So she can still stand up to slay those who would be gods, those who would violate the Supernatural Prime Directive and upend the entire world carelessly, be they from this world or others… so long as the fight doesn’t inadvertently turn herself into a god in the process.  She makes a similar bargain that Clark makes while he searched for his answers.

She can intervene supernaturally, but never in the sight of mankind.  Likewise, Clark can leap into action and save, but each time he has to sacrifice his situation and stability, burn another set of friends, his job, his identity, and move on to the next one.

This is her status until Dawn of Justice.

She can still love, but until man can stand together or can handle the supernatural, she can’t come out into the light as Wonder Woman, for mankind’s own sake.  She has to endure the horrors mankind inflicts upon itself as she waits for them to unite or grow.

Superman’s Sacrifice

So what changed?  Superman’s debut was forced by Zod.  She didn’t come out then.

In BvS, Diana already knew Bruce was Batman.  She wasn’t moved by Batman because she was already doing that… a vigilante in the shadows and a mere mortal in the daylight.

Similarly, when mankind is introduced to the Superman, Diana isn’t moved because she sees Superman suffering exactly what she was trying to avoid.  To paraphrase a certain seagull, “The price of being misunderstood… they call you devil or they call you god.”  Alone out there, Superman was worshipped and condemned.  His help was hindered by disbelief and warped by those who took his actions to be tribal.

Acting on a Superman scale seemed to divide the onlookers and tear mankind apart thus failing to be a bridge to greater understanding between all men.  The Knightmare scene shows us one potential path that Superman-styled godhood leads to: they wear his symbol, bow at this feet, and tremble at this arrival; he doesn’t hesitate to judge and execute because that is his right as a god.

The death of Superman changes the world and changes Diana.  By dying, he’s no longer a stand-in for divinity, but instead… a mortal martyr, a hero, a superhero.  It’s only after the concept of superhero gets created can the metahumans now all act in the light without being deemed gods and creating an existential crisis.  Because, unlike gods, superheroes can die, superheroes can be stopped… but they’re here to help and they’ll die trying.

Superman dying breaks the existential fears that these beings are gods… and his sacrifice creates the assumption of their benevolence.

Just as she was able to grow and gradually accept more difficult truths, mankind is now ready for the metahumans.


There’s more to this [incoherent rambling] in the yet-to-be-aired MOSAIC 53, but the central point is that the statements, these films, and life aren’t so simplistic.  Contradiction only arises if you refuse to try and reconcile, seek understanding, or alternative interpretation.  Not everything in story, media, or life is spoon fed to us so directly or explicitly.  It’s worth considering ways people can be sincere, consistent, and well-intended… even if you don’t understand them at first.

While I think the above framework mostly works, this is not a declaration of anything definitive or an insistence upon adoption or acceptance.  Instead, it’s saying that maybe our assumptions and conclusions about things need not be so shallow.  Sometimes things that seem like contradictions reveal deeper intentions, character, and struggles.

Like why you can love and walk away or how love can allow some suffering.  These aren’t always obvious or easy, but they’re worth trying to find here and in general.

If there is a single takeaway from Wonder Woman that most impressed me: it was to not judge others… no matter how we might feel at first, how entitled the situation, or how strong our arguments might seem initially.  Because we should be humble enough to know we lack divine impartiality, we rarely understand the entire story, and even with the best of intentions we can’t predict all the effects and consequences… but even when all those align… isn’t showing grace and love the better answer?  Instead of insisting upon what is deserved most times?

You can show love by giving up your right to judge or being right.

As the last Olympian, Diana decided to deny her divinity not out of disillusionment with division but love for mankind… patiently waiting for them to be ready.

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  1. Hey Doc, great article, I’m curious about your opinion on a couple of topics. Firstly, would you say that Superman was the hero Diana chose not to be? Secondly, would you say that over the 100 years that Diana stayed away, her love for mankind began to fade?

