‘Wonder’ Reveals the Face of True Human Strength

What the box-office hit tells us about beauty, weakness, and the imago Dei.

Wonder opens with a boy wearing a space helmet. August Pullman is a child who lives in his imagination—as evidenced by Chewbacca and Darth Sidious showing up from time to time in his classroom. He dreams of being normal and longs to be unnoticed.

In the opening scene, we see a montage of his ordinary life: August playing video games, riding on the merry-go-round at the park, jumping on the bed. In every shot, he wears the space helmet. When he finally takes it off in front of his window, we recognize in his reflection exactly why he longs to keep his face covered. The image that stares back at us is a face stretched and scarred, eyes that seem weighted downward, a nose that protrudes unnaturally, and a mouth that looks as though it’s been built by surgical procedures. His bulletin board—covered entirely with hospital bracelets—gives evidence of a lifelong medical struggle.

Based on the best-selling novel by R. J. Palacio, the family flick Wonder stars Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, and Jacob Tremblay as their son, the main character. The film netted $27 million at the box office on opening weekend alone and has been accompanied by a popular social media campaign led by the Twitter hashtag #choosekind.

Although it’s never clearly stated in the movie nor in the book by the same name, Auggie likely has Treacher Collins syndrome. His older sister, Via, tells her boyfriend that both her parents carry the rare gene that, when combined, made his facial differences possible. “Auggie won the lottery,” she says.

Every child with a disability has won some kind of lottery. “The lottery” is how my husband and I have always talked about our son with Down syndrome, whose condition is much …

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