A lot has been said about the new Wonder Woman movie (which is great, BTW) so rather than just add my voice to the hubbub, allow me to share a collection of relevant anecdotes.
A Boy in Rural Ontario Sees a Woman Kick Butt
Like many North American kids of the 1970’s, my young mind was fairly well-blown by Lynda Carter’s star turn in the campy Wonder Woman TV show of the era. This was partly due to the fact that I was obsessed with all things comic book-y and would watch anything with the barest whisper of superheroics, but the main draw was Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman. Not only was she gorgeous, statuesque, and outrageously dressed, she was also bold, intelligent, and physically adept. Wonder Woman could do anything and everything, all while wearing what amounts to a satin bathing suit. What style! What panache! Some kids wanted to be her. Others wanted to be with her. (Whatever that means when you’re seven). Others wanted both. Who can blame them?
Don’t get me wrong, the show was completely ridiculous, but Wonder Woman’s knowing smile let you know that she was in on the joke, and loving every minute.
Tears of Gratitude
A female friend texted me after seeing the movie to tell me that she had started crying during the epic No-Man’s Land scene. Not just because it’s a powerful moment (it is) but rather because she had a vision of girls all over the world being empowered by this slice of the pop culture pie. Dang, just like the end of Buffy!
Knowing how important that corny old Wonder Woman TV show was to so many, imagine what Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman will do when millions (billions?) of girls AND boys see her kicking butt and fighting injustice on a major scale. What will they be inspired to do?
Now, not to focus on the negative but some people (let’s be polite and call them misogynistic idiots) see this as a fault. They think women and girls should NOT be encouraged and inspired. They think being inclusive is a joke, and that celebrating the accomplishments of this movie by, say, hosting women-only screenings is a terrible injustice. To them I say, I hope we have a million more movies just like this one, and you’re not invited.
A Teenage Boy Sees Things From the Other Side
My spouse (an English teacher and Wonder Woman fan) was talking to a male high school student about the Wonder Woman film, and the student said that he didn’t like it because there weren’t any men in it for the first 20 minutes or so. Wow, talk about your teachable moment. This is how half the world feels ALL THE TIME. Most women in action movies are either arm candy, victims, or, on the odd occasion that they do get to kick some butt, often objects of pleasure for male viewers.
Never underestimate the effect of seeing yourself represented in a positive way. Girls watching this may have the ability to see their own capabilities expanded. (Similarly, one reason I wrote Switch was so that bi kids could feel validated and encouraged.) But the opposite is also true; a lack of representation can have a detrimental effect, feeding a sense of otherness, or unworthiness. Where that leads you can guess.
What Women Want (in action movies)
Part of the success of the film comes from the inherently female perspective of the production team, including the director, Patty Jenkins, who made the excellent and disturbing film Monster. In making Wonder Woman, Ms. Jenkins made decisions that a male director might not have even considered, such as limiting the number of columns in the otherwise classically-inspired architecture of all-female Themyscira. (You don’t have to be Freud to figure out why.) And when asked about Wonder Woman’s costume she said, “as a woman, [I] want Wonder Woman to be hot as hell, fight badass, and look great at the same time—the same way men want Superman to have huge pecs and an impractically big body. That makes them feel like the hero they want to be. And my hero, in my head, has really long legs.” No apologies!
Wonder Woman Crosses Generational Lines
Although unfortunately separated from my family in the theatre, I was seated with a friend, and had one of my favourite spots: back corner, top row. (Due to the gap between the arm of the chair and the wall, you have a place to store your crap. Plus, there’s no one in front of you, no one behind, and you have a clear path to the exit.) When the movie was over, I noticed a little girl of maybe six with an older woman of perhaps sixty. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that they were a granddaughter and grandmother. When the movie was over, the little girl stood and hugged her grandmother with such love and enthusiasm I couldn’t help but appreciate what this movie can do. I’m not going so far as to say that it’s breeding a new generation of righteous Amazonians, but one can dream.
I know that this film isn’t without its criticisms, some valid, others not. But it’s still an amazing achievement. No one work has to do everything. We can appreciate the bits that speak to us, and recognize what it took to get that far. As my friend from the second anecdote said, “You know, nothing about making this movie was easy.” I can only imagine the battles behind the scenes.
I thought Gal Gadot was phenomenal, both as the defiant demigoddess Wonder Woman, and also as the sensitive, regal, and naive Diana. (It doesn’t hurt that she’s also incredibly beautiful.) I haven’t seen something like that in a superhero movie since a very young me fell in love with Christopher Reeve as Superman.