    • Thanks for reading. Re: Hero – No, it’s just we the audience got to see Diana’s honeymoon in full bloom and Superman’s was glossed over to avoid unbalancing the BvS debate in his favor. What Superman was doing during his honeymoon period was longer and more public than Diana’s, but we saw the drama of Diana’s complete confidence, the joy of her service, etc. Diana’s heroics come to a screeching halt when Veld is gassed (incidentally, if the invitations for the gala went out before she took Veld, where was Ludendorff going to demonstrate his weapon? If it was another target, Diana’s intervention could be said to be a cause-in-fact for Veld’s fall; a cause-in-fact means literally a cause, but not necessarily a blameworthy one), similar to Superman’s collateral impact in Nairomi. From there they both keep pushing forwards even as their actions are tribal and drive men apart. Diana fully falls in line with the Allies even though Ares is actually among them and not the Germans. Superman tries to act globally but is looked at as political, partisan, and an unaccountable arm of American foreign policy. They both get called to account and realize men have made a world where standing together is impossible. Nonetheless they keep trying and Superman steps up slightly sooner than Diana… and he’s the one who dies and sets the superhero precedent. Diana could have died in the same Doomsday fight, but it would have meant less to the world because they wouldn’t know her story like they knew Superman’s. If Diana had been forced to debut in the modern era with modern media upon her, things may have still gone similarly for her. Likewise, Superman’s abilities allow him to extend his honeymoon longer than Diana… because most of his benevolent rescues don’t challenge authority, aren’t tribal or partisan, and genuinely do bring mankind together (everybody can celebrate lives saved from tragedy). Wonder Woman has the power to save too, but her primary capacity is in combat and killing… so by necessity she’d recognize she can’t take sides sooner than Superman.

      Re: Fade – Maybe, not really. I take Diana at her word. She walked away at 100 years ago. That means everything she needed to make that decision was there on that airfield that day. She had already seen that mankind was horrible to each other- killing children and innocents- and she had already seen that they had built a divided world. It wasn’t divided because of Ares and their souls couldn’t be saved by killing Ares. So what is she left with? No matter who she fights with or for it is against more of mankind… and she’s humble enough to accept she doesn’t know which side should have the benefit of a goddess. So that’s enough reason to walk away 100 years ago. She doesn’t need to be further traumatized or disillusioned further or have another adventure where mankind disappoints her. She removes the Amazon from the narrative (save for rare occasions to kill things from other worlds, which, presumably all mankind would unite against) and shakes her head as they continue to inflict horrors upon each other, but she still can’t intervene because of their division… to try and stop one side’s horrors may simply result in enabling or endorsing the other side’s horrors. Instead, I think she steps back into immortality which is a little indifferent to time… a slow burn like the Ents or the Amazons… it’s not like she’s living the fast-life of a 20-something for 100-years straight. While Diana Prince is modern and sophisticated, Wonder Woman is still from an era where swords make more sense than shooting. So there’s a momentum there where she’s set in her ways. So even though Bruce is anxious, it still takes some time for her to come around, in large part because she reflects upon and remembers a time when she was more dynamic, active, and open… and she realizes now is that time again.

      Add-on (not directed specifically at you): Many keep believing that there must have been some other intermediate event or trauma to, in their minds, turn Diana away. However, I say, “Why create two explanations for two turnings when you can have one explanation for one? Occam’s Razor.” Even if you can explain the turning with the second trauma, now you have to explain why Diana didn’t expose Wonder Woman to the world between her battle with Ares and the second trauma. Of course, you can come up with explanations like observation or waiting to see what happens in the absence of Ares or taking time to learn about the world or whatever… but if that explanation is sufficient to establish why Diana decides the world isn’t ready for Wonder Woman for a time… why isn’t it a sufficient explanation a longer time… like a century in immortal eyes? So I don’t dispute the possibility of a second, third, or more disillusioning events… but since you still have to account for Diana secreting Wonder Woman away until then, I’d rather just use that singular explanation to cover the entire period rather than invent traumas the statement “I walked away” doesn’t need.

      • Very interesting points, thanks for the reply!

        Re:Hero – The way I was looking at it was that both Clark and Diana are called out from hiding to complete a mission, for Clark it was to protect the world from Zod and for Diana it was to kill Ares. They both accomplished their respective goals but where I think Superman became the hero Diana chose not to be is that he continued being Superman while Diana went back into hiding.

        Re: Fade- For her love of humanity fading I don’t mean it as some event made her more disillusioned, but rather that she basically left humans to chose between good and evil and seeing them choose evil over and over again maybe wears on her and makes her doubt if her love of humans is misguided.

        • re: Hero – I can see that point of view, but I think it’s more circumstance than choice. The Black Zero Event was globally recognized. Superman couldn’t spare the world from the knowledge of extraterrestrials anymore so he opted to go along with his instincts to rescue and help. If he had a choice like Diana’s, the ability to let the world forget or not know that gods / aliens / supernaturals beings exist… he may have gone back to a version of being an anonymous angel. In fact, his lack of communication was very much him trying not to impact and influence the world beyond being a benevolent rescuer. He was incredibly careful not to take sides, like in participating in the justice system by arresting criminals or fighting in wars or anything where he’s exercising judgment against mankind… until Lex puts him in that situation.

          re: Fade – I see the possibility but I don’t think so only because of her immortal nature. I sincerely don’t believe Diana experiences life / time the way we do. Things wear on us because of our finite mortal nature, but if the same applied to the immortals they would have been driven mad, insane, or depressed long before mankind could entertain them. I get the sense it all just sort of rolls off her back the way things go in BvS. I mean, consider Doomsday… this is the fight of Superman’s life and Batman’s eyes are bugging out… this is exceptional to them in their short mortal lifespans… but to Diana, she practically shrugs and calls it Tuesday… “Eh, I’ve killed things from other worlds before… same old thing.” She may be shocked or outraged at first, just as she was when she first came to man’s world, but the more she dives deep into history, the more she sees the patterns, the more time passes, I think it all just becomes normal. Her infatuation with mankind might have faded, but if you interpret love as a conscious commitment, I think it’s as strong as ever… otherwise she’d spice things up by revealing Wonder Woman just for the diversion and variety of it. And I believe she earnestly wants to help. She represses it out of love (ignores the news and goes up to her room), but is always still looking to act (because she goes to the internet, because she cares… if she didn’t, all she had to do was not look).

          That’s a rambling, all-over-the-place answer but in broad strokes; after the initial shock I think she pretty much settles into how she feels about humanity and keeps it constant over a century.

          • Perhaps Diana actually picks up some learnings from Ares. Ares admits that he physically doesn’t intervene in the world, he gives them some ideas but he doesn’t actually do the doing. As Sir Patrick he is an active Parlimantarian that brokers deals between sides, he doesn’t go and kill people. So Diana realises that perhaps the best way she can affect man is through indirect influence, not through exposing her Wonder Woman persona just as Ares has been doing for centuries.

      • I think Ludendorff’s gassing of Veld was always his intended target. There were minimal German forces there, and he has been shown to not care about soldiers, only the need for conflict was fulfilling for him. It depends on Keiser Wilhelm though, whether Ludendorff believes he would be accepting of some deaths of soldiers to extend the war. Towards the end of WW1 near the period leading up to the Armistice signing, Keiser Wilhelm was already losing grip of his power so he may have open to the promise of a new weapon changing the course of the war. So my gut tells me Veld was always going to be hit.

  2. This is some really good stuff Doc. Thank you once more for your dedication when it comes to this forum. What I find interesting and please point out if you disagree here is that ultimately Wonder Woman, Superman, and Batman in the context of the DCEU all arrive at the same place.

    The only difference is Wonder Woman started off as being really naive and many have categorized that as “hopeful.” Something the DCEU is sorely lacking says the critics. But yet by the end of WW that person is already long gone and in many ways resembles where Clark Kent started and where Bruce Wayne has ended up in BvS.

    They seemly started on different roads but the forks of humanity have led them to the same “world-weary” place.

  3. It just reinforces that the sacrifice Superman makes is the most well thought out and complete choice that Snyder and Co made. That his sacrifice brings together man and meta-human to work together for a better world, and he was the only one who could, and was willing, to bear that weight due to the foresight of Jonathan Kent.
    The moment of seeing young Clark with a red sheet on as a cape, and Jonathan Kent looking up and realising what this young boy could be is perhaps the most important moment in the DCEU story.

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